Syria: al-Nusra Front declares war on ISIS
By: Radwan Mortada
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Al-Nusra Front has declared war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Abu Mohammed al-Golani gave ISIS five days to provide proof of its innocence regarding the killing of Abu Khaled al-Souri along with an ultimatum: either stop the fighting, withdraw apostasy edicts and return to the community or face a war, even in Iraq. Now all eyes are on the two groups as a violent confrontation might breakout between them at any minute.
A conflict broke out between ISIS and al-Nusra Front after the killing of Abu Khaled al-Souri. Even though the leaders of ISIS denied their involvement in the killing of one of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s top men, the leader of al-Nusra Front, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, warned of a relentless war when he said: “The nation will fight ignorant and aggressive thought,” referring to ISIS.
Al-Golani did not say it explicitly in his speech in which he mourned his friend al-Souri, but the echo of his speech entitled “I wish you lamented me” clearly beat the drums of war. Supporters of ISIS and al-Nusra Front speculated about the implications of the speech and wondered whether it was coordinated with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
After failed attempts to reconcile the two groups for about a year, the killing of al-Souri was the final straw for al-Nusra Front. Al-Golani had it with the practices of ISIS so he surprised everyone by putting forth unnegotiable conditions. For the first time, he was upfront with ISIS supporters and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom he previously respected.
Like a judge trying a suspect, he asked them for a formal explanation and ordered them to submit their evidence to three prominent clerics - Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, Abu Qatada al-Falastini and Suleiman al-Alwan - pending their trial proceedings. However, the three clerics that al-Golani wanted them to appeal to are languishing in prison. He gave them a five-day deadline and put conditions such as ending the infighting and cancelling apostasy edicts issued against other jihadi groups.
In his address to ISIS, al-Golani compares them to the Awakening Movement in Iraq saying: “The awakening forces in Iraq stopped fighting America and the rafidah (a derogatory term for Shia) to fight the mujahideen, while the awakening forces in Syria stopped fighting the Nusayris (a derogatory term for Alawites), and are instead fighting those fighting the Nusayris.”
He openly accused ISIS fighters of being “misguided awakening forces whose goal is to undermine the jihad.” Addressing them, he said: “The awakening project was nearly impossible here but the infighting that you instigated opened a gaping hole in the land of the Levant.” Al-Golani demanded an official response and reminded his adversaries that the front has not been mobilized yet. He issued a threat saying: “In the name of God, if you reject God’s judgement again and do not withhold your scourge on the believers, then the believers shall fight your ignorant aggressive thought and you know hundreds of virtuous brothers are awaiting a signal from the nation in Iraq.”
Al-Golani’s speech was unexpected. His intensity surprised many even within the ranks of al-Nusra Front. As soon as the voice recording spread, a war broke out on Twitter. He was violently attacked. The campaign against him was boosted by the discovery that the United States removed his name from the list of global terrorism only days ago. ISIS followers and supporters shared a letter entitled the “The list of honor which does not include al-Golani?”.
The so-called declaration of war against ISIS fighters was widely condemned. Some ISIS followers accused al-Golani of being an American agent because “he has now a common goal with America and its allies.” Statements were issued by dozens of leaders in the global jihad movement in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, and North Africa.
The position of al-Qaeda leader Maamoun Hatem took prominence. He wrote a message entitled “An urgent appeal” to al-Golani in which he held him responsible for the blood that will be shed and argued that declaring war against ISIS is tantamount to declaring a war on al-Qaeda because this war will “spoil the fruit of the entire jihad.”
Hatem reminded al-Golani that he was “the first to divide the jihad project when you disobeyed your leader who did not command you to commit an act of transgression, so you betrayed him and those who followed you.”
The message of the leader Abu Abdallah al-Afghani also came in the same context. He did not see “the relationship between al-Souri’s eulogy and al-Golani’s threats against ISIS.” He asked a number of questions that held al-Golani responsible for what is going on and for the river of blood that will be shed.
In addition, some of al-Golani’s speeches were replayed in which he praised ISIS fighters and its leader al-Baghdadi. They accused him of breach of trust and theft of ISIS money and weapons that their leader al-Baghdadi had entrusted to him, and for attempting to exercise a monopoly over the Levant.
ISIS followers shared on their websites a possible upcoming message by ISIS spokesperson, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, to respond to al-Golani’s speech and threats.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.