Jonathan S. Landay and Hannah Allam
Dec 6, 2012
In an apparent bid to isolate Islamist extremists and bolster a new Western-backed Syrian opposition alliance, the United States is moving to declare one of the most effective Syrian rebel groups a foreign terrorist organization because of its alleged ties to al Qaida.
The State Department originally planned to add the Nusra Front – Jabhat al Nusra in Arabic – to its list of international terrorist groups this week, McClatchy learned. The announcement was postponed, however, as officials discussed how to get the maximum impact from the designation.
The designation now is likely just before the United States and its European and Arab allies meet with leaders of the new opposition alliance at a conference Dec. 12 in Morocco, where a significant aid package for the new alliance is expected to be announced.
The impact of the terrorist designation for Nusra, whose members have been at the forefront of many of the rebels’ most recent victories, remains unclear. Many rebel sympathizers said they were concerned that the designation would make it impossible for rebel groups to coordinate in their fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“Many groups labeled by the administration as al Qaida are actually not. What is the reason the U.S. administration is considering it (Nusra) al Qaida? All of our focus is on getting rid of the Assad mafia. We welcome anyone in the fight against Assad,” said Radwan Ziadeh, the executive director of the Washington-based Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “We have had very, very little or no support from the United States. We got promises, promises.”
This article was posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm