In an effort to win a little ‘hearts and minds’ battle in Syria, the al-Qa’ida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, has re-branded itself. It has done so in an effort to appear as a ‘kinder, gentler’ jihadist organization and to survive in a multi-level/multi-actor war. This is consistent with some of the lessons learned by al-Qa’ida in Iraq over the past decade. For a long, but informative, read, see “The Politics of Pragmatism: Jabhat Al-Nusra Disembarking from Al-Qaeda.”
For an alternative perspective, see “Al-Qa’ida Ucoupling: Jabhat al-Nusra’s Rebranding as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.” In this piece, one can see that the effort to ‘uncouple’ is merely a natural outgrowth of the long-term views that al-Qa’ida’s leaders have always held. What is more, this purported ‘break’ from the terrorist organization is not necessarily real. Indeed, it’s more of a ruse than anything.