The Battle for control of Wadi Deif, a military base just east of Maarat al-Numan, began in mid-October and continues more than two months later. For some rebels, the length of the battle and the accompanying destruction of Maarat al-Numan, represents a failure. A fact finding commission published a report on the battle in early December which placed responsibility for the failures on a number of people, including a sheikh, a businessman, and a rebel leader.
Sheikh Ahmad Alwan
in Dubai in Winter 2011
The sheikh is Ahmad Alwan, a religious leader who spent the most of 2012 in the United Arab Emirates. He appeared to Maarat al-Numan in the fall and began agitating for an attack on Wadi Deif. According to the report, while some battalion leaders wanted to conduct a study on the relative capabilities of the rebel and regime forces in the area, Sheikh Alwan insisted that the rebels “have the ability to burn Wadi Deif in five hours.” Alwan was also accused of forming the Ibad al-Rahman Brigade during the course of the battle from battalions that were already associated with other brigades, creating new divisions within rebel ranks.
Marwan Nahas, described as a businessman, is criticized in the report for not supporting the Military Council, instead focusing on creating a political party as the city was bombed. The report claims that he only appeared on the front lines for photo opportunities. Marwan Nahas and Ahmed Alwan were also accused by some residents of Maarat al-Numan of kidnapping and torture.
Abdul Baset Maamar, a Muslim Brotherhood intermediary, was also accused of precipitating the ill-advised operation. He arrived in Maarat al-Numan in September with money from the Brotherhood, which the report alleges he used to coerce the rebels into attacking Wadi Deif, proclaiming that he would only give funds to groups that participated in the operation.
Idlib Military Council leader Afif Suleiman was also criticized for not including the Shuhada Suriya and Ahfad al-Rasul Brigades in the battle plans in an alleged effort to control the distribution of captured material. This echoes accusations made earlier by Shuhada Suriya’s leader Jamal Maaruf.
The struggles at Wadi Deif boil down to continuing division among rebel ranks. Although the rebels are able to launch and maintain large joint operations, their campaigns lack coherence due to competition for loot, uneven funding and, according to this report, firebrand clerics who lack an understanding of battle field realities.
1) Maarat al-Numan
2) Wadi Deif Military Base