Both Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi at Syria Comment and Scott Lucas at EA WorldView are calling bullshit on this supposed alliance between Nusra and ISIS, for reasons I suggested yesterday. The upshot is that it’s pretty clear the stories of an alliance are being fed to the media from people within the “moderate” Syrian Revolutionary Front, which just lost Idlib to Nusra and would very much like the Americans to help them get it back.
As for the Daily Beast and Associated Press reports, the degree of overlap in the content of the two pieces- such as which groups are attending the supposed merger talks/alliance discussions- strongly suggests they are relying on the same sources. When one looks at these sources, linked as they are to the opposition-in-exile, it is clear they have an agenda to play on Western concerns about dangers of ‘Khorasan’ and the possibility, however remote, of some kind of unification between JN and IS in order to insist on the urgency of more Western support for ‘FSA’ groups to push back against jihadi forces.
However, as soon as Jabhat al-Nusra defeated the Syrian Revolutionary Front — which has received political and military backing from the US — in northwest Syria in a local dispute last month, false stories began appearing that the Islamist faction was again fighting alongside the Islamic State. In particular, articles claimed — with no support other than assertions from unnamed individuals — that Islamic State fighters had helped Jabhat at al-Nusra in its fight against the SRF and another US-backed group, Harakat Hazm.
Much of the “information” fed to the press came out of Turkey. Some of it was from SRF members pushing back against their defeat. Some came from members of the Free Syrian Army who see Jabhat al-Nusra as a threat for leadership within the insurgency.
Both have much more about why the mechanics of a supposed Nusra-ISIS alliance make no sense and why the recent behavior particularly of Nusra (yes they’ve attacked “moderates” in Idlib, but they’re still working with other “moderates” in other parts of northern Syria) is inexplicable if they had actually concluded such a deal with ISIS.