|Blood-soaked Syrian kid whose picture went viral|
|Aleppo reduced to rubble by incessant air strikes|
This move is mostly seen as an effort to present the organisation as a localised movement dedicated to free Syria from Assad and not part of a global jihadist network so as to win over support of locals and rebel militant groups. However, it is doubtful if the organisation has really abandoned Al Qaeda ideology. Unlike its fall out with ISIS which saw almost a civil war like situation between the two terror groups, the separation of Nusra Front from Al Qaeda was most amicable with the Al Qaeda head even giving blessings to the former. However, the US doesn't buy it and the joint US-Russian offensive after the designated ceasefire period is to be carried out against both ISIS and JFS and herein lies the problem for the US in particular. Though it has emphatically asked moderate rebel groups to disassociate themselves from JFS,there are no clear signal that these groups are willing to follow the diktat unconditionally.
The hardliner and one of the most powerful group Ahrar al Sham particularly seems ambiguous on it future plans as JFS is considered the strongest force among its alliance partners. Besides tactical alliance among small groups on the front lines and reported irregular movement of rebel militants would make it increasingly difficult to identify JFS militants from members of other groups in the region. Even as I write,there is news that 60 Syrian soldiers have been killed in US airstrike, which is unlikely to be deliberate. US has already committed to attack the JFS but even if it hadn't, it couldn't have ignored JFS which already holds sizeable territory. Unlike ISIS, Al Qaeda is known to use deception as an instrument of strategic warfare. For instance it has been seen that when faced with overwhelming force Al Qaeda goes underground resurfacing after the threat has passed. Thus taking on ISIS and ignoring JFS could be disastrous to the region.
This would be a serious setback to the 5 year old US backed rebellion against Assad regime and a strategic victory for Russia that entered the war to ensure Assad remains in power. Of course US also has to handle the conflict between its NATO ally Turkey and the Kurdish armed groups it has been supporting in the fight against ISIS and whom Turkey designates as terrorist group. There have already been skirmishes and there are likely to flare up again in future which the US has to rush to de-escalate. At this point it seems that if the ceasefire doesn't hold, the US would suffer a diplomatic setback if not get pulled into a quagmire. Meanwhile, Russia having achieved its objective is likely to be seen not only as the dominant regional power but also a resurgent global power.