Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam) faction of the Syrian opposition, which includes 60 of the groups fighting against Bashar Al-Assad’s government, has reaffirmed its objection to plans for an international peace conference on the Syrian conflict in Geneva.
The conference, backed by the US, Russia and the UN and dubbed “Geneva II,” was originally planned to take place at the end of the month, but has now been put on hold for an indefinite period. It has also been criticized by several Syrian rebel groups, especially Islamists.
Jaysh Al-Islam’s political coordinator, Mohammed Alloush, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that “any political solution should be imposed from the field, not from foreign parties,” and that the Geneva II conference was focused enough on the objectives of the armed opposition groups, including “toppling the regime and the trial of its members.”
Jaysh Al-Islam was formed in September under the leadership of Zahran Alloush, the commander of the Islamist Liwa Al-Islam faction based in the countryside around Damascus. The organization originally comprised 43 militia groups, but has since grown to encompass 60.
“More than 175 applications from fighting groups were received by Jaysh Al-Islam’s command and are currently being considered,” Alloush said, adding: “The most important conditions to join are good conduct, following the general teachings of Islam, and accepting the army structure and its decision-making mechanisms.”
He said that military decisions on Jaysh Al-Islam operations are reached via consultation between its Shura Council—which includes Shari’a law specialists and military commanders—and the operations room led by Zahran Alloush.
Alloush told Asharq Al-Awsat that Jaysh Al-Islam fighters were mostly Syrians, and had large quantities of heavy weapons, including artillery and missiles.
He said: “These weapons were taken from the government forces,” and denied that any foreign party supported Jaysh Al-Islam, although he said some donations by people who supported the Syrian revolution had reached them.
Alloush claimed that Jaysh Al-Islam was successful because it followed a coordinated approach in making military decisions, and unlike other opposition units does not target cities or other residential areas, preferring to attack regular army bases, managing to take control of more than 40 army bases in the Eastern Ghouta area.
Although the organization claims to follow Islamic doctrines, it is reportedly more moderate than groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the Al-Nusra Front, which are both affiliated to Al-Qaeda.
Alloush denied that any links existed between Jaysh Al-Islam and these groups, but also said that “there were no disagreements with them.” He said: “If disagreements between us materialized, we will take them to Shari’a bodies and conciliation committees.”