"This announcement is truly a gift for Bashar al-Assad"
al-Baghdadi’s announcement, as well as al-Julani’s, is only directed at a small part of Syria’s rebels. The vast majority of us have, from the very start, worked to create a democracy that will include every part of our diverse society.These announcements have created quite a bit of confusion among the rebels here. This is truly a gift for [Syrian president] Bashar al-Assad and his propagandists. The international community was already reticent to help, and I think that now it will be even less inclined.Whatever happens, the future of Syria must be one that is secular and democratic.
"Creating an Islamic state in Syria is the next logical step for us"
We’re all happy with al-Baghdadi’s announcement. But we also understand our chief al-Julani, who has asked that we wait for the results of a planned meeting between all the different groups fighting in Syria to work out the details of this new form of cooperation and to understand why the al-Nusra Front wasn’t consulted beforehand.Everyone knew about the al-Nusra Front’s orientation and about its ties to the Islamic State in Iraq – that was no secret. I don’t think this has had any negative impacts on the battlefield, since, up until now, the international community hasn’t given us anything even though the Syrian regime has been murdering its people for two years now. In any case, creating an Islamic state in Syria is the logical next step for us.On Wednesday, I took part in a meeting with different groups fighting in the region of Douma [a suburb of Damascus], including the Free Syrian Army. All those that attended were in favour of creating an Islamic state. Why would we make all these sacrifices just to see foreign states name others to rule over Syria? Or even to create a democracy? We’ve seen what’s happened in other Arab states where they tried to install democracies, and the results aren’t at all encouraging.Many people think that al-Baghdadi’s announcement may have been a little premature, but there are two parameters to consider. First of all, recently, new groups of fighters have emerged, notably in the region of Ghouta al-Sharkiya [near Damascus] and in Deraa. These groups use Islamist names. But in fact, these fighters are controlled by the United States government, with the aim of curbing the al-Nusra Front’s influence. I believe the al Qaeda chiefs decided to make this announcement in order to regroup all the fighters who are truly jihadists under their banner.Secondly, there’s a political side to this: we know that some jihadist groups, like the al-Furqan brigade, are backed by Qatar, and others by Saudi Arabia. We’ve heard that these groups were getting ready to announce the creation of their own Islamic state. So it seems that al-Baghdadi decided to pre-empt this by declaring the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.