A brief post to outline the complicated make up of the Syrian opposition and the current main stream media narrative.
The narrative being that combatants in Syria are either FSA (good guys), IS (bad guys) or Assad’s Army (bad guys), below is the BBC News round-up of rebel groups in Dec 2013.
Martyrs of Syria brigade:
Part of the Syria Revolutionaries Front formed soon after the BBC article above.
They Have clashed with the Al Nusrah Front (Jabhat al Nusra – al Qaeda in Syria) in 2014 to whom some of its fighters defected. Eventually driven out of areas of operation by Al Nusrah and it’s allies.
In 2015, along with other smaller groups, formed ‘The Revolutionary Army’ or Jaysh al-Thuwar. This group is still seen as non ideological although they have been reportedly fighting alongside and co-operating with other fundamentalist groups.
Northern Storm Brigade:
This group remains active, has co-operated with the Al Nusrah Front and is part of the Islamic Front’s Sharia committee.
Ahrar Souriya Brigade:
Led by a defected air force colonel and is part of the Supreme Military Council.
According to this article in 2013, it has been accused of human rights abuses and torture by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who felt compelled to report it due to the large number of witness testimonies.
The Islamic Front:
Seized FSA headquarters in Atmeh, Syria in December 2013 forcing the FSA chief to flee to Turkey. They eventually rectified their co-operation with the FSA and have undertaken operations with FSA groups subsequently.
The Islamic Front coalition seeks to establish an Islamic State ruled by Sharia Law and does not recognise the concepts of secularism or democracy. All groups that are part of The Islamic Front aspire to this.
In speeches and social media outlets, leaders within Islamic Front such as Zahran Alloush and Hassan Abboud (before his death) have espoused the extermination of other sects in Syria and the desire to form an Islamic state in Syria.
This is a link to The Islamic Front website in english and clearly states its vision to establish an Islamic State.
Im not sure that this represents the the hopes and aspirations of the Syrian people.
Syrian Islamic Liberation Front:
No longer active and ceased operations in November 2013.
It espoused a Sunni Islamist outlook and called for sectarian attacks that were later redacted.
Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigades:
No longer active. Units have allegedly joined other groups such as the Syria Revolutionaries Front.
Asala wa al-Tanmiya Front:
Little information but still appear to remain active according to some twitter posts.
Durou al-Thawra Commission:
A Muslim Brotherhood linked faction that appears to be active but not much information.
Tajammu Ansar al-Islam:
No information, the BBC report describes it as an Islamist group.
Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade:
The group has been accused of pledging allegiance to IS by Jabhat Al Nusrah who they continue to battle, as well as battling the Syrian Army.
Commander of the Yarmouk brigade Abu Ali Al-Baridi known as Al-Kahl has stated he would continue fighting to apply God’s rule of Sharia, whoever the enemy was.
UPDATE (17 Oct 2015): Yarmouk Brigade now known as Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk have since openly supported IS though stopping short of pledging full allegiance to the group.
They have also recently threatened Israel in a statement released on the 15 Oct 2015 found here:
National Unity Brigades:
Again not much information but the group seems to be genuinely secular and include minorities such as Christians and Druze according to this alleged interview from October 2012.
The down side is they do not boast large numbers, allegedly only a few hundred to two thousand members and co-operate with Islamist groups if required.
It is safe to say that many coalitions (and groups within coalitions) under the moderate or FSA umbrella would typically be described with words such as ‘extreme ideology’, ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘Jihadist’ among Western populations.