The head of al-Qaeda’s Syria branch Nusra Front has told Al Jazeera that he saw no solution to the conflict with the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Syria.
“There is no solution between us and them in the meantime, or in the foreseeable future,” Abu Mohammed al-Golani told the Doha-based channel in the second part of the interview that was aired on Wednesday.
“We hope they repent to God and return to their senses … if not, then there is nothing but fighting between us.”
They say Iran controls Iraq but the truth is it’s the US that occupied Iraq and handed it over to Iran on a golden platter.
Nusra Front, loyal to the successors of Osama bin Laden, and ISIL are the two most powerful forces fighting government forces in Syria. The groups have fought each other since a split in 2013, largely due to a power struggle between leaders.
Golani said his Sunni Muslim armed group had around 30 percent foreign fighters including “a small number” of Americans. The foreign contingent also included Europeans and many Asians, Russians and Chechens, he said.
It was the second of a two-part interview and included footage of a Nusra training camp, weaponry, a lesson inside a classroom, as well as images of a prison and a food packing operation inside Nusra-held territory.
The group has made gains in northwestern Syria alongside other armed groups in recent weeks, seizing the city of Idlib, the town of Jisr al-Shughour and bringing armed groups closer to government-held coastal areas north of the capital, Damascus.
The interview, aired on the pan-Arabic channel, appeared to be an attempt by the Nusra Front to cast itself to an Arab audience as a Syrian national movement.
Iran as regional foe
This has triggered debate among Western diplomats following Syria’s conflict who still see it as a dangerous, hardline group that is not clearly distinguishable from ISIL.
In the first part of the interview Golani had made clear he took orders from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had told him to focus Nusra’s fight on Syria. This week he evaded a question about whether Nusra was thinking of splitting from al-Qaeda.
Nusra follows al-Qaeda’s hardline interpretation of Islam and sees Shia Muslim power Iran as a major foe. Golani said Iran, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was using only militias to fight armed groups in Syria.
He said Tehran had also sent military experts but not its national troops to Syria, and said Nusra was determined to fight Iranian-backed groups.
“We will cut off the arms of Iran in our region, and as for Iran, it will be handled by those [inside it],” he said, alluding to possible revolt by minority Sunnis and Kurds.
Golani also told Al Jazeera that the US has created a state of instability across the Middle East.
“They say Iran controls Iraq but the truth is it’s the US that occupied Iraq and handed it over to Iran on a golden platter.”
In the previous interview Golani said that his group had no intention to target the West unless provoked.
“We are only here to accomplish one mission, to fight the regime and its agents on the ground, including Hezbollah and others,” Golani said.