Weeks of fighting at Bukamal between ISIS and the rival al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra came to an end today, when Nusra’s local commander pledged his loyalty to ISIS.
The move reflects the growing ISIS control of the border between Iraq and Syria, and as ISIS was expanding its hold in Syria’s Deir Ezzor Province, Nusra could no longer practically resist them.
Nusra and ISIS were initially both al-Qaeda affiliates, but ISIS has since been disavowed over its tactics. As ISIS becomes more successful than al-Qaeda itself ever was, groups like Jabhat al-Nusra may be finding themselves looking to switch sides to the ideologically very similar faction.
The question of this merger being repeated is non-trivial, as Nusra is likely the second most successful rebel faction in Syria behind ISIS, and a merger would expand ISIS control over much of Syria, ending the disputed status of many towns.