The leadership of Syria’s Nusra Front Sunni jihadist group, which seeks as its primary goal the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, may push away from Al Qaeda in hopes to receive aid and assistance from the Gulf States, according to sources who told Reuters.
The sources reportedly said that Qatar, a Sunni Gulf State which is already supporting the group, is encouraging the jihadist entity to back away from Al Qaeda in exchange for more aid money.
“The exercise could transform Nusra from a weakened militia group into a force capable of taking on Islamic State at a time when it is under pressure from bombing raids and advances by Kurdish and Iraqi military forces,” the Reuters report states.
However, in the meantime, reports revealed that the Qatari-backed terror group has continued to attack non-jihadist groups in the region in hopes to seize power and territory in northern Syria.
“A new entity will see the light soon, which will include Nusra and Jaysh al Muhajereen wel Ansar and other small brigades,” said a jihadist militant who Reuters reports is close to the Nusra Front. He added, “The name of Nusra will be abandoned. It will disengage from al Qaeda. But not all the Nusra emirs agree and that is why the announcement has been delayed.”
Qatar’s support for the Nusra Front complicates its alliance with the United States, due to the U.S.’s listing of Nusra as a terrorist group. Furthermore, Nusra has been repeatedly sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
The report explains that Qatar may simply be seeking a rebranding of Nusra, so that western allies remove pressure from Doha for supporting the jihadist entity.
One source elaborated to Reuters, “Nusra had to pledge loyalty to (Al Qaeda) Sheikh Zawahiri to avoid being forced to be loyal to Baghdadi but that was not a good idea, it is time that this is abandoned. It did not help Nusra and now it is on the terrorist list.”
Reuters explains that Nusra lost much of its prominence when many of its members left the group to join Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State (IS).
However, it remains unclear if Nusra has any interest in fighting its Sunni rival in the Islamic State, as its primary goal has always been the overthrow of the Alawite Assad regime.