Recent estimates suggest that foreign-sponsored terrorists from about 100 countries are currently infesting Syria.
But the myriad of armed jihadist militias appear to be in “the process of self-destruction” as radical groups have turned against each other after failing to push government-led forces away from rebel-held areas in the city of Aleppo.
Foreign fighters clashed in a town near the Turkish border last Monday as inter-rebel tensions spiked, playing to President Bashar al-Assad’s advantage. Factions have been divided by both ideology and local power struggles.
The confrontation in Azaz came as the Syrian government tightened its grip on rebel-held eastern Aleppo, Reuters reported. The fighting prompted Turkey, a sponsor, to close the border crossing at Oncupinar.
Analyst Salman Rafi Sheikh writing for New Eastern Outlook says the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its local allies are moving in to free eastern neighborhoods of the city, the commercial heart of the country prior to the war.
He says the rebels are most likely heading for “one of the biggest symbolic and territorial defeats” because they were unable to break the siege.
The SAA has succeeded in pushing back their onslaught and setbacks in Aleppo have been detrimental to a “coordinated front”.
Unity is “now crumbling like a [house] of cards” according to Salman Rafi Sheikh. “Failure to hold onto the city has initiated a [self-destructive] process, forcing the bigger rebel groups to swallow the smaller groups and bring more territory under their control, and thereby find more recruits for future fighting,” the analyst explained.
This process has apparently been set in motion when a coalition of several radical groups “failed to sustain the counter-siege they had initiated for the part of the city under the Syrian army’s control,” he added.
This infighting followed similar clashes in eastern Aleppo on November 2, which saw Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, and Nour al-Din al-Zinki attack the Fastaqim Kama Umirt Union, which is part of the FSA.
Salman Rafi Sheikh predicted that the infighting would soon prove “a fatal blow” to the rebels, adding Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election could increase their predicament since the next US administration could well focus on cooperating with Russia to destroy Daesh.
“With the fall of Aleppo, rebel activity in the northern part of Syria will be crippled to a great extent,” he noted. “With the regime in control of the capital of Damascus and Aleppo, the perception is likely to grow among the people of Syria who are still disconnected with their government that the forces supporting Bashar al-Assad are on the path to defeating the opposition.”