Syrian al-Qaeda Looks To Elections To Court Western Support
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, controls much of Syria’s Idlib Province. The group is, realistically, Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate in everything but name, and keeps trying to present itself as a more palatable partner for the west.
This was al-Qaeda’s idea, originally. When the ceasefire in Idlib was being negotiated, HTS held a lot of the territory, and al-Qaeda was very public about the need for the Syrian faction to appear to be independent. This was done with an eye toward getting them support in the war, and now the plan is to play government in Idlib. HTS is planning local elections, and making their morality police much less visible.
The Washington Post over the weakened seemed eager to present a “softened” al-Qaeda group in Idlib: “The Islamist militants attacked the radio station for years, because it played music, because it hired women, because its liberal values posed a challenge to Syria’s zealous men with guns,” the report began.
“Lately, though, the attacks on the station have stopped, and its tormentor — a militant group once affiliated with al-Qaeda called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham — is trying to convince Syrians and the world it is no longer as radical or repressive as it once was,” it continued.
And here’s where WaPo actually tries to revive the “moderate rebels” label as applied to al-Qaeda:
Now the group says its focus has shifted to providing services to millions of people in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province through a fledgling government. It severed ties with al-Qaeda five years ago and says it is cracking down on other extremist groups. The founder of HTS, a veteran jihadist once seemingly ubiquitous in military fatigues, these days is photographed wearing suits.
“That faction that used to harass us is trying to show people that they are moderate,” said Abdullah Klido, the chief executive of the radio station, called Radio Fresh. “They are trying to organize things so they appear in the image of a state.”
Ruthless jihadist group has chosen to “soften its brand”. Thanks Washington Post. https://t.co/o6Wbvues16
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) January 3, 2022
With the war slowing down, HTS wants to give the appearance of a valuable alternative to Assad.
As al-Qaeda’s affiliate, only Turkey was really willing to accept that. As al-Qaeda’s affiliate with a lot of window-dressing, they may well have more interested parties.
Mon, 01/03/2022 – 21:40
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