Thursday, March 31
Watch out for spattering propaganda goo, Part 1
Emphasis is mine throughout:
For the past two weeks, the small rebel-controlled town in Idlib province [Syria] has become the central battleground in a pitched power struggle between al Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army, a confederation of nationalist militias that draws support from Western governments.
It all began when Nusra Front [Al Qaeda in Syria] fighters shut down a nationalist protest on March 11 – an act that escalated into full-blown clashes with Division 13, which al Qaeda eventually forced out of the town.
While the military confrontation is over for now, Saoud’s supporters in Maarat al-Nu’man are harnessing their public support in defiance of the dominant Nusra Front. FSA supporters have organized escalating protests of the town’s men and women against al Qaeda, sparking such anger at the jihadist group’s abuses that Nusra was forced to withdraw, at least temporarily.
A religious court is deciding when and if either side can return. The fight is less about territory and military strength, where the Nusra Front still has a clear upper hand, than it is about legitimacy, popularity, and propaganda.
The FSA is gambling that it can leverage the popular backlash against the Nusra Front that followed the clash in Maarat al-Nu’man to argue that a popular nationalist revolution survives. For supporters of Syria’s original non-violent nationalist uprising, the entire project of fixing Syria is at stake.
If the ragged coalition of activists and nationalist rebels who cooperate under the brand of the Free Syrian Army collapses, they say, Syria will be left with a bitter choice between two murderous and sectarian alternatives: Bashar al-Assad’s regime or Islamic fundamentalists.
[...]From SouthFront, INTERNATIONAL MILITARY REVIEW – SYRIA & IRAQ, March 30, 2016
On Mar.29, the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF], mostly Kurdish YPG units reportedly launched an offensive towards the town of Manbij in Northern Syria.
Meanwhile, Kurdish units captured the Al-Shat checkpoint and the Al-Kadi Villa near Azaz and attempted to advance to the town, which remains one of the latest Al-Nusra-controlled logistical hubs used to receive supplies from Turkey.
In turn, Al Nusra militants supported by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) launched a counter-offensive in the area. Pro-militant sources report heavy casualties among the SDF. It’s confirmed that a Kurdish T72 battle tank has been destroyed with a TOW-missile. Now, heavy clashes are ongoing at the contested area near the town.
It’s also expected that al-Nusra and the FSA militants will be able to concentrate a majority of their forces at the Azaz front because there is no threat of ISIS advance in the area. Turkish, Qatari, and Saudi-backed groups have a kind of agreement dividing spheres of influence in Northern Syria.