That Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusra rebels are linked up with al-Qaeda is not in doubt, but exactly how that link up may work is, with the group dismissing previous reports of a merger from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) as untrue.
AQI claimed the merger would produce a group that would be called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, but Nusra leaders’ own statement insisted their loyalties lie with al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
This is no minor distinction, as AQI, itself an auxiliery under Zawahiri’s umbrella group, seems to have tried to take over the more relevant Nusra under it’s rule, making Nusra something of a third-tier al-Qaeda faction. Instead, analysts say, the group wants parity with AQI, as the Syrian second-tier faction directly ties to Zawahiri, and doesn’t want the negative view some Syrians have toward AQI directly linked to them.
What this will mean in terms of recruitment is anyone’s guess, and there has been no comment from Zawahiri yet on where he views these two groups in the grand scheme of things. Either way, Nusra’s tactics as a rebel group keen to use terror attacks, will remain unchanged.