Sunday, May 26, 2013

Al-Qaeda ( Arabic: القاعدة‎ al-qāʿidah), English translation"The Base": is a global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden and Abdallah Azam between August 1988 and late 1989, during the Soviet War in Afghanistan. It operates as a network comprising multinational Sunni Muslim calling for global Jihad and applying sharia'a law. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and various other countries. Al-Qaeda has carried out several attacks mostly on Western targets.[1]

This article is meant to study al-Qaeda's new strategy & orientation by shedding light over its new franchise "Jabhat Al Nusra"  in Syria.

1- The name "Jabhat Al Nusra"  and its indication:
 Jabhat Al Nusra  means simply in English (The support front for the people of Levant), by calling it so, it is meant  mainly to deliver a message saying "we are the muslim soldiers who would protect and support you oppressed muslim people of Syria  as a religious duty mentioned in Quran  and Hadith", in order to gain hearts, minds and trust of  local communities and other fighting groups. Comparing it to the name of  al-Qaeda's franchise in Iraq, one can find  out that , the Islamic State of Iraq (Dawlat al-ʿIrāq al-ʾIslāmiyyah),  is meant to say "we are holding  supreme authority over other jihadi factions".

2- The Nusra's Banner:
It is interesting to note that the banner adopted by all  factions  franchised by al-Qaeda is this type of banner of the eagle (rāyat al-sawdā') 

While Jabhat al-Nusra decided to distance itself from the banner above  and choose the one below instead, probably to avoid stereotype and prejudice  branded to  al-Qaeda by media.

3- The Humanitarian Efforts:
Other key element that Jabhet al-Nusra aimed to play, is its ability to control  liberated areas in Syria and service it with different facilities . This was presented by running different urban public services, such as collecting garbage, solving bread crisis, solving transport problem, and running  water and electricity Foundation.

Transport bus by Jabhet al-Nusra
Power line repair by Jabhet al-Nusra

Water station in Aleppo running by Jabhet al-Nusra

Jenan Moussa [2] is a war correspondent who works for Akhbar Alaan TV, described her views  in Aleppo regarding the humanitarian role of Jabhat Al Nusra on her twitter  account [3][4][5][6].
Jenan Moussa live witness from Aleppo 

Jenan also made a press interview with BBC 4 Radio station which she gave a  similar witness [7].

4- Solving disputes:
Jabhet al-Nusra participates with other Islamic factions such as "Haraket Ahrar al-Sham" in forming Islamic Council (Sharia Body) in liberated areas such as Aleppo, al-Raqqa, Deir al-Zor, and Idleb to solve disputes between communities.  This underlines the fact that local communities are increasingly relying on jihadists groups to help them maintain law and order. Hassan Hassan [8] is an editorial writer and columnist for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, UAE. He provided in his blog two good examples [9][10of how disputes in Deir al-Zor were solved by the Islamic Council.

5- The strategy of wining hearts and minds
Jabhat al-Nusra fighters tend to exercise self restraint when it comes to disagreements with local communities where they operate,  as part of  jihadists' strategy to win hearts and minds. This incident I mentioned before in this post [11], which shows how the Islamic factions avoided confrontation with the inhabitants allowing them to hang  Syrian revolution flag anywhere they want in the city despite their view of rejecting this banner. Another example including visiting locals specially those who were wanted by Jabhet al-Nusra for investigating with their ancient role with the regime. Rania Abouzeid [12], journalist in the TIME wrote an excellent story [13] regarding that.

It is clear that the new bloods of Al-Qaeda, especially its franchise in Syria (Jabhet al-Nusra) learned a lot from its successor's failure stories. They found out that it is impossible to survive and market their views without gaining hearts, minds, and trust of its surroundings. They also showed remarkable keenness in maintaining order in areas they control to prove their ability to control liberated areas and deal with all kinds people regardless if they support or reject their ideologies,  and regardless of their religious or secular base.


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