Opponents Of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS): Ukraine War Disproves HTS Claim That Russian Army Is Powerful, Which It Used To Justify Its Treachery

The Russian war against Ukraine which began on February 24, 2022, and the tenacity exhibited by the latter as it faces the Russian Armed Forces have provided opponents of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) with more fodder for criticism of the organization and its conduct. According to these opponents, HTS misled the Syrian public and even betrayed it when it acquiesced to the ceasefire agreements claiming that it didn’t have the capability to oppose the Russian Armed Forces, and that in that way it was protecting the territories under rebel control. These voices also urged “the true mujahideen” to take advantage of the fact that Russia is now occupied with the fighting in Ukraine to renew the struggle against the Syrian regime, while ignoring the restrictions imposed by HTS. Furthermore, in an apparent reference to the claim that HTS cooperates with the U.S.,[1] the same elements warned that the Americans, who abandoned Ukraine, will have no problem at all abandoning “little collaborators,” such as HTS.

The Fighting in Ukraine Proves the Weakness of the Russian Armed Forces and the Treachery of HTS; the True Jihadis Should Oppose HTS and Renew the Fighting Against the Regime

On her Telegram channel, an activist in Idlib and vocal critic of HTS shared a short video clip which depicts what appears to be a convoy of burned Russian military vehicles with the accompanying message: “This is the value of the army of Russia, the superpower, in a real battle, and this is also the truth about [the claim of] the uneven forces – the lie employed by the fraud of Syria [an allusion to HTS leader Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani] to justify his treachery, his delivery of the liberated areas [to the enemy], his burning of the mujahideen and withdrawal of the heavy weaponry from the frontlines. The evidence is in your hands and no more proof is necessary…Breaking the strength of this collaborator and undertaking a campaign in Syria now, while the Russians are busy with their real campaign, is the golden opportunity that should be exploited. The Ukrainian people are an example and proof of this, oh people of jihad and the true faith!”[2]

On February 26, 2022, independent Syrian-jihadi cleric Abu Yahya Al-Shami posted a message on his Telegram channel which reads, “The ‘fighting dogma’ in Syria is stronger than that in Ukraine. The ‘fighting dogma’ in Ukraine focuses on a refusal of Russian rule – while as an ethnic group they are very close to them – despite a long, shared history… while the Muslim faith which includes jihad and martyrdom for the sake of Allah is stronger and more exalted…”

In an allusion to members of HTS, Al-Shami adds that many of the rebels in Syria “are satisfied with the gains achieved to date. With a job, a position or a business they have organized for themselves, or they have left Syria and settled in other countries and even more have reconciled with the criminal regime and agreed to obey the Russian instructions… There are many kinds, but the common denominator among them is: false claims and exploitation of those of the correct faith, with deceitful slogans, for part of the time.”

Al-Shami asserts that, “Victories of the Syrian revolution were achieved thanks to those of the right and true faith which is the belief in jihad and martyrdom for the sake of Allah. Also the steadfast stance for such a long time in the face of the disasters and victories of the enemy, one after the other, was and remains the result of this faith and those who possess it. It is certainly stronger than the faith of the Ukrainians, but those who have it are a persecuted and oppressed minority. The liberation of the loyal mujahideen from their chains and the unification of the Syrian people around them are sufficient to achieve an amazing victory.”[3]

In another post on the following day, Al-Shami shares a letter he allegedly received from a man who sent a picture purportedly of Chechen fighters praying before they set out for war against Ukraine and writes, mockingly, that HTS is also likely to reach this point, “Who says that a time machine doesn’t exist. Here is a photograph from the future, of soldiers who [mistakenly] believe that they are mujahideen. Their end will be the same as that of these Chechens who fight under the Russians against the Ukrainians. This is what will be if they continue on their present path. I don’t [say this] as someone who can see what is concealed, but after studying reality and comparing it to the past. I only hope that the sane people will see and understand this, before it is too late.”[4]

HTS Won’t Take Advantage of This Opportunity to Renew the Fighting Against the Assad Regime

Independent Syria-based, Egyptian-born jihadi cleric Abu Shu’ayb Al-Masri writes that the factions “which surrendered to the Astana [agreements] in Syria,” such as HTS, are “committed to a ceasefire” and will not begin new offensives against the Assad regime and Russia, even if a war breaks out in Ukraine.[5]

Real Mujahideen Don’t Even Fear Fighting Against a Superpower; If It Wasn’t For the Treachery of HTS, the Situation in Syria Would Be Completely Different

In another post, jihadi cleric Abu Shu’ayb Al-Masri writes that, unlike HTS, which erred when it agreed to comply with international agreements due to fear of Russia, “The sincere” mujahideen humiliated the Russian, American, French, and “crusaders” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, and Somalia and were not afraid to confront superpowers, and that even “idolatrous unbelievers” humiliated the U.S. in Vietnam, proving that these countries’ armies are not invincible. The jihadi cleric writes that the Syrian revolution possesses the “greatest soldiers” who have made the “greatest sacrifices” and that the Syrian jihad would be in a completely different situation if not for the “traitors who hurry [to conform with] the whims of the unbelievers and seek their friendship.”[6]

The U.S. Will Abandon HTS Just As It Abandoned Ukraine

A pro-Al-Qaeda outlet comments on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s statement that Ukraine has been left to fight Russia on its own, writing that this sends a message to “every American collaborator on the face of the earth” that “America will throw you away when its interests so demand, like a soiled handkerchief is discarded,” adding that if the U.S. abandoned Ukraine, “a large country which produces weapons and is considered the eastern gateway to Europe,” it will certainly abandon a “small collaborator” which only commands “hundreds of soldiers here and there.”[7]

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