The most effective fighting force in Syria is al-Nusra Front. Led by members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, other foreign Jihadists, defectors from the Syrian Army and Eastern Syrian tribes, they have defeated Assad’s forces, Hizb’Allah and Iranian Basij in many battles. The leaders of AQI began to get jealous over the success of their creation and did not like the ideological direction of al-Nusra. Although the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda shared the same militant ideology as its parents, al-Nusra was more pragmatic and was for the time being tolerant of Christians and allowed freedom for women nor did it ban alcohol.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq now calls itself the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (al-Sham). They began to take over from al-Nusra in recent weeks, thus causing a split in the organization. The original foreign Jihadi element is now taking orders from AQI, while the Syrian element is staying loyal to al-Nusra. This is causing a huge splinter in what was the most effective arm of the rebels.
BEIRUT – The most feared and effective rebel group battling President Bashar Assad, the Islamist Nusra Front, is being eclipsed by a more radical jihadi force whose aims go far beyond overthrowing the Syrian leader.
Al-Qaida’s Iraq-based wing, which nurtured Nusra in the early stages of the rebellion against Assad, has moved in and sidelined the organization, Nusra sources and other rebels say.
“Nusra is now two Nusras. One that is pursuing al-Qaida’s agenda of a greater Islamic nation, and another that is Syrian with a national agenda to help us fight Assad,” said a senior rebel commander in Syria who has close ties to the Nusra Front.
“It is disintegrating from within.”
Others said that Nusra’s Syrian contingent has already effectively collapsed, with its leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani keeping a low profile and his fighters drifting off to join other rebel groups.
Nusra fighters have claimed responsibility for the deadliest bombings of the two-year-old Syrian conflict and their brigades have led some of the most successful rebel offensives against Assad’s forces.
One Nusra fighter said he believed Baghdadi held a personal grudge against Golani because of his standing in Syria.
Golani, a radical Sunni Muslim, won popularity in Syria even among some Christians, according to the Nusra fighter. “Baghdadi did not like this,” the fighter said.
“Baghdadi and the (al-Qaida) leadership consider the Muslim Brotherhood, the Free Syrian Army and other factions including Christians as infidels and when they saw Golani was on good terms with them they were not happy.”
“That is why he announced the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant without any consultation with Golani, and he is in charge to operate in his old failed way.”
This is case of a teacher jealous at the success of his pupil. Al-Nusra saw the errors al-Qaeda in Iraq committed and refused to go down that path. Its main goal is the establishment of a greater Syrian (Bilal al-Sham) emirate, while al-Qaeda has a more transnational agenda. This new development makes the Syrian War even more complicated. You now have 2 al-Qaeda factions operating in Syria. Hopefully the war continues to drag on and all the savages kill each other.