Dr Marcin Styszynski
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Poland)
The last interview of Abu Mohammad al-Golani on Al-Jazeera highlights some interesting points regarding strategy, ideology and objectives of al-Nusra Front.
Al-Golani refers to the last offensive of Jaish al-Fath (Army of Conquest) in Idlib Province, Jisr al-Shughur or Qardaha regions. Al-Nusra Front is an important member of Jaish al-Fath that includes various Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, Jaish al-Sunna or Failaq al-Sham. Al-Golani claims that successful fights of the new coalition would lead to further victories and seizure of Latakia region dominated by Allawi communities supporting al-Assad family. He also states that al-Nusra will expand its activities in Qalamoun mountains. It would be the crucial frontline before final offensive in Damascus.
Al-Golani points out key enemies of al-Nusra Front. Iran and Hezbollah play a crucial role in that context because of religious and political competitions between Shia and Sunni communities. However, the Islamic State is the strong opponent as well and Jaish al-Fath forward its everyday fights with Al-Baghdadi's organization in Syrian battlefields.
Al-Nusra's leader also tries to authorize and legitimize his group among other rebels in Syria. He declares that the organization has no intention to target others, including the West unless provoked and it respects all minorities and ethnic communities in Syria. However, he expects that rival Muslim factions, including Shia will return to Sunni Islam or Salafism. Besides, Christians will be respected if they pay jizya (tax imposed on non-Muslims).
Al-Nusra's leader also states that the group relies its activities on financial donations called zakat that enable to manage controlled territories. The group has already established local administration and it runs business and controls local trades and shops. In addition, insurgents gain arms, food and other facilities during fights with enemies.
Al-Nusra Front tries to monopolize Islamist opposition in Syria and local battlefield, especially after the victory in Idlib Province and future offensives in other parts of the country. Besides, the death of Abu Hafs al-Masri, the leader of the group Ahrar al-Sham allied with Jaish al-Fath strengthened the position of al-Nusra in the coalition.
The exclusive interview in Al-Jazeera also enabled to emphasis al-Nusra Front as leading Islamist organization that distinguishes among other groups, including extremists from the Islamic State. It seems that mainstream media and official political representatives authorize al-Golani's activities in order to decrease the role of the Islamic State in Syria.
Moreover, al-Golani demonstrates military capacities of the group that focuses on strategic points in Syria facilitating conquer of al-Assad's bastions in Latakia and then Damascus.
The near future will show whether al-Nusra's objectives succeed and the group prepares operations that would change the situation in Syrian frontlines and create new political scenarios.