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Jabhat al Nusra in Splits From al Qaida and Changes Name

For at least a week, there have been reports that the leader of Jabhat al Nusra in Syria, Abū Muhammad al-Jūlānī, (sometimes spelled al-Jolani and al-Joulani and al-Golani), is about to announce the group's split from al Qaida.

Yesterday, it happened. Announcements were made by both groups, emphasizing this is not an ideological split. The U.S says it's just a rebranding, PR move. Al Qaida and al Nusra say it's much more than that. [More...]

First there was an audio announcement by the chief deputy to al-Qaida leader Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, named Sheikh Ahmad Hasan Abu al-Khayr, which paved the way for the split. The good of the "ummah" (people) is more important than any one group or individual. You can read a transcript of the speech in English here.

A few hours later, al-Julani appeared, with two solemn looking guys on each side. Here is a video of his speech, published by Orient News, with English subtitles.

As predicted, Jolani said Jabhat al Nusra was disbanding in Syria and disassociating itself from al Qaida. It would now be known as Jabhat Fath al Sham.

The reasoning seems to be: Russia and the U.S. have targeted al Nusra in Syria as a terror group that is a part of al Qaida. The bombings have been killing innocent civilians. If there is no more al Nusra, there's no excuse for continued bombing in Syria -- unless the U.S. and Russia's claims are phony, and their real mission is a war against Muslims and aid to Assad and the Syrian regime. As explained by Dutch al Nusra associate al-Maqalaat in an interview the other day published by Pieter van Ostaeyen:

Breaking their ties with Al-Qaedah will form a dilemma for the US. If the US insists on bombing Jabhat Nusra in cooperation and coordination with Russia despite them breaking ties with Al-Qaedah, then this will without a doubt proof that the US is aiding the Syrian regime, it will proof that this is not a war against terrorist organizations, but a war against Muslims and Islam. The factions who still refuse to unite with Jabhat Nusra will also be exposed, it will proof that they used the ties of Jabhat Nusra as an excuse to refrain from unity. It will also divide between the truthful factions who only objected to the name and the organizational ties with Al-Qaedah, and those factions who keep their agenda hidden and actually oppose the Sharia project of Jabhat Nusra rather then their ties.

al-Maqalaat also provided the English translation of the al Qaida message, again published by Pieter van Ostaeyen:

There is no meeting nor compromise, Jihaad will continue until the Day of Resurrection, until the religion is completely for Allah. A religion which support the truth and annuls the falsehood, in which the Muslims enjoy live with honor and dignity in the shadow of the Law of the Most Merciful.”

[…]

“After studying the condition on the field in Shaam from both angles, militarily and politically, and what it entails of challenges and difficulties; all of this accompanied by suffering and hardship in which the people of Shaam live –from killings, bombings and displacements. It rooted in us, with this vision, to work and use any possible means to safeguard the Jihaad in Shaam, righteously and strong, and to remove from it any weak excuses which the enemy places to split the Mujahideen from their supporting Sunni environment.

Our Mujahid brothers in the land of Shaam have become a force which can not be underestimated, excellently managing the liberated territories with legitimate courts that rule with the Law of Allah, and service institutions that guard and take care of the matters of people. Accompanied by a new generation which is brought up on the jurisprudence of honor, and the Jihaad as a means to protect the religion and its sanctuaries. The stage which the Ummah has reached in terms of the Jihaad spreading and entering the Muslim community and shifting from the understanding of an elitist Jihaad of to the Jihaad of a nation, should not be held back by group thinking or an organization. Rather the organizations and groups should be a facilitation of gathering and mobilization; not division and separation. These efforts must be headed towards a future stage that establishes an entity for the Sunnis which represents their demands and requests their rights.

Regarding what I have set forth and as a part of my responsibility: We call upon the leadership of Jabhat Nusra to work for that which works in the interest of Islam and the Muslims and safeguards the Jihaad of the people of Shaam and we press them on taking the appropriate steps towards this matter. And this is a step from us, and likewise a call for all the Mujahid factions in the land of Shaam, to unite over that which pleases Allah and to comply over the issues between you and vow loyalty for the people of faith and declare your dissociation from the people of oppression and disbelief. Be one row that protects our people and defends our land and please our eyes with your unite over a righteous Islamic government which returns the rights (to its people) and establishes justice between the Muslims. And we with the permission of Allah will be the first one who aids and supports it, and this is confirmed by the words of our leader and our Shaykh Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, may Allah protect him.”

More from the al-Maqalat interview published by van Osteyvan, here.

The situation has changed, the Western powers have become a greater threat for the Syrian revolution than the Khawarij. After exposing the Khawarij and annulling their deviant legitimacy, until it is no longer a considerable threat, it became important to focus on the other growing threats. The recent treacherous agreement between the US and Russia signifies this growing threat.

... The breaking of ties between Jabhat Nusra and Al-Qaedah will expose a lot of facts. The timing of this decision is no coincidence, it came right after the US agreement with Russia to cooperate and coordinate air strikes against Jabhat Nusra. Jabhat Nusra could not stand by and watch as the enemies unite against them. A major strategic move to counter and hinder this alliance, and a reorganization of their ranks within Syria was not really a matter of choice, it was an absolute military necessity.

...The breaking of ties with Al-Qaedah will be a strong message to the factions who do not want to unite and to the Western powers who try to deceive the Ummah. The overall message of the break with Al-Qaedah will be that the US is not enemies with Al-Qaedah or any other so-called terrorist organization, but their animosity is against the Muslim Ummah as a whole, especially the Muslims who are seeking to establish the rule of Islam. Many Muslims have reached this awareness of course, but this awareness will grow further and reach every general and common Muslim.

If the US insists on bombing Jabhat Nusra despite their broken ties with Al-Qaedah then the popular support for Jabhat Nusra will grow in a rapid speed. It were the people of Shaam who requested from Jabhat Nusra to break their ties with Al-Qaedah, Jabhat Nusra showed their loyalty to the Muslim Ummah, they proofed that they place the interest of the Ummah before the interest of an organization. If they are sidelined by the other factions despite this show of good will, and if they are bombed despite their decision to break ties with Al-Qaedah, then the popular support for Jabhat Nusra in Shaam and outside could be unstoppable.

With such popular support the ideology, strategy and methodology of Al-Qaedah will reach far and wide within the Muslim communities and enter further into the heart of Muslim societies. This goal would be far more important then the organizational ties with Jabhat Nusra.

...As an intelligence site stated: “The prospect of a formal breaking of ties with al-Qaeda and formation of a new coalition body with al-Qaeda’s blessing arguably represents the worst outcome from the U.S. perspective, making targeting of terrorist figures much more difficult as they will be ever more deeply embedded in the wider insurgency. Further, in such a scenario, if the proposed U.S.-Russia coordination actually goes forward, it seems likely that a larger coalition between Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups would then quickly and easily dismantle many of the U.S.-backed groups among the Syrian rebels in the north, reducing any influence and leverage in so far as U.S. policy hopes for an eventual political transition in Syria. Or perhaps U.S.-backed groups would join this coalition.

Jabhat al-Nusra has effectively exploited the breakdown of the ‘cessation of hostilities’: it may well outsmart the U.S. further with the supposed breaking of ties with al-Qaeda, which, far from reflecting a change in the ideological end goals, could actually embody an al-Qaeda ideal of integrating more deeply into the local environment.” (Source: ‘Jabhat al-Nusra: Breaking ties with al-Qaeda?’ –jihadintel.meforum.org)

So the bottom line is this is not an ideological split, as both groups still support Jihad, but an attempt to expose that the U.S. and Russia are engaging in a war against Muslims and assisting Assad rather than trying to take out a terrorist group in Syria as they claim.

There's an interesting description of the distinguishing features of al Qaida in the analysis, which I remember reading before, as it's also different than ISIS: al Qaida doesn't control territory or govern people.

Al-Qaedah is a school and the noble Mujahideen of Shaam are some of its many graduates. The central command of Al-Qaedah is a center which spreads awareness, it spreads the message and the strategy of Al-Qaedah, it inspires and mobilizes the Ummah against the Western powers, whether they do so under the command of Al-Qaedah or independently. However it does not control area’s nor people.

Unlike Jabhat Nusra, they are a guerilla movement who wage a defensive war against a local enemy, it is a movement who now controls vast area’s in Syria, it has all kinds of responsibilities towards the people they control. They must wage Jihaad and control land together with other factions with whom they eventually must merge and unite, while avoiding a confrontation with any additional enemies like the Western powers. So Jabhat Nusra needs to operate in a different organizational setting.

Al-Qaedah has declared an open war against the West, and calls for attacks against it, while it ordered Jabhat Nusra to focus on the Syrian regime and not to carry out any attacks against the West. The West however chose deliberately to ignore these organizational division of assignments, and accused Jabhat Nusra of planning attacks in the West; as an excuse to carry out coalition air strikes against Jabhat Nusra to aid the regime and prevent the establishment of an Islamic government in Syria.

.... If Jabhat Nusra broke their organizational ties with Al-Qaedah the West will be left with no excuse. Their animosity against Jabhat Nusra will become a clear violation for everyone to see. This will turn the Muslim population against the West, it could even mobilize the Muslims against the West in long run –and this is exactly the goal of Al-Qaedah from the get-go.

This seems like a chess game with al Qaida trying to plan five moves ahead. Interestingly, ISIS gets very little mention. Is it because it views ISIS and its Caliphate as already defeated? as already being defeated in Syria or because ISIS never really had as prominent a role in Syria as the world has been led to believe? Almost all of ISIS top leaders have been Iraqi, rather than Syrian.

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