In a television interview with Al Jazeera, Abu Mohammad al Golani, the leader of the al Qaeda affiliated Al Nusra Front, stressed the group’s ambitions lie solely in defeating the Syrian regime and its allies as he set the group’s sights on capturing Damascus.
"We will continue our focus on Damascus and on toppling this regime," Golani said in the interview aired on Wednesday, "I assure you, Assad's fall won't take a long time."
“Al-Nusra’s mission in Syria is the overthrow of the regime and its allies such as Hezbollah, We will not use the Levant as a military base to attack Europe and America, [we are] acting upon clear directions given by leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri,” he said regarding the group’s intentions.
Condemning the Assad regime for engaging in sectarian warfare against Syria’s Sunni population, Golani pledged to not harm Alawite Shiites in areas entered by Nusra, so long as they don't show resistance to the group.
"No doubt the Nusayris & Alawites have massacred Sunnis, for a long time, they torture in prisons, drop barrel bombs. They sent millions into refugees, others drowned escaping in the sea, they massacres hundred of thousands,” he said
"Alawites have taken Sunnis as enemies. Assad isn't fighting by himself, he has them by his side. Alawite regions weren't targeted by Assad bombs, the fighting was on Sunni regions. Now things have changed."
"Alawites are out of the fold of Islam, from every scholar point of view. We do not fight except those who fight us," Golani said.
"After all what the Alawites did, we are still in a religion of mercy. We fight those who fight us, but if we show them their mistakes in religion and make tawba and make baraa from Assad, we will accept them and protect them and they will be our brothers," he said, offering safety to Alawite and Druze if they renounce the rule of regime leader Bashar al-Assad.
Golani went on to offer Alawites an “official position” of “brotherhood” in the event of sectarian conversion.
"Every Alawite village that says we are free from what Assad did and prevent their sons from joining Bashar, and go back to Islam. Then they will be our brothers in Islam. This is an official position," he said.
Golani accused the West and the US of claiming that his group targeted Christians to demonize them in comparison with the Assad regime.
"The West wants the minority to govern Syria, not the majority. Even if they can't save Assad, they want to save the regime. We will apply Islam and nothing else. Let's take the example of Christians. The Majority of Christians now in Syria support the regime. We don't fight them all, just those who fight us. At the moment, we don't put Jizya [tax] or anything or Christians, because we are not in war against them for the moment," he said, “We don't take Christians in Syria as responsible for what America or Egyptian copts do."
Golani then dismissed rumors of the existence of a Khorasan group, stating that it served as a pretense to target Al Nusra Front.
“The United States classified Al Nusra Front as a terrorist organization by the imposition of UN Security Council sanctions. But stronger than the non-jihadist armed opposition groups that the United States and its Arab allies backed in its fight against al-Islamic state and the Assad government alike. The US-led air strikes targeted Al-Nusra Front, saying it was operating with a faction linked to al-Qaeda-called ‘group of Khorasan’,” Golani said, stating that though the Al Nusra Front had members from the Khorasan geographic region, such a group itself does not exist.