Jaysh al-Nasr ('The Victory Army') is one of the factions of the National Front for Liberation (NFL), which has been participating in the fighting in northwest Syria. The NFL is the main Free Syrian Army brand force in Idlib and its environs, though it is not as strong as Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.
To hear a perspective from Jaysh al-Nasr regarding the current situation, I interviewed Ra'id Farija, who commands the artillery and rockets brigade in Jaysh al-Nasr. He attracted some controversy recently when he characterized as 'martyrs' the members of jihadi faction Ansar al-Tawheed who were targeted in a U.S. strike in the Idlib region.
This interview was conducted on 3 September 2019. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: Can you give us a general overview of Jaysh al-Nasr's history, origins and accomplishments?
A: Jaysh al-Nasr is a Free Army military faction. It has its weight and presence on all the fronts. It has participated in all the battles, and it is present on all the fronts, and it has many accomplishments. The most important of these is targeting Hama military airport and putting it out of service temporarily and inflicting great losses in the airport and targeting the Russian military bases and bases of the regime, in addition to destroying many of the regime's vehicles. Also note the infantry military operations in the battles occurring on the ground.
Q: Yes. Does Jaysh al-Nasr receive any support from an external party currently?
A: Jaysh al-Nasr has come under the leadership of the National Front for Liberation: the formation that was established some time ago.
Q: For what reasons have the factions lost some areas recently?
A: Because of lack of balance of forces, and the violent bombing and pursuing of the policy of scorched earth by the Russians, regime and Iranians.
Q: Some of the people say that the reason is lack of unity among the factions. What is your response to this talk?
A: All of the factions have been working in one trench in the shade of this fierce campaign. And this does not justify the lack of unity for the factions. All demand that all the factions come under one leadership.
Q: And until now why has unity not been realised?
A: I have no answer to this question because I do not know why.
Q: Fine. If the regime and Russians decide to restart the operations, what stops them from advancing? As you have mentioned there is no balance of forces.
A: All offer what they can, and reliance is on God, and from there on our heroic revolutionaries who spare no effort in resisting this campaign.
Q: If Turkey were to intervene directly militarily as happened in the areas of Euphrates Shield, would this be the best solution for Idlib?
A: If only we had anti-aircraft weaponry, this would be sufficient and we would not need the intervention of any state.
Q: Of course your words about the targeting of Ansar al-Tawheed by America aroused much controversy. Do you not believe that the presence of the likes of these factions on the ground harms the cause?
A: Dear brother, the West and East entirely do not need a pretext to kill. The designations are many. Why are the militias that are classified on the terrorism list and openly help the regime not targeted? The aim is to destroy Syria and to make it go back to the Stone Age. Much bombing and killing have occurred in places in which there is no presence for any organization affiliated with al-Qa'ida. And the areas were all Free Army. The enemy does not need pretexts to kill.
Q: So do you consider Hurras al-Din and Ansar al-Tawheed your allies in this fight?
A: They are groups fighting the regime and there is no coordination or joint operations room between us.
Q: Fine. There has also been talk about the possibility of dissolving Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. Do you believe this step will change things?
A: I have not heard of these suggestions except on social media. It has been well-known among us that the Russians are not to be trusted and are characterized by treachery. And if that [the dissolution of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] happens, they will not prolong the period of the agreement and they will devise a new pretext and continue their campaign just as happened with the demilitarized zone agreement after which they began the campaign and gnawing at the liberated areas step by step.
Q: Finally what are your expectations regarding the future of Idlib generally? And do you have a message for the West and the world?
A: Our hope in God is great. This stage is only a test of patience, and by God's permission Syria will return free from all the militias and the traitor regime that has killed its people merely because they demanded their freedom. As for my message to the West and Arabs: we say that your abandonment [of us] and your standing against the Syrian people and your financing of the Russian campaign against them, by God's permission you will find their results sooner rather than later. Indeed God grants delay but He does not neglect.