Fighters from the former Nusra Front – renamed Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – listen to a speech at an armament school south of Aleppo.
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Derided as a stunt and dismissed out of hand, the Nusra Front's latest reinvention may nevertheless lend the militant group the legitimacy it needs as a partner of the Syrian opposition and give it a platform to increase its influence over the wider insurgency. On July 28, Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani announced the decision to sever ties with parent organization Al-Qaeda and change the name of the Syrian militia to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of Syria). Noah Bonsey, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, believes that by addressing a major criticism within the opposition – Nusra Front's allegiance to the transnational Al-Qaeda organization – the group has the potential to improve its reputation and influence in local society by emphasizing its "Syrian nature".The move received praise from the Army of Conquest, a multifarious coalition of which Nusra Front is a member, and other Syrian opposition factions such as key coalition partner Ahrar al-Sham and the Islamist alliance Ajnad al-Sham, signifying positive feedback among local groups, despite differences in ideology and past grievances.Last month, Russia and the United States discussed the potential for cooperation against Nusra Front, which may be one of the primary reasons for Nusra Front publicly cutting ties with Al-Qaeda.
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