Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), classified as a “terrorist” group, is trying to make new arrangements within its ranks in its areas of control in Idlib, northwest Syria, most notably trying to form a moderate military body to be more acceptable among the internal and external forces in line with international and regional interests, especially Turkey.
After the HTS played a major role in founding the Salvation Government in 2017, committed crimes against humanity, and violated human rights, it made some changes regarding its ideological approach in order to legitimize its entity in line with the current phase with the aim of removing its name from the list of the terrorist groups.
Besides, the HTS isolated those who criticized its steps to renovate itself, and appointed instead of them the young men who underwent ideological training in the camps supervised by it in Idlib. The HTS also appointed tribal sheikhs who are hugely popular in its-held areas to control the mosques according to the new approach.
In an attempt to gain the will of the people and adopt the policy of containment, the HTS gave up interfering in legislative affairs of the universities and institutes, and, unlike previous years, raised the flag of the Syrian “revolution” instead of its own flag, according to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). It also opened the Aleppo-Bab al-Hawa highway to facilitate traffic for citizens among the cities and towns under its control in order to win the international legitimacy.
These steps, supported by Turkey, aim to integrate the HTS with the mercenary factions in the Turkish-occupied areas of Afrin, Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain), Girê Spî (Tel Abyad), and the northern countryside of Aleppo. Based on this, the HTS has founded the General Intelligence Service to manage the mentioned areas, while avoiding a military clash with any military formation within its areas of influence, in preparation for greater steps that may reach full integration, according to a report publish by al-Monitor.
However, despite the signing of the memorandum of understanding following the meetings held between the Saudi jihadist Abdullah al-Muhaysini on one hand and leaders of Sham Legion, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya, Sultan Murad Division and the Levant Front (al-Jabha al-Shamiya), what was agreed upon in the memorandum, was not implemented which means the existence of differences and contradictions among the mercenaries of the Syrian National Army (SNA) and the terrorist HTS.
In light of this, no matter how the HTS tries to renovate itself and presents itself with a moderate mask, the terrorist character which is still present in its extremist ideological approach plus its embrace of leaders who are ideologically affiliated with al-Qaeda in its areas of influence, keeps creating terrorism no matter how it tries to float.