Routing the secular rebel forces in northwest Syria, al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front quickly amassed a collection of allies among other Islamist factions, including remaining “moderate” groups getting armed by the US. They made short work of Syrian resistence, seizing Idlib, and last weekend the city of Jisr Shughour.
These allies of al-Qaeda apparently didn’t think this through too much, as while they were happy with the victories, they stand to be fleeting indeed, and al-Qaeda could end up being a bigger problem to them than the Syrian military was.
Now, with Assad forces in retreat and the rebels consolidating their gains, the al-Qaeda fighters who dominate this alliance won’t need their allies so much, and those ideological differences will be all the more glaring.
These smaller factions really should’ve seen this coming, as ISIS similarly tried to absorb its allies when it started gaining meaningful territory, and those who were unwilling quickly became enemies.
This split isn’t likely to be immediate in the case of al-Qaeda’s allies, as they are still hoping to move west toward the Latakia coast. Once the promise of easy land dries up, however, more problems are looming.