In an Al-Jazeera TV interview, Jabhat Al-Nusra Commander Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani said that his organization had received instructions from Al-Zawahiri "to refrain from using Syria to launch attacks in Europe and the West, so that it does not interfere with the war at hand." Joulani further said that it was only a matter of time until the fall of Bashar Al-Assad and that Hizbullah would meet its end soon after.
Following are excerpts from the interview, which aired on May 27, 2015.
Muhammad Al-Joulani: The war has been raging in the Sunni areas, and now it has moved to areas in which the regime enjoys popular support.
Interviewer: How do you view the future battle in the Alawite areas? Some say that Jabhat Al-Nusra has a massacre of historic proportions in store for the Alawites in Latakia and the coastal area.
Muhammad Al-Joulani: First of all, the Alawites have undoubtedly perpetrated huge massacres against the Sunnis. Since this regime took power, roughly 40 years ago, it has been relying, first and foremost, on the Alawite element. They are the ones who perpetrated the massacres in Hama, and they are the ones who drop barrel bombs on Muslim civilians everywhere. They are the ones who torture in prisons, who rape women, and who kill children. They are the ones who displaced millions of human beings all over the country. Some of these people have drowned at sea, some are begging for alms, while others have fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries.
They have brought about the killing of around a million Sunnis in Syria. [The demand] to avenge the blood shed between Sunnis and Alawites is great. They have greatly wounded the Sunnis. Obviously, Bashar Al-Assad himself does not fight. He uses these people to fight.
The Alawites have realized that this regime is incapable of protecting them. They have exhausted their sect while securing the throne of the Al-Assad clan, but now, things have turned upside down, and Al-Assad has become a liability. The battle in Syria will not end in [Al-Assad's hometown of] Qardaha. It will end in Damascus. The war will be determined in Damascus. Therefore, we focus on what may help to topple this regime. It is true that the Alawites have been involved in this, but our war is not the vengeance. We believe that the Alawites have excommunicated themselves from the religion of Allah. This was determined by the scholars and jurisprudents. They are not considered Muslims. They have strayed from the religion of Allah. But today, we are fighting only whoever brandishes his gun at us. We [only] fight whoever fights us.
Currently, we are not fighting people who do not fight us. There are Druze villages in the liberated areas that did not support Bashar Al-Assad and did not fight us, so they were unharmed [by us].
Despite all the massacres perpetrated [by the Alawites], Islam is a religion of mercy. We are not criminal murderers. We fight whoever fights us. We confront injustice. So even in the case of the Alawites – if we explain to them their errors and how they strayed from their religion, and they choose to retract it, to lay down their weapons, and to renounce the deeds of Bashar Al-Assad, not only will they be safe from us, but we will even protect and defended them, because by doing this, they will have returned to their religion. If they renounce the Bashar Al-Assad regime, they will become our brothers, and we will protect them just as we protect ourselves.
We do not care what the West says. All we care about is instating the shari'a. The shari'a is vast, and we do not need the West to give us lessons in human rights or animal rights.
We are not fighting anyone who does not fight us, and the Christians are not fighting us right now. If we instate Islamic rule in a certain area, they will be subjected to the Islamic system of rule. Whoever is capable of paying the jizya will pay it, and whoever cannot will not.
Interviewer: But right now, you're not imposing anything on the Christians…
Muhammad Al-Joulani: Right now, no.
Interviewer: And did you not take women as slaves, and the Western media claims…
Muhammad Al-Joulani: We are not at war with the Christians right now. We do not hold the Christians responsible for what America is doing, or for what the Copts in Egypt are doing.
Interviewer: How do you view the general Muslim population in the areas you control?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: The Muslims are Muslims.
Interviewer: You do not accuse the Muslims of heresy?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: We do not.
Interviewer: From where do you get your support?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: We provide for ourselves. We do not get support. Allah bestows upon us booty that we take from the regime.
When aid comes with conditions attached, it is very dangerous. It is bound to be become politicized in the future. Allah be praised, we have refused to sit down to even a single meeting with any intelligence agency, organization, or representative. We have refused to accept anything from these organizations…
Interviewer: Don't you have any connection with any intelligence agency?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: We have no ties with any of them whatsoever.
Interviewer: And you are not getting any support, not even from Islamic countries, which support other factions?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: We are not getting any support from any country.
We have some trade activities in some of the liberated areas. We develop some of the booty that we capture. We get good revenues, enough to make us financially independent. Until recently, we received donations from Muslims abroad.
The international order knows full well that Jabhat Al-Nusra has an impact on the Alawite regime. That's why it is trying to weaken Jabhat Al-Nusra, with the false pretext of the Khorasan group. There is no such group. All those headquarters belong to Jabhat Al-Nusra, and all the people killed [in coalition airstrikes] were Jabhat Al-Nusra members and some civilians.
According to the instructions we received from Dr. Ayman [Al-Zawahiri], the mission of Jabhat Al-Nusra is to topple the Syrian regime and its allies, like Hizbullah and others, and to reach an understanding factions about the establishment of a righty-guided Islamic rule, for the benefit of the Muslims. The instructions we received were to refrain from using Syria to launch attacks in Europe and the West, so that it does not interfere with the war at hand. Perhaps Al-Qaeda does this, but not from Syria… Perhaps Al-Qaeda does this, but not from Syria…
Interviewer: So far, your strategy has been limited to Syria?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: Yes, Syria and Hizbullah.
Interviewer: What will happen if U.S. airstrikes against you continue?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: All options are open. Everyone has the right to defend himself. All options are open, but our instructions so far have been to avoid launching attacks against the U.S. and the West from Syria, and we adhere to the instructions of Dr. Ayman. But if things continue in the same way, I believe that there will be unfavorable consequences for the U.S. and the West.
Interviewer: How do you view the American role in the Syrian war?
Muhammad Al-Joulani: They support the regime.
The role of the U.S. and the international coalition is to numb the people in Syria, in order to reach a political compromise, which will obviously come at the expense of the blood shed by the Sunnis.
There is a direct organic relationship between the fate of Hizbullah and that of Al-Assad. The demise of Bashar Al-Assad means the automatic demise of Hizbullah. If Bashar Al-Assad comes to an end, the end of Hizbullah is just a matter of time. Hizbullah has many rivals in Lebanon. These rivals will become stronger as soon as Bashar Al-Assad is gone.
Hizbullah is trying to frighten the Lebanese by saying that Lebanon is in danger. The truth is that Hizbullah is in danger, not Lebanon. Lebanon has nothing to do with this.
I can say that the fall of Bashar Al-Assad will not take much time. Allah willing, the battle is in its final stages. I don't want to spread too much optimism, but there are very good signs, and the war is in its final stages, Allah willing.