Nusra official: breaking ties with al-Qaeda was to prevent US-Russian cooperation against Syrian revolution

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Militants of the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda wing in Syria. File photo

ARA News 

ALEPPO – The leader of Syria’s Nusra Front Abu Muhammed al-Joulani this week announced that they would break ties with al-Qaeda. “We declare the complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat Al Nusra [Syria’s branch of al-Qaeda], and the formation of a new group operating under the name “Jabhat Fath Al Sham,” noting that this new organization has no affiliation to any external entity,” Joulani said, while for the first time appearing with his face uncovered last Thursday.

A Dutch member of the recently renamed group explained the reasons for the name change.

In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Abu Saeed al-Holandi said that the proposal to split from al-Qaeda was discussed earlier by the group.

“There were both advantages and disadvantages, and we were not in a hurry to make a decision,” he said.

“But we saw it as an option if the advantages for Muslims would be bigger than the disadvantages,” the official of the jihadi group told ARA News.

When the Russians and Americans started to discuss cooperation against the Nusra group this summer, Nusra decided to speed up their decision.

“When we heard about future American-Russian cooperation against the ‘Syrian revolution’, we made this decision and announced it sooner,” al-Hollandi said. 

However, he denied that the decision was made to prevent future US attacks. “The decision wasn’t made to prevent the US attacks. We were convinced that the attacks would continue,” he said.

“The decision was taken to show the reality and to get more ‘support’ from the population and different armed groups. This will help us to survive those attacks with minimal damage, and even turn it into our advantage,” the jihadi official told ARA News. 

The group’s leader al-Joulani said that they want to unite the Syrian people and liberate their land, “and prevent the US and Russia from continuing their relentless bombardment and displacement of the Muslim masses of Al Sham [Syria] under the pretense of targeting Jabhat al Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate.”

The Syrian opposition fears bombing Nusra positions would lead to strengthening the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad that is encircling Aleppo.

The US State Department spokesperson John Kirby has confirmed Nusra’s previous calculations, when he said “we certainly see no reason to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different, and they are still considered a foreign terrorist organization.”

“(…) because they are a foreign terrorist organization, they have been outside the cessation of hostilities. In the last hour or so, since this announcement’s been made, we certainly see no indication that would give us a reason to change the designation of this group,” he stated. 

Because the Nusra front is intermingled with Syrian opposition groups, the US says it needed to reach out to Russia.

“But it has complicated efforts to better and more effectively target al-Nusrah. That is one of the reasons why, quite frankly, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov have spoken at length about trying to get some proposals in place to move forward to better be able to enforce the cessation of hostilities, which this group is still outside of,” he stated.

On 15 July, the US Foreign Secretary John Kerry met the Russian FM Sergey Lavrov to discuss stepping up cooperation to fight Nusra.

“(…) ISIS and the al-Nusra Front have been identified as terrorist groups by the UN Security Council, and as such they must be eliminated,” Lavrov said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

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