"... an acknowledgment that the uprising to topple President Bashar Assad is led in part by foreign Islamist extremists who fought U.S. troops for years in the bloody Iraq war.U.S. officials said they would amend this week their 2004 designation of al Qaida in Iraq as a terrorist group to include Nusra among the group’s aliases, handing the terrorist label to an Islamist organization that is responsible for many of the rebels’ recent advances against pro-Assad forces....
However, analysts warned, the move could backfire because Nusra fighters often work in close coordination with more secular rebel groups.
A McClatchy reporter who spent most of November inside Syria encountered Nusra fighters at every critical battle he visited ...
“No matter how tactically effective al Qaida has been, they still put forth a vision for Syria that’s not tolerant, not multi-sectarian, and not about all the things this revolution was about,” said a U.S. official with knowledge of the designation, speaking on condition of anonymity because public statements weren’t authorized until after the formal announcement.
Nusra first came to the world’s attention nearly a year ago when a car bomb exploded in Damascus, killing at least 44 people and wounding another 160. That Dec. 23 bombing was followed by another on Jan. 6 that killed at least 26 people and injured dozens of others. At the time, Damascus largely had been free of the violence that was growing elsewhere in Syria.
Opposition leaders at first disavowed the blasts and blamed the Assad regime for them. But U.S. officials told McClatchy in early February that they believed the explosions were the work of al Qaida in Iraq and that al Qaida’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, had authorized his followers in Iraq to move into Syria.
In the ensuing months, suicide bombings became an increasing tactic of the anti-Assad forces, and Nusra fighting units began to appear in key battles around the country, particularly after rebels launched offensives in July in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub, and Damascus.
U.S. officials on Monday declined to detail the evidence that led them to designate Nusra as another name for al Qaida in Iraq or explain why it took so many months for them to reach that conclusion. But Nusra fighters have told a McClatchy reporter and other researchers that Iraqis are believed to be among Nusra’s top commanders and fighters, working in conjunction with Syrian foot soldiers. Many fighters have acknowledged in interviews that they fought against U.S. forces in Iraq.....
After McClatchy reported last week that the State Department was poised to designate the Nusra Front a terrorist group, other Syrian rebels expressed solidarity with the group and dismissed the U.S. move as a ploy ... “We are all Jabhat al Nusra,” read a joint statement in Arabic from 29 Syrian local committees and militias that reportedly have sworn solidarity to the Nusra Front.
The Reuters news agency and Arabic media also reported on the formation of the new Islamist-dominated rebel council, which was set up in opposition to the Turkey-based Syrian rebel command that’s affiliated with a new opposition council that hopes to win U.S. recognition as a government in waiting.
That kind of rift, which underscores the battles over legitimacy among Syrian opposition leaders, is exactly what the United States was hoping to avoid ..."
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Acknowledgment: "The uprising to topple President Bashar Assad is led by foreign Islamist extremists who fought U.S. troops for years"
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 10:53 AM