The Al Qaeda branch in Syria — the Nusra Front — has announced that, for the first time in the history of the terror group, tthey are leaving the terror network.
The announcement appeared to show a deep division within the terror organization — but terror experts were quick to caution that there may be more behind the split than it readily apparent.
A leader from Syria’s Nusra Front said in a recording aired Thursday that his group is changing its name, claiming it will have no more ties with Al Qaeda in an attempt to undermine a potential U.S. and Russian air campaign against its fighters.
The move took place with the endorsement of Al Qaeda’s central leadership, and its ideology remains the same, raising questions whether the change really goes beyond the new name, the Levant Conquest Front.
The United States, which considers Nusra a terrorist organization, immediately expressed its skepticism. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday the U.S. continues to assess that Nusra leaders intend to attack the West and said the U.S.-led military campaign is focused on a number of extremist groups, including Nusra and the Islamic State group.
But the step could complicate U.S. efforts in Syria — and it appears to be the motive behind the move.
Without the Al Qaeda name, the group will now seek to expand its alliances with other Syrian rebels, including relative moderates backed by Washington and its allies. Those factions may then oppose international airstrikes against Nusra fighters, arguing that they are now simply fellow rebels against President Bashar Assad, not an Al Qaeda affiliate.
Nusra’s leader, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, made his first appearance showing his face in the video message, aired on the Syrian opposition station Orient TV and Al-Jazeera.
Sitting between two members of the Front’s senior leadership, al-Golani said the delinking from Al Qaeda aimed to remove “pretexts” by the U.S. and Russia to strike other rebel groups while claiming they are targeting Nusra.
He underlined the step took place with the blessings of Al Qaeda’s leadership, and he thanked them for their understanding. He also said the move upholds dictates of Osama bin Laden and was necessary “to protect the Levantine Jihad.” Notably, one of those seated next to al-Golani in the video was Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, an Al Qaeda veteran who is close to its leader Ayman al-Zahwari and who recently came to Syria to join Nusra – a sign of how intertwined the group and the parent organization remain.
“We decided to cancel work under the name of Nusra Front and form a new group under a new front called the Levant Conquest Front. This new front will have no links to any outside groups,” he said.
with IHS Country Risk, a risk-assessment group, called the move “a smart public relations exercise.”
Breaking from the Al Qaeda brand removes an obstacle to creating a broader alliance with Syrian Islamist rebel factions, Carlino said in an email. It will allow the group “to embed itself more deeply in the Syrian insurgency and to indoctrinate local Syrians to its jihadist ideology, while retaining its long-term goal of establishing Islamic governance in Syria.”
Nusra, for example, has been seeking an alliance with the powerful hardline Islamist rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham. But Ahrar al-Sham has been reluctant, seeking to be closer to the Syrian opposition political scene dealing with the West. For example, it leaders approved U.S.-Russia-backed Geneva peace process, though it has not taken part. Nusra’s purported break with Al Qaeda could ease its reluctance.
Currently, the U.S. and Russia are trying to hammer out an agreement on a new military partnership in Syria. One leaked U.S. proposal would call for a sharing of intelligence and targeting for strikes against IS and Nusra on the condition Russia commits to convince its ally Assad to ground Syria’s bombers and start a political transition process.
Washington and its allies have been pressing Syrian rebel factions to distance themselves from areas where Nusra is active. But the efforts have had little success, given Nusra’s prowess on the battlefield. The attempt to cut a clear line between rebels and Nusra could be even more difficult after Nusra’s announcement.
The White House spokesman, Earnest, acknowledged the difficulties, saying it’s complex to distinguish between extremist groups and moderate opposition groups and those complexities aren’t diminished by Nusra’s public denial that it’s associated with Al Qaeda.
U.S. airstrikes have targeted the group in the past, including a wave of attacks that Washington said hit a cell called the Khorasan Group that was plotting terror attacks abroad.
The Nusra Front was created in January 2012 and emerged as one of the strongest groups fighting against the forces of Assad and his allies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
It has also been in a fierce rivalry with the Islamic State group. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad tried to force Nusra to absorb into his ranks. But al-Golani refused, pledging his allegiance directly to al-Zawahri, who went on to throw al-Baghdadi and his group – at the time Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch – out of the terror network.
ISIS conquered large parts of Iraq and Syria and declared its own “caliphate,” fighting any group – Including Nusra and other rebel factions – that refused to submit to its rule. Nusra, in contrast, took a more pragmatic path, forming alliances with other rebels, particularly those with Islamist ideologies.
Although not as brutal as ISIS, Nusra Front militants have been accused in atrocities, including gunning down more than dozen members of the Druze community last summer. They shot an alleged prostitute in the head on camera in front of a group of people in Idlib province and arrested a number of opposition activists earlier this year for taking part in protests. The group has also crushed a couple of U.S.-backed rebel groups, confiscated their weapons and arrested their leaders. It has also been blamed for kidnapping journalists.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Susan Dix says
It would be so nice if all the terror groups would kill each other off!!
Problem solved……….. No great loss!!!LOL
We dont need troops all you need to do is “bounty” each isis person $5000 per person. The russians would round them up, dispose of them and use funds to build their dream homes.
In the past we conquered, impregnated the women and left a contigencey to dominate. This proved beneficial.
Today we infiltrate, try to dominate and pay the price of future infracturing,,by negotiating programs the east do not want to realize. Good luck Hillary!
Victoria Barrett says
The Qu’ran says it’s perfectly all right to lie to the infidel.
St. Edgar says
All persons of the Islamic faith are Dangerous
Both Shiites and Sunni Muslims can eventually become Jihad.
If any Muslim person eventually carefully studies the Koran and other documents of the Islamic religion with intent to know his God that he might be obedient to him. He would become a murder or a rapist. Educated Muslims would destroy the culture of all non-Islamic nations and replace it with Islamic caliphates. They will target all classes of people who are not Islamic. That most are ignorant now is not a static situation with any of them. Both denominations divide the entire world into abodes of Islam, and abodes of war. They are at war with America, and must be removed from our culture.
Islam has revolution always in mind which would replace the government and culture of every nation of the world with Islamic caliphates. The Islamic community is comprised of Shiite, and Sunnite denominations which have arisen from a collection of the life experiences and writings of the prophet Mohamed dating from the seventh century A.D., Islamic Scholars have, over time, organized that material and have published it into a handbook called the Koran. Early Islamic scholars divided the world into abodes of Islam, and abodes of War. It further states that it is the duty of abodes of Islam to bring as much of the abodes of war as possible under it’s control, by conversion if possible, otherwise by force. Shiite, and Sunnite branches of Islam are committed to that doctrine. Between A.D. 621, and A.D. 631, Mohamed laid the foundation for the ideal Islamic State. The requirements of the religion came to include the five pillars of Islam. Jihad is considered to be the sixth pillar of Islam, which though it has many good rules governing Moslem life, it includes “fighting to defend Islam”. “Defending Islam” came to mean vigorously converting the “abodes of War” to Islam.
After Mohamed died in 632, Moslem warriors conquered most of Northern and Eastern Africa, the Islands of the Mediterranean, Turkey and parts of Asia including the frontiers of China and India. Additionally, they Conquered Spain and parts of France. Their final victory of the middle ages was the laying waste of the Holy Land in A.D.1292. Eventually, all the territory of Asia was lost to them by the invading Mongol empire in the thirteenth century. Also five Crusades were organized by the Holy Roman Empire which took back some territory.
It should be noted that military defeat does not stop an Islamic take over. In the case of France and Asia, the defeated Moslems simply took up residence, found jobs, started businesses’ engaged in trade, and grew in the population until they could take over the territory by persuasion or force.
The Bible’s Old Testament stories tell how such wars must be fought. The Jewish tribes were commanded by God to fight the enemy militarily, and when victory was won, they were to kill every man woman and child of the enemy, even all the animals. Now the PC crowd says the freedom of religion clauses in our Constitution say we must not do that. Well they’re right!! Amendment 1 says congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The first amendment should be revised to replace the word “free” by the phrase “peaceful and free”. The Islamic religion is not peaceful. It has always been at war with the rest of the world. America is doomed unless we revise that amendment.
There you have it,:1325 years of Relevant Islamic history abridged to a single page. You can do that once you strip history of all the interesting personalities, politics, Insignificant dates, and PC culture.
SJ Jolly says
Islam is full of factions. This is simply one more.
Justin W says
Maybe we should get out of the Syrian conflict and let the terrorist groups fight among themselves. As a kid I learned the best thing to do was to stay out of other people’s fights.
Ron Coon says
No one gives a shi’ite! Muslims have been killing each other for 1400 years. Let them finish the job. Just do it over there and keep you and your trash out of our back yard.
This is the Unholy mess that began in Iraq in 03 & has continued to metastasize under the current regime in Washington. If we don’t clean our own house 1st… all will be lost. It was never our business to topple selected dictators & it still isnt. Freedom & self rule must be wrested by the people’s own blood & guns. It can’t be given by others to those not ready to take it. Clean the blood suckling elite political class out of Washington DC & restore Constitutional government. This is the legacy we can chose to leave our children.
Kuno E Gehring says
I do not trust any of them as far as i can see them, let alone them being out of sight. They have betrayed allies/friends over the ages! Why should they change now??