Is National Army Merging with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham?

Some factions of the SNA, led by Abu Amsha's Suleiman Shah, might join and merge with HTS, according to al-Hal Net.

The emergence of Mohammed al-Jassem “Abu Amsha” in areas controlled by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS – formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), the leader of the Sultan Suleiman Shah Division (al-Amshat), has raised many questions among Syrians and workers of opposition factions about the extent of coordination or agreement between the two parties or even the possibility of merging them to pave the way for integration between the Ankara-backed National Army and HTS, which is on international terrorism lists. 

Following differences and fighting between opposition National Army factions over the past period, speculation suggests that some factions, led by Abu Amsha’s Suleiman Shah, will go join and merge with HTS. This could lead to an increase in the rift between Turkish-backed factions in northwest Syria. 

Circumventing HTS

The appearance of Abu Amsha in a video recording in the Atma area north of Idleb –one of the HTS-controlled areas– last April, confused the officials of the opposition National Army. This is especially since the commander of Suleiman Shah who is accused of violations in rural Aleppo returned to practice his duties without being subject to the decisions of the tripartite committee, which recommended that he be held accountable and not be handed “revolutionary” positions later. In addition, he should be exiled outside the areas of Afrin and its countryside. 

Military analyst Colonel Mustafa Farhat told Al-Hal Net that as long as HTS is on the terrorist lists, merging with it is not possible.

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He revealed that there were previous studies to integrate HTS into the components of the “national army” selectively, not completely or randomly. This is to weaken HTS in favor of the forces directly affiliated with Turkey.

Farhat said that Suleiman Shah’s factions do not have a decision in this regard, and if they think about making such a decision, it is not within their powers. “What is being consulted now is to attract Syrians in HTS to be part of the opposition National Army factions.” 

HTS seizes the opportunity?

Writer and journalist Aqil Hussein said there are no doubt that the National Army factions are living a difficult reality in terms of interdependence and complex relations among them. This makes them constantly vulnerable, not to division, but to disputes and clashes as a result of many factors that have become known.  

Hussein, speaking to Al-Hal Net, said that HTS is aware of this reality, and is constantly trying to seize any opportunity it has in order to penetrate the areas of control of the National Army, whether directly or indirectly. Therefore, it worked to win Abu Amsha in his recent dispute with the Levant Front and those with it. “Indeed, Abu Amsha showed willingness to deal with HTS, which precedes the last problem, as he accuses the Sultan Suleiman Shah Brigade of collaborating with HTS.” 

“If such a merger occurs, the brigade will not have a future in the areas of control of the national army, and it will have to move to the areas of HTS control, with the consequences that Abu Amsha knows, and I do not think he will accept them,” Hussein said.

 

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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