US-backed Hazm Movement, Muhajireen Army working together in Aleppo

The US-backed Harakat Hazm, or Hazm Movement, has joined several groups, including Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, a Chechen-led jihadist group, and the Islamist Jaish Mujahideen (Army of Mujahideen) in fighting the Assad regime in the Handarat District of Aleppo. In the video posted above, one can clearly see Hazm fighters use a US-supplied BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile to destroy a regime tank. Hazm has also posted a video on its YouTube account showing the destruction of a regime BMP in Handarat.

Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (the Army of the Emigrants and Helpers), also known as the Muhajireen Army, is an al Qaeda-allied jihadist group that is populated by commanders and fighters from the Islamic Caucasus Emirate as well as a large number of Syrians. The group is considered to be the Caucasus Emirate’s branch in Syria. After the death of Islamic Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov, the Muhajireen Army swore allegiance to his replacement, Ali Abu Mukhammad. The jihadist group often fights alongside the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. The Muhajireen Army was just recently added to the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. [See LWJ report, State Department adds Chechen, Moroccan-led jihadist groups to terrorist list.]

Kavkaz Center, which acts as the news site for the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, has posted about the Muhajireen Army’s advances in Aleppo on Twitter. According to Joanna Paraszczuk of From Chechnya to Syria, they said: “JMA kicked out the Assadites [Syrian Arab Army troops or other pro-government forces] from Handarat in N. Aleppo. The kuffar [“infidels”] retreated suffering heavy losses.”

Also partaking in the fighting in Aleppo is Jaish Mujahideen, or the Army of Mujahideen, a rebel coalition that includes several Islamist Free Syrian Army units. The group is reportedly in the process of being vetted by the United States to receive military aid.

Underscoring the complexity of vetting Syrian rebel groups for US assistance, on Sept. 23, the US-backed Hazm Movement released a statement condemning the recent coalition airstrikes in Syria:

“What occurred by way of guiding the aerial attacks is considered an attack on national sovereignty and the achievement of the Syrian revolution. The the continued disregard of the international community to what the revolutionary forces called for by way of arming the FSA without any conditions is but the harbinger of failure and destruction that will affect the entire region.

We in the Hazm Party confirm our complete commitment to the principles of the revolution and that our actions only in service of the proprieties of revolutionary work and what national interest requires and it is not according to what the desire of the international coalition dictates. We also confirm that the latter’s [the international coalition’s] continued decisions seeking to win international public opinion will not succeed in eradicating extremism but will encourage its growth instead. The only path to establishing peace in the region will come via realizing the aspirations of the Syrian people and through the hands of Syrians.

The only beneficiary of the foreign intervention in Syria is the Assad regime, especially in light of the absence of any true strategy to topple him. The latter [Assad] will not spare any effort to target civilians in an effort to rehabilitate himself [his image] internationally.”

The Hazm Movement is also known to fight alongside the Al Nusrah Front. A Los Angeles Times article in early September quotes a Hazm fighter as saying, “Inside Syria we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusrah Front was going to battle us. But Nusrah doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusrah.”

Oren Adaki provided the translation of the Hazm statement on the recent coalition airstrikes in Syria.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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16 Comments

  • Paul says:

    Bringing down Assad is idiotic. Hope we reverse course

  • JasonBlaster says:

    There are literally dozens and dozens of videos out of Syria uploaded from a variety of different Islamist resistance groups. We know they are US made, but do we know they are US supplied? Is there a back door source they could be obtaining large numbers of these weapon system from? They are clearly the superior ATGM in theatre based on observing the videos alone, not to mention the known capabilities.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    Not really. He can be brought down, while the minorities can rally around the existing state structure to bring about real, peaceful change and defuse this crisis once and for all.
    Assad never wanted that. He was handed power by his father. He is the head of a dynastic police state. The very fact that westerners now think that Assad, as one person, is somehow magically needed to be there, proves that his constant 24//7 propaganda machine aimed specifically at westerners has successfully brainwashed them.

  • Dan A says:

    Can we stop pussyfooting around and get the Kurds in Kobani some of these?

  • blert says:

    The only viable solution that does not end in a total bloodbath is if Assad and his crew retreat to the Alawite heartland — and take the non-Sunni Arab minorities with them.
    Assad is not just himself, he is the figurehead for the entire Alawite community — and many non-Muslim minorities.
    The Assad family — ages ago — eliminated all of the talent — especially within the Alawite ranks — that could provide alternate leadership.
    It’s a fantasy that someone outside his circle is going to pop-up and become a Jeffersonian democratic-republican.
    The Alawites practice a variation of Shia Islam. This is why they are simpatico with Tehran — and always have been.
    Islam is totally incompatible with republican-democracy.
    Mo’ himself has established that.
    Consequently, no Westerner should hold out any hope that any of these classically Muslim nations is EVER going to flip over to republican-democracy.
    Iraq is a case in point. It’s going through the formalities of republican-democracy — while being run as a classic one-man/ strong-man despotism.
    It’s because of this that al Maliki lost both the Sunnis and the Kurds. Yet, he was just doing what comes normally — to Muslim leaders.
    Jordan is another case. It’s still very much a monarchy. Ditto for Kuwait, et. al. They are adopting these structures to keep the West ‘happy.’ They are still run despotically. The Kuwaiti royal house, famously, skims off 40-50% of all revenue. The proles live on the rest.
    For the West, the best that can be had are governments such as Jordan and Egypt and Kuwait and the Emirates.
    Iran is the big problem — and Pakistan — and KSA. The administration does not see it so, at all.
    It is obvious to practically every observer that should Iran get the atomic bomb, KSA would obtain atomics, too. They are so close, and so mutually fearful, that it would only be a matter of time before they launch on suspicion… and destroy each other — and much else.

  • Arjuna says:

    Assad is fighting for his survival (literally, Ghouta while horrific, was tactically smart and cleared the Damascus suburbs that needed clearing of rebels) after we pushed him into a corner by backing his enemies. We should have let sleeping snakes lie.
    Why the US and the international community (though not the UN if you follow Carla Del Ponte’s reporting) ignore the use of Sarin by the opposition (both ISIS and Nusra have used it) and continue to only highlight and decry regime use is beyond me. Anyone who follows the conflict closely knows both sides are guilty of the same WMD (banned chem weapons) war crimes and the US is cherry-picking evidence one more time to build a cassus belli against a dictator we don’t like anymore.

  • Paul says:

    Chaos will absolutely rule if Asssad is removed. Most likely worse than Iraq (saddam)& Libya (Gadaffi)

  • Mike Mike Motorbike says:

    I hope in a strange way that Assad stays in power for a while longer, keeps *most* of the attention off of the west.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    But the chaos has already happened. This idea that if he is overthrown will lead to chaos baffles me. So the 170,000 dead, millions displaced internally and externally, scores injured, entire cities reduced to rubble, diseases spreading everywhere, that is not “chaos”? Entire factions, independent of the regime, are fighting for vast swathes of land and he is absolutely powerless to stop it.
    His dynastic police state has already crumbled for the most part, and all that’s left now is for there to be prolonged fighting while people spout a non-existent reality about how the regime can bring “stability” – even though it’s already been put to the test, and failed.
    I never thought anybody could turn Syria into a Jeffersonian democracy right away, but for all this destruction and bloodshed to occur just because one man insists on staying on his rusting throne is ludicrous.

  • Arjuna says:

    Blert, aren’t we part of the problem too?
    I mean by blowing up Iraq and Libya after they gave up their programs, didn’t we kind of put Iran in a corner? Don’t the Iranians have a right to a nuclear deterrent if they have 200 Israeli nukes pointed at their heads?
    The Persians play chess and know how to mind the store. They and Hezbollah worry me infinitely less than the Sunni hotheads in Pakistan, Gaza and now throughout the Arab world.
    The Pakistanis probably already sold the KSA a couple, so the issue between Tehran and Riyadh is likely one of MAD, which I’ve always believed was a great force for peace in this crazy, nuclear-armed world.
    We need to join forces against AQ and it’s offspring like Daech (holding our noses and working with Tehran and Assad) and let Iran have a sphere of influence, and even a nuclear deterrent (unless we and Israel disarm first).

  • Ciccio says:

    Assad is as bad as Hussein, Mubarak or any other of the host of dictators in the Muslim world. He is particularly bad, as was Hussein, because the Saudis said so. As in the 1980’s the Saudis said that the Taliban were the shining boy scouts in the region fighting evil. This should be the one and only reason for supporting or opposing any party on the ground, if either Saudis or Turkey support them stay well away. Both want the US to fight their own battles and both are against American involvement .

  • Celtiberian says:

    So this unreliable rebels, allied with jihadists, are awarded advanced weapons, funding and training while the ONLY RELLIABLE FORCE IN SYRIA, i.e.,THE YPG kurds do not receive a single bullet.
    They are the very best enemy of ISIS. YPG is truly secular, they fight for a democratic, stable society. They even have women with free hair fighting and leading units in battle. They are one of the few forces in ME that doesn’t want to destroy Israel.
    And they don’t run away when facing ISIS (‘good’ rebels run, Iraqi army run, even iraqi kurds peshmergas run). But YPG kurds resist until last bullet, until the very last man and woman. They are now under constant assault by thousands of ISIS, tanks, artillery in the besieged town of Kobane. Turkey helps ISIS and prevent volunteers and munitions to reach the defenders of Kobane. Now US has started to bomb seriously those ISIS bastards, but wht kurds are asking for is weappons and ammunition, they are running low of ammunition in a town besieged for weeks.
    They are perhaps the only ones deserving our help. However they are almost the only ones being neglected, just because the islamist president of Turkey wants them crushed.

  • Bill Baar says:

    Ryan Crocker’s take… the Barack Obama administration should focus on a “post-Assad” but not a “post-Alawite” future for that war-torn country
    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/05/syria-ryan-crocker-grave-mistake.html##ixzz3FkVnJKLJ

  • Eduard says:

    The Kurds in Kobani are doomed. Inaction by certain leaders made sure of it
    Did not some general say that all failures in battle are explained by 4 words”
    Too little, too late
    I would say we have some pros at being late with too little.

  • Arjuna says:

    IIRC, Assad was about to agree to hold elections in late 2012 and not run himself but America was already making war crime noises and UN/ICC threats, so he saw no way out. A dacha in Russia or a villa in the South of France with the rest of the dirty, rotten scoundrels could have saved at least 169,999 lives.
    We should never, ever have gotten involved in the Syrian Civil War. It’s not our fight today and it never was.

  • Celtiberian says:

    Now (October 14th) the analyst Charles Lister reports on twitter that another US-backed ‘moderate’ brigade (Tajamu Suqor al-Ghab) have created a joint Sharia court in Idlib and Northern Hama with Ahrar al-Sham & Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Qaeda).
    Right now there are no moderate rebels in Syria. They are all islamists fighting for sharia implementation and have no problem in collaborate with Al Qaeda linked forces.
    Meanwhile, the only secular, democratic, anti-islamist forces in Syria had not received a single bullet, simply because islamist Turkey wants them dead: YPG kurds. By the way, they still resisiting ISIS hordes in besieged Kobane against all odds. US aerial strikes have come late and in small quantities but they are helping outgunned kurds to fend off the jihadist onslaught. Now, some airdrops of weapons and ammunition are needed.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis