A WAR WITHIN A WAR: ISLAMIST OPPONENTS OF ASSAD AT EACH OTHERS THROATS IN SYRIA

The Syrian Civil War as reenacted by a brawling heap of mad, cannibalistic rats.
If you haven't been following the Syrian Civil War, it's probably best not to bother. Unlike normal civil wars, where you usually have two sides, a bit of clean fighting, and a nice decisive victory, this civil war is more like a barrel of half-starved rats savaging each other cheered on by a mob of drunken spectators.

In recent months, the government forces of President Assad, the best of a bad bunch, have been making steady gains, especially against ISIS. But large parts of the country remain under the control of several other groups, all of which have their foreign backers and supporters, keen to avoid escalating the conflict to the point where they end up sending in their own troops.

One of the most important areas of rebel control is the North-Western province of Idlib. This is dominated by two groups that have been fighting side by side against Assad's forces...until recently. Now, following a split between their backers -- Qatar and Turkey on one side, and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States on the other -- they have started fighting each other in a chaotic series of clashes in order to assert dominance.

The two groups are Ahrar al-Sham and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (known by their initials HTS). Both are basically sharia-obsessed Salafist fanatics, who differ little from ISIS, with HTS having the added distinction of also including elements of Al Qaeda. The main difference is in their backers and the jockeying for position of these backers at a future peace conference. 

Although Assad has more than survived the push to destroy his government, and has been gaining territory, it is thought that he will fall short of total victory. Once ISIS is defeated, large parts of the country will still remain under the firm control of foreign-backed factions, including the US-backed SDF. 

At this point, with ISIS vanquished, there will probably be an attempt to negotiate a settlement by the foreign backers. But only those whose proxy forces control substantial parts of Syria will have much say. The Saudis and other Gulf States, which are largely subservient to Saudi Arabia, are therefore keen for their guys HTS to grab as much territory as they can, sparking what now looks like a civil war withing a civil war. 

This infighting among the formerly united Salafists may provide unexpected opportunities for Assad's forces to make even more gains and strengthen their bargaining position at future peace talks.


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  1. Hopefully John McCain's buddy's are losing.

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