Twitter abuzz with rumors of a merger between Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham and others

Published August 22nd, 2016 - 10:46 GMT
Ahrar al-Sham is being discussed as part of the possible merger (AFP/File)
Ahrar al-Sham is being discussed as part of the possible merger (AFP/File)

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham changed its name from Nusra Front to disassociate itself from Al-Qaeda and better integrate within Syrian rebel groups, even though some doubt their distance from Al-Qaeda. Now, rumors are emerging on Twitter and in Arabic-language media that Jabhat Fatah al-Sham will merge formally with Ahrar al-Sham and various other rebel groups in the near future, although nothing is confirmed.

In addition to Hassan Hassan, a best-selling author on Daesh (ISIS) and fellow at The Tahrir Institute, some pro-rebel accounts are tweeting about the possible merger.

In Arabic-language media, on Tuesday, Arabi 21 reported that a merger may take place in the coming days of a variety of rebel groups, including Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki movement and others.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham and several of the other groups mentioned constitute some of the strongest among the rebels. A merger between them could strengthen rebel unity, and move Jabhat Fatah al-Sham more into the rebel fold, their Al-Qaeda ties aside.

However, in terms of foreign support for the rebels, the US and others still regard Jabhat Fatah al-Sham as extremists, and are unlikely to jump into bed with them anytime soon. If jihadist rebels continue to prove themselves to be the most effective in fighting the regime of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it may diminish Western support for the rebels as a whole, but not support from other countries in the region. On the other hand, the US has supported some groups being talked about in the possible merger before, including the Nour al-Din al-Zenki movement, known for beheading a young Palestinian boy in July.

Regardless of the outcome, the merger would be a major development in Syria’s civil war. But as of now, it has in no way been confirmed.

 AL

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