With al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front having launching major offensives against rival groups in the Idlib Province, the “moderate Islamist” group Ahrar al-Sham announced the formation of a coalition of Islamist forces to resist Nusra in northwest Syria, leading to even heavier fighting.
Undaunted, the Nusra Front today announced the formation of what they’re calling the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist coalition of their own which will include the US-backed Nour al-Din al-Zinki and several other groups which have long allied with them.
While Nusra is the largest faction in Idlib by quite a bit on its own, this new coalition formation both gives them the appearance of being an inclusive movement, and ensures that none of those other factions end up joining the rival coalition.
While a lot of the forces on either side of this fight style themselves as relative moderates among Syria’s Islamist movement, the main distinction between the two coalitions is the Astana peace talks, with Ahrar al-Sham’s group including mostly factions attending the talks, and the Nusra faction only allowing those who were excluded. Nusra has accused the peace talks of being a “conspiracy” against them.