Did Jabhat al-Nusra Really Sever Ties with Al-Qaeda?

(Institute for National Security Studies) Yoram Schweitzer - In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of the jihadist organization "the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), and in a unilateral decision, attempted - unsuccessfully - to subordinate Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, to his new organization. On July 28, 2016, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's deputy, Ahmed Abu al-Kheir, gave his blessing to al-Nusra's name change, to Jabhat Fateh a-Sham (Front for the Conquest of Syria), and the severance of all affiliations with any external groups, including the formal alliance with al-Qaeda. The move addressed both internal and external constraints, including reports about the imminent joint intentions of the U.S. and Russia to eliminate the organization, and certainly prevent it from taking part in any future arrangement in Syria. Al-Nusra's move was almost certainly coordinated with al-Qaeda in advance. At this critical phase of the campaign in the Levant, solidifying the ranks among the Muslim forces fighting in Syria to remove Assad is far more important than a suspension of the formal alliance between the two groups. The security and intelligence agencies in Israel understand that al-Nusra's rebranding and the announcement of its severance from al-Qaeda are meaningless. The writer heads the research program on Terror and Low-Intensity Conflict at INSS, following a distinguished career in the Israeli intelligence community.

2016-08-08 00:00:00

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