Al-Nusra Front have been the most effective fighters of the Syrian rebels. They are the only rebels able to go toe to toe with Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Unlike other Al Qaeda factions, Nusra had support of the populace and actually did not target Christians in areas they controlled. Jealousy soon spread to the organization that spawned them, Al Qaeda in Iraq.
In April AQI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the merger of Nusra and his organization under the name the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. He did this without consulting Nusra leader Abu Mohammad Golani nor al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri, who later invalidated this merger. Baghdadi has not recognized this ruling and has the foreign fighters under his control. The Syrian fighters of Nusra, most of whom were defected Syrian soldiers have stayed loyal to Goloni. This sets the stage for a Nusra vs. AQI showdown.
(Reuters) – A rift between Syrian jihadis and their fellow fighters from al Qaeda’s Iraqi wing may lead to internecine war among some of the most effective rebel groups in combating President Bashar al-Assad.
Trouble has been brewing since April over what Syria’s Nusra Front regards as a power grab by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. Now, Baghdadi’s insistence that he will keep fighting as head of a united jihadi brigade in Syria, defying orders from al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahri, has brought the two groups close to turning on each other.
“Tension is increasing, it is about to reach boiling point. Both sides are saying they are right. A clash between them could occur soon and if it happens, it will be ugly,” said a senior rebel commander in Damascus who is following the dispute.
In April Baghdadi announced his Islamic State of Iraq was merging with the Nusra Front, which has staged some of the deadliest attacks on Assad’s forces.
This apparently unilateral move opened up bitter and public rifts with the Nusra Front leadership – which resisted what it saw as his bid for overall power – and with Zawahri, the global al Qaeda leader who instructed him to put the merger on hold in an apparent attempt to settle the row.
“Baghdadi and those who believe in his extreme thinking, they are mostly foreigners and they are on their own,” the source said. “Nusra is back to work,” he added, saying Golani had ordered his commanders to prepare to resume operations.
Despite losing ground to Baghdadi’s men in the north, particularly in Aleppo and Raqqa provinces, rebels say the Nusra Front remains active and prominent in operations in the southern province of Deraa, near the border with Jordan.
“Golani is the son of Syria and he was so far doing a great job in paving the way for the creation of the (Islamic) state as a choice of people not by force, so Baghdadi in a way is an obstacle,” the source said.
Al Nusra Front is a Syrian movement that uses the AQ moniker for prestige purposes. But their agenda is only about Syria and Lebanon. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is a foreign movement made up of people whose agenda is pure terror. It is likely that Nusra will break all ties to AQ and just adopt a more Syrian Nationalist agenda, albeit Islamist.
The Syrian War shows how these Islamists do not even trust each other. How can we in the West trust these very same people?