IDLIB, Syria — In a Dec. 7 report on worldwide spiritual freedoms, the USA designated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as being amongst “Entities of Specific Concern” over its abuses of human rights.
In 2018, HTS was designated by the USA as a terrorist group with the UN Safety Council together with it as a sanctioned entity linked to the Islamic State, al‑Qaeda, and related people and teams.
This new US designation shattered HTS’ hopes of getting its title faraway from the worldwide terrorist lists, regardless of all of the steps that it had taken to enhance its picture on the worldwide degree. The US determination comes a couple of days after the US State Division’s announcement of providing a monetary reward of as much as $10 million for data associated to HTS chief Abu Mohammed al-Golani.
The US Division of State’s Reward for Justice Program mentioned in a Nov. 24 tweet that the State Division is in search of details about Golani’s whereabouts.
On this context, HTS’s media relations supervisor Taqi al-Din Omar gave Al-Monitor a press release, which was distributed to different media shops. He mentioned HTS shouldn’t be involved about its designation as a terrorist group, as this can be a purely political classification and isn’t primarily based on any information or knowledge.
“We don’t contemplate ourselves categorised [as a terrorist group], as a result of we’re in an open struggle with a prison dictator regime that has dedicated horrific massacres and displaced three-quarters of the Syrian individuals, who turned refugees outdoors [their country] or have been displaced to camps in border areas. [This has been happening] in full view of the world. [The regime] killed over one million Syrians in the course of the struggle and introduced within the Russian and Iranian occupiers to abort the favored revolution in Syria,” Omar mentioned.
He added, “We now have all of the legitimacy to confront this brutal occupation by standing on the battlefronts to guard the 4.5 million civilians within the northwest space of Syria. This can be a assured proper and the accountability of each free individual to defend himself, his nation and his faith.”
Al-Monitor met with a former jihadist chief who most popular to be recognized with the pseudonym Abu Dhar al-Shami for safety causes.
“HTS’ method has apparently modified when it comes to its exterior and inner discourse, suggesting that it needed to ship a message to the West. It appears that evidently the USA acquired HTS’ messages that it’s looking for to take away its title from the checklist of terrorist organizations, and oblique messages that it desires to enhance its picture,” Shami mentioned.
He famous, “Which means that the USA [has received the message] and will have implicitly talked about an inventory of circumstances [in order to have its name removed from the terrorist lists], which have been rejected by HTS. This [might have] prompted the USA to extend strain by saying a $10 million reward for data on HTS’ chief.”
Shami continued, “Stated circumstances are tough to outline as they’re a part of the US State Division’s secret technique. However one situation could possibly be that HTS has to dissolve itself and have its members — whether or not leaders or recruits — kind a brand new entity that the US-led coalition may help and work with. I consider that HTS confirmed some flexibility to this impact, however didn’t reassure the US administration so it will probably nonetheless have room for maneuver. This pushed the USA to extend strain to immediate HTS to take the subsequent step down this highway. These are simply speculations that I contemplate near actuality.”
He mentioned, “The classification in itself shouldn’t be a army goal as a lot as it’s a political purpose to take advantage of this concern in worldwide negotiations and diplomacy. This wants a protracted clarification, however on the finish of the day the way forward for Syria is determined by regardless of the end result. On the bottom this designation serves one objective that’s an excuse used on some events for worldwide pursuits and nothing extra. However it additionally has a unfavourable influence on the revolution because it unnecessarily restricts it.”
On Turkey and its function within the space, Shami mentioned HTS shouldn’t be fascinated by Turkey’s classification of it as a terrorist group, nor within the Turkish concern usually, as HTS is especially centered on the USA. That is significantly true even if actuality and logic point out that getting in Turkey’s good graces is extra vital than coaxing different events, in keeping with Shami.
Relating to the repercussions of this classification, Shami mentioned, “Even when HTS was faraway from the checklist of terrorist organizations, this doesn’t imply a change within the army or political state of affairs of the Syrian revolution. But hanging off its title stays a major and constructive step, as this pretext would not be legitimate and used towards the Syrian individuals’s aspirations of revolting towards the [Bashar] al-Assad regime.”
Firas Fahham, a Turkey-based researcher on jihadist teams, advised Al-Monitor, “Lots of HTS’ actions carry messages to [the international community], confirming the group’s new method and efforts to have its title faraway from the terrorist lists.”
He mentioned, “HTS’ safety campaigns towards al-Qaeda-affiliated Hurras al-Din [Guardians of Religion] comes inside this context. However eradicating its title stays far-fetched with the present management in place. These leaders have particular backgrounds that contributed to classifying the group as a terrorist group. The steps required from HTS — which can immediate worldwide stakeholders reminiscent of the USA and Turkey to reevaluate its standing — embody restructuring the group and a new management that doesn’t have earlier connections to ‘globalized jihad’ — i.e., al-Qaeda — however that fairly belongs to the Syrian neighborhood and the revolution solely.”
Fahham added, “The [upcoming Joe] Biden administration’s technique shouldn’t be clear concerning Syria and Idlib specifically, as it might deal with northeastern Syria solely — i.e., the Kurdish areas. Subsequently it’s too early to foretell the administration’s step towards HTS.”
He concluded, “I consider there aren’t any relations between Turkey and HTS, however Ankara is coping with it as a fait accompli, and attaches significance to the attainable invasion of Idlib by Russia and the Syrian regime. It additionally appears that Turkey sought to keep away from Russia’s request to conflict with HTS. I don’t consider that Turkey needs HTS to keep up the identical standing. In any case, eradicating its title from the checklist of terrorist organizations could be vital in weakening Russia’s pretext that it has at all times used to wage a struggle towards the Syrian individuals who revolted towards the Assad regime.”