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Negotiating Nusra’s Split From Al-Qaeda

Syrian militant group considers cutting ties with Al-Qaeda to secure support from regional powers
Negotiating Nusra’s Split From Al-Qaeda

The last few days witnessed meetings in the Syrian liberated areas between the political and military figures of the Free Syrian Army and the Nusra Front in an attempt to urge the Front’s leaders to accept disengagement from Al-Qaeda. "Though it is not easy and it takes some time to resolve the Front's final position", said an official in the Syrian military opposition, "there are positive signs that could lead to the acceptance of this proposal by the leaders of the Front”.

Member of the Supreme Council of the Military Command in the Free Army, Rami Dalati, explained in his interview with Asharq al-Awsat that "there are differing views in the ranks of the Front leaders; some of them support the proposal, some are conservative and some are hesitant. Those supporting the idea consider that this would ease the Front's burden resulting from the behavior of Al-Qaeda, while those who reject the proposal believe that the international community did not cooperate positively with the Syrian issue and the different orientations of the opposition. This will not change, regardless of what modifications are made to the names of organizations or factions, especially considering this negative treatment has led to the emergence of extremist factions".

Dalati said, "the political and military opposition is making efforts to convince Nusra in order to eliminate the excuses of the international community, which treats a portion of the Front as an equivalent to ISIS, and in order to emphasis our keenness to keep extremism away from the opposition".

For his part, the member of the Political Commission of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Ramadan, said a real and practical separation between the Nusra Front and Al-Qaeda "is an important and welcomed step, as it will enhance the field forces fighting the regime, and it will contribute to the isolation of terrorist forces".

"There are pressures from militant factions and popular forces on the Front to disengage from Al-Qaeda, which follows an agenda different from the goals of the Syrian revolution. These forces want Nusra to turn into a national Syrian faction committed to the same agendas followed by the rest opposition factions in Syria", Ramadan said.

Ramadan stressed that "the Coalition refuses the help of any foreign fighters, or accept the existence of any of them on the Syrian territory, whether we are talking about ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, or any other foreign terrorist groups. There are forces within the Coalition in charge of the fighting brigades, and these forces always seek to urge them to work under a national umbrella and stay away from all the factions that carry non-Syrian agendas".

Sources had told Reuters yesterday that "Nusra's leaders in Syria are considering their split from Al-Qaeda to create a new entity in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad".

The sources said that officials of the intelligence services of regional countries have met Abu Mohamad al-Golani, the leader of the Nusra Front, several times in the past few months to encourage him to abandon Al-Qaeda, and to discuss the support these intelligence agencies can provide. The officials promised to support Nusra as soon as it splits from Al-Qaeda.

Muzamjer ash-Sham, a figure closely related to Islamist groups, including the Nusra Front in Syria, said "the new entity will see light soon and it will include the Nusra Front, the Jihadists Army, al-Ansar and other small battalions. The name (Nusra) will be changed, and it will split from Al-Qaeda, but not all the princes of the Front agree and that is why the announcement has been delayed".

It is likely that the attempt to change the Front and provide it with support will lead to more complexity in the war in Syria, where the United States prepares to arm and train the non-jihadist opposition fighters to fight ISIS.

Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer

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