Stalemate has brutally extended the Syrian civil war. The prolonged conflict has resulted in more sophisticated organizational structure developing in the various rebel and militant organizations. This now includes the role of media spokesperson.
We dug around the web for a list of those spokespeople but couldn’t find any. The fractured nature of rebel and Islamist groups (sometimes one and the same) also makes it difficult to pin down specific responsibilities at any given moment. We felt it was worth the effort to see if we could identify the spokespeople for these militant factions that make statements containing valuable intelligence oftentimes not making the headline?
We used Recorded Future to identify key voices in the media related to five particular groups outlined in a previous blog post – Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Tawhid Division, the Syrian Liberation Front, and Fatah al-Islam – as well as the Free Syrian Army (FSA). We then looked at their recent appearances in the media for mentions of a spokesperson and compiled a watchlist out of the network shown below:
There are a few immediate takeaways from this query for information about the last three months. First, the network graph is dominated by people related to the Free Syrian Army. Several individuals also surfaced who are related to Al Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham.
The results also provide two areas for further exploration: the influence of each group in the Syrian conflict and why certain groups have a limited media voice compared to others. Second, we had to do some clean up on instances of transliteration generating synonymous entities. We particularly worked on the references to the logistical coordinator Louay al-Mokdad of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ by binning records of his name together for a cleaner set of results.
After combing the network and compiling a list of names, we end up with 17 people (listed below) that warrant further analysis and monitoring. We’ll also include them here in case you want to do some research on your own: Mohammed Abu Suleiman (coordinator, Jabhat Al Nusra), Anwar Raja (spokesman, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian General Command), Ali Ankir (spokesman for Ahrar al Sham), Hazem al Shami (spokesperson and a fighter in Ahrar al-Sham), Mosaab Abu Qatada (spokesman, Jabhat al Nusra), Abu Khalid al-Idlibi (FSA spokesman in Idlib province), Maher al-Neimi (spokesman, FSA), Abu Mohammed (coordinator, FSA), Abu Hani al-Darawi (coordinator, FSA), Bassm Al-Dada (Turkey-based coordinator, FSA), Mumtaz Mohammed (spokesman, FSA), Ahmed Al-Katib (spokesman, FSA), Omar Abu Laila (spokesman, Eastern Joint Command, FSA), Shadi Ramoon (spokesman, FSA), Fahad al-Masri (spokesman, FSA), Malik Kurdi (Colonel, spokesman, FSA), and Louay al -Mokdad (coordinator, FSA).
With our list in hand, let’s look at what those individuals have discussed during the last 90 days:
This segmentation of activity reveals their level of access, their group’s interests and responsibilities in the conflict, and a local, even if fundamentally biased, voice on events in Syria. A few examples from the above timeline, which you can explore and build upon yourself: A few examples from the above timeline, which you can explore and build upon yourself:
- Feb 28, NOW Media from Beirut cites Louay Moqdad, Free Syrian Army spokesperson saying, “For over six months now, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been both overseeing and directly taking part in the regimes battles against the armed opposition. Iranian military advisors, he says, have formed joint operation rooms with regime forces to provide tactical and logistical support.”
- Feb 25, Reuters reports that Omar Abu Laila, a spokesman for the Eastern Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army, said the only building rebels found at the site was a hangar containing at least one Scud missile.
- Feb 25, Washington Post quotes Fahad al-Masri, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s joint command saying, “We are clear that there should be no negotiations with the Assad regime if Assad is not removed. Until then, we will fight.”
Recorded Future provided an easy way to scope out an unfamiliar topic. We were able to quickly generate a watchlist of key rebel media voices in Syria as well as quickly learn about their interests. We learned that the militant Jihadi groups in Syria are less vocal or connected to the media versus the formally recognized Free Syrian Army. However, the distribution and lack of coordination across the FSA shows very clearly in the above findings; it has an overabundance of “spokespeople”. This may cause cooperative difficulties and conflicting missions.
You can visit and use all of the analytic views from this post by visiting the report in Recorded Future. Is there another topic that you think would be similarly interesting to explore?