Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front avoided mentioning its affiliation when it was formed in the early year of 2012. Its leader and founder Abu Mohamed al-Golani was forced to give oath of allegiance to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in April 2013, as a response to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s decision to merge “al-Qaeda in Iraq” and “Nusra Front” under one organization named as “Islamic State in Iraq and Levant.” Since al-Golani’s announcement of pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda, it officially became the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda in Syria and Lebanon.
Following that announcement many voices raise from the Syrian people and moderate revolutionaries asking al-Golani to split from al-Qaeda and yet this voices are still asking until today but al-Golani refused. Many believe that Nusra Front’s announcement to pledge allegiance to al-Qaeda is a folly decision because Assad regime, Iran and Russia are all trying to convince the world that there is no popular revolution in Syria but a terrorist movements linked to al-Qaeda that are trying to topple the Syrian regime and to install an Islamic State, also this announcement gave a bad image to the Syrian uprising.
Despite Nusra Front’s affiliation with al-Qaeda there is no hierarchical relationship with it, Nusra Front is standing on its own feet since they have their own Shari and military councils including their own source of funding. Splitting from al-Qaeda network can be done easily from an administrative side but it will not make any significant impact, this kind of splitting will not please many Syrian people and revolutionaries. Splitting from al-Qaeda would not only be administratively but also politically and most importantly ideologically. Nusra Front must leave its external Jihadist project and join other Syrian opposition militant groups to fight for one cause and project.
Salafist religious scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, whose teachings have inspired al-Qaeda leadership, told Al Jazeera that he did not think al-Nusra would disavow its links with the group. “If there were a decision on the part of al-Nusra to sever its relations with al-Qaeda, it would have been leaked by now, but nothing has come out to indicate that at this point,” Maqdisi said. He added that if al-Nusra were to renounce its relations with al-Qaeda, it would not absolve them from the “terrorism” label many in the West and the region had given them.
Many reports said that officials from the intelligence agencies of the Gulf States including Qatar, met with Abu Mohamed al-Golani several times in March 2015 to encourage him to split from al-Qaeda and to join the Syrian opposition and offered him to have Gulf backing which includes finance and weapons, but al-Golani refused the offer.
Nusra Front is not willing to end its association with al-Qaeda for many reasons, the main reason is that they are going to lose many jihadist sympathizers locally and international including losing their support [financially and media propaganda] they get from outside Syria. Also most of its fighters who are carrying the ideology of Salafist-Jihadism that encourages them to fight in order to build an Islamic State and Implement Sharia law will eventually join the Islamic State who carries the same ideology but much more extremer and brutal.
Jihadist organizations like Nusra Front and Jund al-Aqsa have assisted the Syrian revolution militarily only by fighting against the Syrian regime forces and its sectarian militant groups, but it has damaged the revolution severely because of its extremist ideology, exclusionary acts and Takfirist views. They were always trying to hijack the people’s revolution against oppression and turn it into fighting to establish Islamic State resulted in bringing in US led coalition and other forces to bomb in Syria in the name of war on terror.