When Ahmed, a resident of al-Ghouta al-Sharqiyeh in Damascus province, conveyed his gratitude and admiration for the courage of the Jihadi fighters to me, he said: "Although I myself haven't adopted the ideology of al-Qaeda, and I don't agree with many of their ideas, we have to admit that they are the best equipped to take on the fight against the Assadi regime because they have strict principles. You never see any of them making a song and dance in the media about what they have done – not like the others. Most of the FSA battalions want to show themselves off as being the most effective force on the ground. They're always releasing videos boasting about their power and achievements, however futile these actions may be. It's all done to get more funding, but the truth is that Jubhat al-Nusra are the real heroes".
This isn't just the personal opinion of one individual but an opinion shared by many and is growing by the day, particularly with the revelation of increasing corruption within the ranks of some FSA groups. There is a real fear that many more Syrian Islamists may deviate towards extreme positionsin the coming period. The accumulated successes of Jubhat al-Nusra and their recognition as heroes by ordinary Syrians may lead to the adoption of extreme ideas in the near, not the distant future.
Jubhat al Nusra has recently been placed on the terrorist list by the US State Department, yet at the same time on the ground in Syria a united military command has been established as an umbrella for the many diverse strands of the FSA. This has brought the FSA semi-international acceptance so that it is considered a legitimate actor by a number of states. By separating the combatants against the regime in such a way there is a danger in creating greater fissures between the two groups. The FSA may refuse to co-operate with Jubhat al-Nusra for fear of losing its recently-acquired international standing. This will result in a weakening of its fighting capabilities. Moreover, the two groups will have less co-ordination in their actions leading to the increased possibility of armed confrontations between them. The split may extend to ordinary Syrians who may find themselves split between their loyalties to Jubhat al-Nusra or the FSA. This is an option we can ill afford; such a cleavage would be too much for Syria to bear." (thanks Sultan)