The Islamic Front, a newly formed coalition of Syrian Islamist groups that cooperate with al Qaeda and is estimated at 45,000 fighters, released its charter on its official Twitter account on Nov. 26. Although the formation of the Islamic Front has been hailed as a blow to al Qaeda, the new group embraces jihad and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state and the imposition of sharia law, both of which are goals of al Qaeda. The Islamic Front’s charter welcomes the “Muhajireen,” or foreign fighters, as “our brothers who supported us in jihad.”
The document is signed by the following groups: Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Sham Brigade, Ansar al-Sham Brigades, Jaysh al-Islam, Al-Tawhid Brigade, and Al-Haqq Brigade; and is dated Nov. 22, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which provided a translation. When the group’s formation was first reported, a seventh group, the Kurdish Islamic Front, was also listed among its members. [See LWJ report, Analysis: Formation of Islamic Front in Syria benefits jihadist groups.] Most of these groups have coordinated military operations with al Qaeda’s two affiliates in Syria.
While the Islamic Front’s charter does not mention al Qaeda, either to include or exclude the two Syrian al Qaeda branches, the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), it does contain a number of indications that the Islamic Front intends to work with al Qaeda affiliates and other Islamist groups that battle against the Assad regime in Syria.
The charter begins with an invocation of the need for unity in the Islamist ranks: “The Almighty said: ‘And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves. …. Verily, Allah loves those who fight in His cause in ranks as if they were a solid structure.'”
The Islamic Front defines itself as “a comprehensive Islamic, social, political, and military formation that aims to completely bring down the Assad regime in Syria, to build an Islamic State wherein God’s law [Shar’ Allah], the Glorious and the Almighty, alone is sovereign ….”
The charter states that the group “is an independent entity established in Syria [that is] is not subordinate to any foreign party, be it an organization, state, or [political or ideological] current.”
In the “Scope and Identity” section, the group “calls on all factions active on the ground to combine with it and to unite around the Ummah’s [Muslim community’s] desired goal of defeating the enemy and establishing a state in which justice and progress prevail under the umbrella of Islam and the authority of [Islamic] law.”
The section further provides that the Islamic Front “is grateful for the efforts of all sincere [people] who are active in the field. [The front] strives to coordinate with them at the highest levels. All who agree with the Front in its premise, its goal, and its methods are invited to contribute and to take up a position [in the Front] according to their merit.”
With respect to “Members and Membership,” the charter states: “The sons of the Front are Muslims who are loyal to the religion of Islam. Jihad in the cause of Allah and the rejection of tyranny and despotism brought them together.” It also notes that “the sons of the Islamic Front are among the first who revolted against the Assad regime and undertook to protect the people from its oppression. The most prominent military victories against the Assad regime are attributed to them.”
The Islamic Front includes among its listed goals the complete dismantling of the Assad regime and the establishment of an Islamic state under sharia law in its place. Another stated goal is to “close ranks and unify the forces active in the blessed revolution in order to spread security and to rebuild Syria on sound foundations of justice, unity, and integration.”
In the charter’s section on “Strategy,” in “Article Eleven: The Relationship with Outside the Front,” the Islamic Front indicates its openness to working with a broad range of other groups. The charter provides: “The groups, factions, and brigades that work on fighting the Assad regime and bringing it down are allied groups with whom we agree in the goal and with whom we coordinate and cooperate so as to achieve this aim.”
Significantly, in a section titled “The Muhajireen [Foreign Fighters]” the Islamic Front states: “They are our brothers who supported us in jihad. Their jihad is appreciated and thanked. We are obligated to preserve them, their dignity, and their jihad…. They are owed what we are responsible for and they are responsible for what they owe us.”