Daraa rebels ordered to stop
fighting Syria regime: report

The Amman-based Military Operations Center (MOC) directed Southern Front factions to focus their efforts against Al-Nusra Front.

Yarmouk Army. (YouTube/Lens of Yarmouk)

BEIRUT – The Amman-based Military Operations Center (MOC) that helps coordinate rebel operations in southern Syria has ordered Free Syrian Army-affiliated factions to stop attacking regime forces and instead focus their efforts against the Nusra Front, according to a Lebanese daily.


Al-Akhbar reported that the MOC informed the commanders of several Southern Front coalition fighting forces—including the Omari Brigades, Youth of Sunnah Brigade, and Yarmouk Army— of the new strategy during a meeting January 8 in Amman.


“The goal of the meeting was to inform the armed groups of MOC’s new direction, the schedule for the coming period, and the types of support that [foreign backers] would provide the militants through the operations room,” security sources told the pro-Damascus newspaper in an article published Wednesday morning.


The sources added that the FSA-linked groups were told by Jordanian, US and British intelligence officials to “stop operations against the Syrian army and avoid periphery battles,” in reference to intermittent rounds of fighting between the rebels and ISIS-affiliated groups in southern Syria.


Instead, the Southern Front factions present in the Amman meeting—as well as the allied Army of Free Tribes group backed by Jordan—were instructed to concentrate on fighting both the Al-Nusra Front and Islamic Muthana Movement, which is close to the Al-Qaeda affiliate.


“The decision to liquidate the jihadists in the south has been taken,” the newspaper’s sources claimed.


The Amman meeting, as depicted by Al-Akbhar, would serve as the final blow to the Southern Front’s increasingly struggling efforts to fight regime forces in the Daraa Province.


The FSA-linked coalition had notched a series of stunning successes against government troops in the spring of 2015, however its campaigns ground down in the summer after the failure of the “Southern Storm” offensive to seize the provincial capital Daraa.


Reports began to emerge in September that the MOC had scaled back its support for the coalition, while rebels started complaining about a lack of assistance as their military successes dried up.


MOC promises new aid for new mission


Al-Akhbar claimed that the foreign powers operating the MOC promised rebels renewed aid in return for them agreeing to change tracks and launch a major campaign against Nusra.


“Each faction that joins the campaign will receive five tanks with full training for their crews as well as other incentives related to salaries and armament,” sources told the pro-Hezbollah daily.


The rebel leaders present in the Amman meeting all agreed to the MOC’s new plan, except the Youth of Sunnah Brigade chief, who eventually consented following further guarantees of support.


According to Al-Akhbar, the rebels were also promised training in a US-prepared base that will be staffed by military experts from Britain, Jordan and other Western states.


Russia-Jordan rapprochement


The MOC’s alleged decision comes within the context of “warming ties” between Amman and Moscow following Russia’s aerial intervention on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime.


On October 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced in Vienna that his country and Amman had agreed to coordinate military actions in Syria with a “special working mechanism” based in the Jordanian capital.


A month later, Jordanian King Abdullah II met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian capital during a visit in which he said that the “only way of finding a political solution in Syria is with the strong role that both [Putin] and Russia play.”


Jordan was also tasked in November by Washington and Moscow with formulating a list of terrorist groups in the war-torn country that would be the target of mutually agreed upon airstrikes by the rival powers currently intervening in the conflict.


An unnamed source in the FSA’s Southern Front told Alaraby Aljadeed that coordination between the two countries would not bode well for rebels in the Daraa province.


"The Southern Front have been aware that the Jordanian authorities are in contact with Russia and possibly the Assad regime to coordinate some issues. But the [implementation] of these contracts may signal the start of a new phase, which could have negative implications,” he said in an interview with the London-based newspaper. 


In a further sign that Jordan was shifting stances regarding the course of fighting in Daraa, Syrian National Security Bureau chief Ali Mamlouk allegedly recently visited Amman to discuss the border region.


Al-Quds al-Arabi reported in November that Mamlouk had met with high-ranking officials in Amman during his “important and secret” trip to discuss potential security issues.


The newspaper did not go into detail on what specific matters the Bashar al-Assad regime’s pointman broached, however it said they were related “by necessity” to southern Syria.


NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope translated the Arabic-language source material.

Yarmouk Army takes part in fighting last week against regime forces in Sheikh al-Maskeen. (YouTube/Lens of Yarmouk)

The decision to liquidate the jihadists in the south has been taken.

  • Cripes

    It is not a 'Sunni Arab rebellion' in Syria, it started as a mass citizen protest against Asad's oppressive regime that crossed all ethnic and religious boundaries. People forget that the protests included large numbers of Alawites in Latakia and Tartus too, which Asad's men put down equally ruthlessly. That hasn't changed, the composition of the opposition committee includes all shades of Syrian society. The resistance may be defeated on the battlefield by massive, indiscriminate Russian bombing and the sheer weight of numbers of Iran's Shia rent-a-mob. In which case, Syria is back at the start-line, a repressive dictatorship ruled by the corrupt Asad dynasry in the interests of the few, where the secret police dominate all political and civic life and the prisons are full of opponents, dissidents and anyone else who dares express a contrary view. Great progress. We have to hope that this pause in Southern Front operations is a short=term tactical one, a pause while the FSA cleans out the al-Nusra and ISIS cells that have infiltrated the area. The battlefield would change overnight if the resistance was supplied with anti aircraft missiles - without Russian air strikes Asad’s army is weak, short of men due to desertions, casualties and everyone dodging conscription, and quite lacking in resolve. The West has been so timid over this, which has enabled Putin to strut around the stage and play hard man. A few Russian aircraft being brought down by SAMs would change the whole military and political equation, as it did in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. It is high time the West acted to arm the resistance properly.

    January 21, 2016

  • Elvis

    It's the beginning of the end for the Sunni Arab rebellion in Syria and the so-called Caliphate of ISIS. In the west, the official Syrian army of Assad backed by Hezbollah, Iranian special forces, Iranian-backed foreign Shiite militias, & both Russian & Syrian air power is on the march, expanding its territory in all directions and surrounding Aleppo. In the north, the Syrian Kurds via the PKK is expanding its own territory along the Syrian-Turkish border with the support of both American & Russian air power, while the Iraqi Kurds backed by American air power are doing the same in northern Iraq. In the east, the Iraqi army of Baghdad backed by Shiite militias and American air power are pushing ISIS westward, and slowly but steadily liberating ISIS-controlled towns and cities, and are targeting Mosul next. Now that the Jordanians are working with the Russians, the southern supply lines for the rebels is going to be cut off, meaning that the only area left will be the Saudi border and with the increasing threat that ISIS poses to Saudi Arabia, sooner or later that will close too.

    January 20, 2016

  • WVD

    It's not the beginning it's nearing the end.

    January 26, 2016