Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army

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Southern Front
الجبهة الجنوبية
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
Logo of the Southern Front.png
The Syrian Independence flag flanked by an AK-47 on each side
Active 14 February 2014[1] – present
Ideology Non-hardline Islamism[2]
Secularism[3][4]
Syrian nationalism[5][6]
Anti-authoritarianism[6]
Constitutionalism[6]
Leaders Gen. Bashar al-Zoubi[7]
(Overall Leader)
Brig. Gen. Ziad Fahd[8]
(Deputy Chief of Staff)
Lt. Col. Majid al-Sayid Ahmed
(Head of the Operations Department)
Colonel Saber Safar
(Member of the Military Council)[9]
Colonel Bakur Salim al-Salim
(Member of the Military Council)[9]
Colonel Khaled al-Nabulsi
(Member of the Military Council)[9]
Major Hassam Ibrahim
(Member of the Military Council)[9]
Captain Said Nakresh
(Member of the Military Council)[9]
Ahmad al-Awdesh
(Member of the Military Council)[9]
Samer al-Haboush
(Member of the Military Council)[9]
Headquarters Amman[10]
Area of operations Daraa Governorate[11]
Quneitra Governorate[11]
As Suwayda Governorate[11]
Damascus[11]
Strength 25,000 (Nov. 2015)[12]
Part of Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army (claimed)
Allies
Opponents
Battles and wars Syrian Civil War

The Southern Front is a Syrian rebel alliance consisting of 58[16] or 54[2] Syrian opposition factions. It's disputed whether the coalition is part of the Free Syrian Army.[16]

The Southern Front commands the loyalty of 70% of active operations rooms in southern Syria[17] and holds control of 70% of Daraa Governorate alone.[18] The Southern Front was established on 14 February 2014 in southern Syria.[1]

Claims have been made by the Southern Front itself[19] and by media in Britain,[16] Germany[2] and the United Arab Emirates[20] that the Southern Front is being funded by the US and its allies, possibly through a US led Military Operations Center (MOC) based in Amman, Jordan. Since its formation, rebels said, field operation rooms have been added inside Syria to improve coordination between units.[10] The coalition is "described by Western officials as the best organized of the mainstream opposition".[21] The constituent groups range from secularist groups to moderate religious groups, and the Southern front has been described as a "non-hardline Islamist rebel group" that rejects extremism.[2]

Nature of the Front; relation with FSA

The Southern Front is an alliance of 54 rebel groups, ranging from secularist to moderately religious.[2] In mid-February, foreign intelligence officers affiliated with the U.S.-led clandestine Military Operations Command in Jordan convened a meeting of moderate rebel forces and leaders in Southern Syria near Deraa. They directed them to create a new umbrella coalition, and the Southern front was formed on February 13, 2014.[22] Bashar el-Zoubi, head of the Yarmouk division, said to the BBC in 2014 that the groups or factions of the Southern Front are militarily coordinated by a moving command centre with a unified leadership but with no overall commander and no centralised command—which is contradictory.[16] The formation of the front and its backing by western forces challenged al-Nusra's military and political success in the region, though Southern Front units continued to cooperate with al-Nusra forces.[22]

In spite of its suggestive name, there is no ground to assume that this 'Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army' is part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the coalition of armed groups that it presents has no central leadership.

The Carter Center, a private organization in the U.S. promoting human rights globally, in February 2015 also described ‘The Southern Front’ as a loose coalition of self-described moderate armed groups without leadership or organizational structure, that has agreed on the name ‘Southern Front’ to receive support from the ‘Friends of Syria’ (“an international diplomatic collective, which focuses on supporting the Syrian opposition”[23]) through the southern MOC (“Military Operations Center”[24] which is not further defined by Carter Center).[25]

History

On 13 November 2014, it was reported that 15 factions of the Southern Front drew up a political program as an alternative to the exile-led opposition in Turkey, in which they are planning to turn the Southern Front into a civilian security force.[21] At the same time a provincial council was established. This political program is intended to have "broad appeal among Syrian civilians and to undercut support for more extreme interpretations of Islam that has been spreading".[20]

Around that time, almost 40 small rebel groups joined the First Corps in the south.[20]

On 27 December 2014, the 18 March Division, Yarmouk Army, Fallujah of Houran Brigade and Lions of Sunna Brigade merged under the command structure of the Hawks of the South coalition to strengthen the Southern Front.[26]

On 1 January 2015, the Hamza Division, Syria Revolutionaries Front (SRF) southern command and 1st Artillery Regiment merged under the command structure of the First Army.[27]

On 25 March 2015, the Southern Front captured the town of Bosra after a 3-day long battle.[28]

On 1 April 2015, the Southern Front captured the Nasib border crossing, the last government-controlled border crossing into Jordan.[29]

On 15 May 2015, the Southern Front unified under one military council, chaired by 7 senior members.[9] On 1 June 2015, the Southern Front paraded for the graduation of one thousand new members.[30]

After the Southern Front's strategic victory at the capture of Brigade 52 in early June 2015, an analyst from the Institute for Strategic Studies stated that "The Southern Front is now showing itself as an increasingly effective buffer against Islamist rebels as well as an effective means for applying pressure on the Assad regime", and Southern Front spokesman Issam al-Reis stated that "We have most of Daraa liberated, our lines of defense behind us are solid, and now we can start the operation toward Damascus and the highway leading to it".[18]

On 17 June 2015, the Southern Front launched an offensive to take all of Quneitra province.[31]

On 25 June 2015, the Southern Front announced "Southern Storm", an offensive to capture Daraa city, where the Syrian Revolution began in 2012.[32] By mid-August the offensive had failed to make significant advances, but the government had responded by increasing attacks on civilian neighborhoods, killing dozens of civilians, leading to public demonstrations against the Southern Front's failed strategy.[2] An analysis by the Heinrich Böll Foundation suggested that the Southern Front had failed to receive significant support from the Military Operations Center in Jordan.[2]

Support and funding

General Ibrahim Jbawi, spokesman for the Southern Front, stated in November 2014 that his group received money and weapons from the US, France, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.[19] Activists said that Jordan also facilitated the Southern Front by allowing them to cross freely to and from Jordan.[19]

The Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) based newspaper The National stated in November 2014 that the Military Operations Command centre (MOC) in Amman, Jordan, staffed by “western and Arab military officials”,[33] had sent out food baskets to six rebel factions in southern Syria, presumably members of the Southern Front.[20] The BBC, not revealing its sources, claimed in December 2014 that the Southern Front was “backed” through the Military Operations Center in Jordan, “a logisitics and supply hub” run by the US with European and Arab allies.[16] The German Heinrich Böll Foundation claimed in 2015 that the Southern Front is being “funded” by a Military Operations Center (MOC) in Amman, Jordan which is run by “the US and its allies”, but did not specify or corroborate what that ‘funding’ implied.[2] But no American official has yet admitted US support for the Southern Front.[16]

The National also reported that Southern Front members participating in the fight against the Syrian government receive $50-$100 per month while those who fight against ISIL receive $100-$250 per month from the MOC. However, the MOC threatened to cut funds unless the SF launch an offensive against ISIL.[34]

Battles

Date Battle Place Against Result
3 February – 27 May 2014 Daraa offensive (February–May 2014) Daraa Governorate,
Quneitra Governorate
 Syria
Hezbollah
indecisive
27 August – 23 September 2014 2014 Quneitra offensive Quneitra Governorate,
Daraa Governorate
 Syria Green tickY victory
3 – 6 October 2014 Daraa offensive (October 2014) Daraa Governorate  Syria Green tickY victory
1 November – 15 December 2014 Battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin Daraa Governorate  Syria
Hezbollah
Green tickY victory
24 – 31 January 2015 Daraa offensive (January 2015) Daraa Governorate  Syria
Hezbollah
Green tickY victory
7 February – 13 March 2015 2015 Southern Syria offensive Daraa Governorate,
Rif Dimashq Governorate,
Quneitra Governorate
 Syria
Hezbollah
Iranian IRGC
Liwa Fatemiyoun
stalemate
21 – 25 March 2015 Battle of Bosra (2015) Daraa Governorate  Syria
Hezbollah
Iranian IRGC
Green tickY victory
1 April 2015 Battle of Nasib Border Crossing Daraa Governorate  Syria Green tickY victory
8 June 2015 Brigade 52 offensive Daraa Governorate  Syria Green tickY victory
10 June 2015 Battle of al-Thula airbase Suwayda Governorate  Syria Red XN defeat
17 June 2015 Quneitra offensive (2015) Quneitra Governorate  Syria stalemate
25 June 2015 Operation Southern Storm (Daraa City offensive) Daraa Governorate  Syria Red XN defeat
2–24 October 2015 Quneitra offensive (October 2015) Quneitra Governorate  Syria Red XN defeat
27 December 2015 – 25 January 2016 Second Battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin Daraa Governorate  Syria
 Russia
Hezbollah
Red XN defeat
21 March – 8 April 2016 Daraa offensive (March–April 2016) Daraa Governorate 23x15px Islamic Muthanna Movement
Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade
Green tickY Victory

Member groups

Former members

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Moderate Rebel Groups Unite in Southern Syria". Syrian Observer. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Haid, Haid (21 August 2015). "The Southern Front: allies without a strategy". Heinrich Böll Foundation. Retrieved 30 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Rand, Dafna H.; Heras, Nicholas (29 December 2014). "The South Will Rise Again". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 5 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Williams, Sara Elizabeth (26 May 2014). "A rebel rift is brewing on Syria's southern front". Vice News. Retrieved 5 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Sayigh, Yezid (29 May 2015). "Coming Challenges for Syria's Rebels". Carnegie Middle East Center. Al-Hayat. Retrieved 30 May 2015. nationalist rebels in the south<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "The Free Syrian Army – Southern Front: Transitional Phase". Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2015. It is imperative that all nationalist forces commit to a course of action during the period of transition from authoritarianism that will fulfil the popular will [...] The current constitution will be immediately suspended and replaced by the original constitution of 1950 as an interim constitution until the drafting of a permanent constitution for the country that shall be approved by a popular referendum.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "The Moderate Rebels: A Complete and Growing List of Vetted Groups". الثورة الديمقراطية، الطراز السوري Democratic Revolution, Syrian Style. 21 October 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "SELECTED SUPREME MILITARY COMMAND MEMBERS" (PDF). Institute for the Study of War. Retrieved 30 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Syrian Rebellion Obs [Syria_Rebel_Obs] (15 May 2015). "#SRO – Exclusive – As announced yesterday by #SRO, #FSA Southern Front has now a one and official Military Council" (Tweet). Retrieved 2 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Rosenthal, Max J. (15 May 2014). "Syrian Rebels Say Southern Front Strategy Hasn't Hurt Assad Yet". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Aron Lund (21 March 2014). "Does the "Southern Front" Exist?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 14 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Yes, there are 70,000 moderate opposition fighters in Syria. Here’s what we know about them
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  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 Ghattas, Kim (9 December 2014). "Syria war: Southern rebels see US as key to success". BBC News. Retrieved 18 February 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  18. 18.0 18.1 Naylor, Hugh (10 June 2015). "Moderate rebels take key southern base in Syria, dealing blow to Assad". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 June 2015. Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the fall of Brigade 52 weakens government defenses around the capital [...] "The Southern Front is now showing itself as an increasingly effective buffer against Islamist rebels as well as an effective means for applying pressure on the Assad regime," Hokayem said. The rebels control about 70 percent of Daraa and are poised to seize the provincial capital from Assad’s forces, he said.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "US-backed Syria rebels make new push south of Damascus". Fox News. Associated Press. 28 November 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Maayeh, Suha; Sands, Phil (25 November 2014). "Syria's southern rebels draw up new game plan". The National. Retrieved 30 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  36. https://twitter.com/arabthomness/status/719980721117478913
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  38. https://twitter.com/BosnjoBoy/status/725716339747332096
  39. https://www.reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar/comments/3q74rv/daraa_in_last_six_days_four_small_groups_have/
  40. https://twitter.com/IvanSidorenko1/status/684455498456936448
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  42. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJ_5CMciMXY&feature=youtu.be
  43. https://twitter.com/ShamiRebel/status/724990310200299521
  44. https://beyondthelevant.com/2016/04/26/english-statement-first-brigade-in-damascus-has-fully-merged-with-al-rahman-corps/