HTS fatwa council head attacks US, considers it an enemy
The head of the Fatwa Council in Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which holds military control in Idlib, Abd al-Rahim Atoun, launched an attack on the United States, considering it “an enemy of the Islamic nation and the Sunnis” in a speech contrary to the faction’s stance in recent years.
In a Telegram post on December 20, Atoun considered hostility towards the Iranian project, which is in conjunction with the Houthis’ agenda, does not permit, in any way, the alignment with the United States alliance or trenching underneath it.
He stated that the US defends the Zionist entity, which is the “mortal enemy of the Islamic nation,” not just an enemy of Palestine or Gaza alone. He emphasized that the people and jihadists in Gaza are at the forefront of the struggle for Islam in the ongoing battle in Palestine.
Atoun contended that both the Iranian and their allied Houthi project and the American and Israeli project are enemies of the Sunnis, seeking expansion in the region at the expense of the population and clashing for that reason amid the “treachery, cowardice, and conspiracy of our country’s rulers aligning with one project or the other.”
Atoun considered that objecting to the Iranian project does not permit lining up under the sponsoring umbrella of the entity bombing in Gaza for more than 70 days.
He concluded his post with a supplication against “the hypocrites of Iran and its militias, the US, Israel, and those who support any of them.”
Hostility after a desire for rapprochement
Despite Atoun sharing publications critical of the United States, its policies, and the West in general, he has not personally written or adopted any stance for years, according to Enab Baladi’s monitoring of his official social media accounts.
Atoun’s hostile rhetoric towards the US is not typical, at least since 2019, when HTS began a path of rapprochement and openness with Western countries, expressing a desire to establish relations with them.
The prominent religious figure in HTS had previously called for normalizing relations with Western countries during an interview with the French-speaking Swiss newspaper Le Temps on September 3, 2020.
He spoke about the necessity of normalizing relations between the people in the areas under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib governorate and parts of western Aleppo and foreign countries.
He added, “We are currently working on polishing our image, and the goal is not to beautify the reality but to present it as it is,” affirming to the newspaper that “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham wants to get off the terrorism blacklist and only then will the region recover.”
Atoun justified the normalization of relations between Tahrir al-Sham and the West by stating that the region needs international assistance for reconstruction purposes.
He said that Tahrir al-Sham was the last faction to fight the Syrian regime and its allies, but it cannot eliminate it without assistance, alluding to the request for assistance from Western countries to end the regime’s presence in Syria.
In February 2020, HTS’ leader, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, mentioned abandoning his cross-border jihadist ambitions and focusing solely on governing the area under his control during an interview with the International Crisis Group.
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