News / Middle East

Syria Opposition Protests Terrorist Branding of Jabhat al-Nusra by US

Image from Jabhat al-Nusra video that claims responsibility for September bombing of army headquarters in Damascus. (AFP)Image from Jabhat al-Nusra video that claims responsibility for September bombing of army headquarters in Damascus. (AFP)
x
Image from Jabhat al-Nusra video that claims responsibility for September bombing of army headquarters in Damascus. (AFP)
Image from Jabhat al-Nusra video that claims responsibility for September bombing of army headquarters in Damascus. (AFP)
David Arnold
The day before the United States recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the people’s voice for post-Assad Syria, the U.S. State Department designated a major fighting unit of Syria’s 21-month uprising as a terrorist group. 
 
During the Friends of the Syrian People conference the following day in Morocco more than 100 nations joined the United States to endorse the coalition. However, the Syrian opposition coalition’s elected leader, Ahmad Mouaz al-Khatib, objected to the U.S. decision to brand the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters as a terrorist group and called on Washington to reconsider the decision.
 
Since January of 2012, Jabhat al-Nusra has been one of the most successful fighting units in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The group is believed responsible for some of the major successes against the Syrian Army as well as several suicide car-bombings of major military and security installations in Damascus.
 
The State Department designation that al-Nusra fighters are terrorists is based on U.S. charges that the group is affiliated with and serves as an alias for al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI). Washington’s terrorist designation seeks to isolate al-Nusra from other Islamists among the estimated 300 separate rebel forces of the Free Syrian Army. The move also was designed to discourage private donors in the Gulf from funding al-Nusra weapons purchases.
 
Syrian opposition unites behind al-Nusra
 
The head of the Syria National Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, challenged the decision at the Morocco meeting.

We might disagree with some parties and their ideas and their political and ideological vision, but we affirm that all the guns of the rebels are aimed at overthrowing the tyrannical criminal regime
"The decision to consider a party that is fighting the regime as a terrorist party needs to be reviewed," said Khatib, the former cleric of the Mosque of the Umayyads in Damascus who recently went into exile.

"We might disagree with some parties and their ideas and their political and ideological vision,” he said, “but we affirm that all the guns of the rebels are aimed at overthrowing the tyrannical criminal regime."

Aaron Zelin, a Washington Institute for Near East Policy specialist on jihadism, says opposition to the State Department designation is gaining momentum within Syria's anti-Assad groups.

One opposition group – the Suqur al-Sham brigade – issued a statement stressing the importance of unity among rebel factions and noted that Assad's army was the real terrorist group in Syria.

Another opposition group - The Syrian National Council - said the U.S. designation was simply wrong and also pointed to Assad’s forces as the true terrorists.

Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss, head of a new 30-commander Syrian military council, also said al-Nusra fighters were not terrorists.

‘Nusra doesn’t care if it kills civilians’
 
The clearest argument for blacklisting al-Nusra came from Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria who served in Damascus until 10 months ago when the United States ended diplomatic relations with the Assad regime.
 
These acts, which have killed and wounded hundreds of Syrian civilians, do not carefully target the regime. Nusra doesn't care if it kills civilians
“Over the last year, AQI leaders have dispatched personnel, money, and materiel from Iraq to Syria to attack Syrian regime forces,” Ford said. “Al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for nearly 600 attacks - in most major city centers. These acts, which have killed and wounded hundreds of Syrian civilians, do not carefully target the regime. Nusra doesn't care if it kills civilians.”
 
Although the United States is one of several nations that have been actively engaged with the Syria opposition, Washington drives much of the strategy, says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert who is director of the University of Oklahoma’s Middle East Studies Center.
 
By separating al-Nusra from the other opposition fighters, Landis said, “He’s [Obama’s] trying to signal the Gulf - Qatar and the Saudi Arabians - that they should not be funding the Salafist movements [such as al-Nusra] and that Syrians have to think about who and how they are going to fight Assad.
 
“He’s trying to shape the battlefield in Syria in America’s best interests and he’s putting a foot on Jabhat al-Nusra, the al Qaida wing,” said Landis.
 
What is al-Nusra?
 
Journalist Aron Lund published a study on jihad movements in Syria last September (Syrian Jihadism) and described al-Nusra in the context of terrorist groups that the Assad regime once hosted to engage in violence elsewhere in the Middle East. He writes that sources claim that some al-Nusra fighters previously fought against the United States in Iraq under the banner of al-Qaida in Iraq.
 
Many in the Syrian opposition suspect this as well, noting that al-Nusra’s origins are deeply rooted in the times when the Assad regime hosted many terror groups.  
 
Whatever its origins, al-Nusra became widely known only last January. Its leader is cloaked in secrecy. He is known only under the nom de guerre, el-Fateh Abu Mohammed el-Joulani, and his face is blurred in YouTube videos.
 
According to Lund, this level of secrecy only helps enhance al-Nusra’s aura of mystery, which, along with its discipline and ample weaponry, is helping the group attract new recruits.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid