FSA: Nusra ‘needs to act and split off from al-Qaida’

April 14, 2015

Several opposition brigades fighting under the FSA-affiliated Southern Front issued announcements Monday disavowing military cooperation with Jabhat a-Nusra and distancing themselves from the al-Qaida affiliate's hardline takfiri ideology, reported pro-opposition Halab Today TV on Tuesday.

The announcements, issued by al-Jaish al-Awwal, Firqat Falujat Houran, Alwiyat Seif a-Sham, al-Feilaq al-Awwal, and Harakat Fajr al-Islam, stressed that the Southern Front was the single military entity representing the Syrian revolution in the south.

While the announcements are “not intended as a declaration of war,” FSA advisor Usama Abu Zeid said in an interview with pro-opposition Al-Hadath News that aired late Monday night, they are meant to push Nusra to break off ties with al-Qaida.

“Jabhat a-Nusra needs to understand that its connection to al-Qaida hurts the Syrian interest.”

Below are excerpts of Abu Zeid’s interview with Al-Hadath News. Translation by Syria Direct’s Dan Wilkofsky.

First of all, these announcements came from a place of responsibility towards the nation, and towards the Syrian cause. Nusra needs to act and split off from al-Qaida, because the continued connection between Nusra and al-Qaida makes things easier for the governments and bodies that want to keep Assad afloat.

Secondly, the harsh language in these announcements is not intended as a declaration of war. Rather, it is intended as a strong push for Nusra to determine its options and take steps [to benefit] the Syrian revolution, and break its ties with al-Qaida.

Third, the Syrian revolution can absorb differences in ideas and opinions, as long as these ideas and opinions fall within the framework of the national Syrian revolution. Subsequently, there is a refusal of transnational agendas, whether they are agendas adopted by organizations [e.g. Jabhat a-Nusra] or outside governments.

Jabhat a-Nusra needs to understand that this is not a declaration of war. The FSA has exercised self-restraint in several situations, and has made the national interest and the gains of the Syrian revolution the top priority. The FSA has not taken upon itself the decision to face off [with Nusra]. Jabhat a-Nusra needs to understand that its connection to al-Qaida hurts the Syrian interest.

The fourth point that I'd like to focus on is the negative role governmental bodies and some media institutions are playing, which has created a state of frustration in the ranks of the FSA. These groups attribute all the victories occurring in Syria to Jabhat a-Nusra, inasmuch as the media focuses on Jabhat a-Nusra [while covering] all these victories.

There is also, lately, a focus on Daraa. Your honorable guest, who you were hosting minutes ago, attributed all the victories in Nasib, Busra a-Sham, and Kafr Shams to Islamist groups, and when cases of theft and looting occurred at the Nasib border crossing [with Jordan,] the Syrian opposition became the ones responsible for that. That is to say, when there's a victory that means Nusra, and when there's something negative, everyone runs in the direction of the Syrian opposition. This also creates a state of frustration. We want to direct a message to the media, [to encourage them] to convey the real picture of what's happening on the ground. The FSA has a large role in the victories in Daraa and Quneitra, and ignoring these accomplishments leads to frustration.

The announcements included a clear decision: as long as Nusra is walking in this direction [side by side with al-Qaida] we cannot cooperate with them. The ball is in Nusra's court, and they need to think carefully about the fact that the legitimacy that they gained in Syria is the legitimacy of combating the Assad regime, not for the sake of fighting other rebel brigades or telling them what to do.

Their legitimacy to bear arms arose from their aid towards the Syrian revolution, and Nusra needs to abide by the standards and national framework of the Syrian revolution.

We repeat that Nusra's connection with al-Qaida ends up helping all the enemies of the Syrian revolution to keep the Assad regime afloat on the international and regional level, and in the media. I think that they need to think carefully, and the issue is not one of threats nor war announcements. 

We're in a crisis today, we're in a situation that does not allow exploration into tangential issues. We need to think boldly, make wise decisions and think about the interest of Syrians who have been bombed and killed for four years. Tangential conflicts are not in our interest. We need to put Syria's interest first, and break our ties with all foreign agendas.

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