The latest hot news item frrom Syria is that Jabhat al Nusra, the remaining Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria now that ISIS has branched out on their own as the Islamic State, has taken the city of Idlib. The Syrian province of Idlib is on the Turkish border east of Aleppo. It was one of the early locuses of the resistence, who traveled through Turkey to received training in Qatar, and whose families were settled in Turkish refugee camps in early 2011 so the men would be free to fight.
Last fall, for the second time, a US weapons cache supplied for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Idlib was carried off by Al Nusra fighters. The circumstances are unclear but it appears that members of the local militias were heavily outgunned so they either disappeared or changed allegiance to al Jabhat al Nusra. The weapons involved were not only small arms. They included hight tech tanks, missile launchers and howitzers.
Now we are told that a coalition of local FSA militias and Jabhat al Nusra have taken the city of Idlib from govenment forces. This conquest of Idlib is compared with Islamic State (IS) conquest of Raqqa. There is a difference, however. These are the same FSA forces who supposedly lost their US weapons to Jabhat al Nusra, now fighting in a coalition with them. The story broke in Al Jazeera. In a related story from Reuters earlier this month, Jabhat al Nusra is thinking of quitting Al Qaeda in exchange for Qatari patronage. So then they would be on the Qatari payroll ( like Al Jazeera). By joining the ranks of the ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria, they would become eligible for western assistance as well.
I suppose in this light it is no surprise that the local militias are restored and now ‘allied’ with their recent conquerors, and well enough armed to do some damage to the Syrian Arab Army. According to Fars News, however, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is regrouping and regaining territory already. So, in the shifting streams of a widely distributed battle, this win is far from a final call. And if they lose, then we would have to draw the conclusion that the fancy weapons we supplied to these forces along with other forms of foreign backing are not enough to make them a match for the SAA.