Syrians say al-Nusra represents Turkey’s last straw in northern Syria

ALEPPO, (North Press) – Member of the Syrian parliament who represents the two Shiite Syrian towns of Nubl and al-Zahraa says what is happening in northern Syria is a reshuffle and a dicing by Turkey to liquidate factions and float Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS- formerly al-Nusra Front).

The Syrian MP, who spoke to North Press on the condition of anonymity, says “Turkey has set to end the factional anarchy that it created in all areas in northern Syrian in favor of an organization that is well organized structurally and on fields such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.”

“The HTS would sooner or later replace such factions whose mission was to spread disorder and loot among other acts that became common occurrences in areas under Turkey,” he said. 

The MP noted he is not making a comparison “to show al-Nusra’s merits and other factions’ demerits; both are skilled at mercenarism and terror,” adding, “I am speaking on the Turkish role in drawing policies of armed groups and exclusion of a faction on favor of another.”

The Syrian politician believes that the HTS “the Syrian off-shoot of the terrorist al-Qaeda and a sister to the Islamic State Organization (ISIS), is to be asked in the coming days to carry out what other factions as well Turkey could not due to international pressure that is to fight the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) especially in Tel Rifaat and Manbij.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on May 23 that he would launch a new military operation into northern Syria and specified his targets in Tel Rifaat and Manbij.

Erdogan’s intention to launch the operation was faced with international and regional rejection due to the repercussions that might the operation brings.

Days ago, military convoys of HTS withdrew from Afrin and its countryside towards Idlib following bloody clashes with the Third Legion, a faction affiliated with Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), while it kept its security forces in the areas it controlled. 

On October 13 HTS took control over the city of Afrin after clashes with SNA factions.

The Syrian MP indicated Turkey would throw the ball into the HTS’ court and render all kinds of support to evade the direct responsibility to remain in the area.”

He said Nubl and Zahraa would be the target of such a Turkish orientation while depending on HTS as its agent in northern Syria.

He added, “This radical organization will not hesitate to attack and target the two towns.”

A bloody show

A 64-year-old retired brigadier general from Nubl, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described fighting in areas under Turkey’s control as a “show that allowed blood shed on condition that the scenario be enacted properly.”

The retired brigadier general added, “The Turks pushed HTS to storm Afrin which tried to enter Azaz and then al-Bab. It allied with Turkmen factions that have very close tie with Turkish intelligence such as Suleiman Shah and al-Hamza Division.”

“Sooner or later Turkish-controlled northern Syria would fall under the terrorist organization’s control,” he said in an indication to the HTS.

“Of course, Turkey would be able to push the HTS to attack Kurds, Iranians in Nubl and Zahraa, and even [Syrian] government and Russian forces with the ability to evade responsibility when necessary and hand over areas if it agrees with Russia and the Syrian state.”

All in all, Turkey would be in a plausible position in case of battles or reaching an understanding,” according to the Brigadier general.  

36-year-old Rida al-Haj, a leader in the local national group in Nubl and Zahraa, said the situation is likely to become tense and battles would erupt on a small or large scale with HTS becoming the dominant force after excluding or absorbing factions.”  

Nubl and al-Zahraa are 25-30 km to the north of the city of Aleppo with a population of about 70,000 people. They are located on the highway linking the city of Aleppo with both Azaz and Afrin which are controlled by Turkey and Turkish-backed armed opposition factions, also known as Syrian National Army (SNA).

The people of the two towns are Shia Islam which is the second largest branch of Islam, after Sunni Islam, and they believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib is Prophet Muhammad’s successor.

Reporting by George Saadeh