An image released on July 28, 2016 by Al-Manara al-Bayda, the official news arm of Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, allegedly shows the group's chief Abu Mohammad al-Jolani at an undisclosed location, in the first ever picture to be released of him.
The Al-Nusra Front - which is expected to announce its break from Al-Qaeda - is a jihadist group allied with rebels fighting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Al-Nusra, an offshoot of the Islamic State in Iraq, Al-Qaeda's former Iraqi affiliate, first emerged in January 2012 -- 10 months after the start of anti-government protests that were brutally repressed by the Assad regime, leading to a multi-sided conflict which continues today. The Arabic writing reads: "Soon, a televised speech by Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Jolani.” / AFP PHOTO / Al-Manara Al-Baydaa / Handout

Gareth Porter – The sham rebrand of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front

The Nusra Front’s adoption of the new name Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and claim that it has separated itself from al-Qaeda was designed to influence US policy, not to make the group any more independent of al-Qaeda.

The objective of the manoeuvre was to head off US-Russian military cooperation against the jihadist group, renamed last week, based at least in part on the hope that the US bureaucratic and political elite, who are lining up against a new US-Russian agreement, may block or reverse the Obama administration’s intention to target the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria.

The leader of the Syrian jihadist organisation Mohammad al-Golani and al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri both made a great deal of the public encouragement that Zawahiri gave to separation from the parent organisation. The idea was that the newly rebranded and supposedly independent jihadist organisation in Syria would be better able to fulfill its role in the Syrian revolution.

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