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Al-Qaida's local branch set to dominate Syria rebels

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Significance

JaN's standing among the Syrian rebel movement has been bolstered by a series of major strategic wins against the regime in north western Syria. The capture of Idlib city and Jisr al-Shughur have given the group and its allies control of Idlib province and provided a strategic vantage point for the group to extend their control in the north and challenge the regime in its Alawi heartland on the coast. However, the group's affiliation with al-Qaida raises questions over whether it has longer-term ambitions to refocus on the global jihad.

Impacts

  • JaN is unlikely to become a focal point for the Syrian rebellion so long as it remains affiliated with al-Qaida.
  • Its guerrilla attacks will weaken the regime, but not unseat it, due to the latter's monopoly on aerial power and heavy weaponry.
  • The rise of Jabhat al-Nusra poses a particular risk to Lebanon where the group has many sympathisers.
  • Moderate, mainstream secular rebels will struggle to regain position in the north without a substantial increase in US backing.
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