Russia has formally proposed that the UN Security Council add Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam to the “blacklist” of Syrian rebel factions considered terrorist organizations, citing each group’s close links to existing terror groups, particularly al-Qaeda.
Jaish al-Islam is a group based around Damascus, with close ties to Saudi Arabia’s hastily assembled “High Negotiation Committee,” which has since presented itself as the exclusive “rebel” group at peace talks. In the area around Damascus, it has worked with both al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and at times reportedly ISIS factions.
Ahrar al-Sham, another group heavily backed by the Saudi government, is part of the Islamic Front, and its leadership has repeatedly presented itself as having close ties to al-Qaeda. The group is not part of the Saudi-backed HNC, however, insisting the bloc doesn’t represent sufficiently “revolutionary” groups.
In both cases there is some evidence for the assertion that they are part of the “terrorist” side of the Syrian rebellion, though in both cases their closeness to Saudi Arabia has traditionally shielded them from being labeled as such. It is unclear, at present, if anyone will veto the Russian call to blacklist them, though Jaish al-Islam may be protected by Western nations to try to keep some semblance of a rebel “negotiating” team together.
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