What’s Iraq got to do with it? Syrian rebels’ Jihadist ties could spell doom for the opposition

Published December 10th, 2012 - 09:41 GMT
Jabhat al-Nusra (AFP)
Jabhat al-Nusra (AFP)

Jabhat al-Nusra or the Al Nusra Front has been described as “the most aggressive and successful arm of the rebel force” in Syria. The group was formed to combat the Syrian regime but their shady origins and outlandish philosophy could jeopardize the whole opposition. 

A holy war against Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad and his forces, seems like a noble cause and while Nusra is not a formal member of the new opposition coalition, they have served the rebels well on the battlefield. Formed of both religious Syrians and foreign Jihadist fighters, the motley crew has struggled with an over-arching policy.

Some members claim they’re not about to persecute minorities while others sounds eerily similar to al-Qaeda at their height. The U.S. government has reportedly been considering adding them to the list of their “terrorist” organizations.

If put in to action, a move by the U.S. to classify Nusra this way would seriously undermine international support for the Syrian opposition as a whole. But it is Nusra’s origins that are causing more than just the Americans to raise an eyebrow at their prevalence in Syria. 

According to recent report by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think-tank, the Jihadi fighters are linked to the very government they are now battling against. During the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bashar al-Assad’s regime was knowingly training and sending combatants to attack Coalition forces. These same fighters are now leading the battle against the regime they once fought for.

Iraqi officials claim that the opposite is true: Nusra members come from their own group of Jihadists, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). ISI is a coalition of Iraqi armed groups who have claimed responsibility for the bombing of hundreds of civilians in the past. The local counter-intelligence services argue that ISI is simply another name for al-Qaeda.

Last week, Baghdad’s counter-intelligence forces claimed a major victory when they arrested the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Alongside the capture of one man was a list of names of combatants. However, if local officials are correct and Jabhat al-Nusra and ISI are effectively one and the same, the bust could spell doom for the Syrian opposition.

A list formerly linking the two groups would push the U.S. into a more aggressive stance on Nusra and undermine their position in Syria. Without their international support, Syrian rebels will be left even more outgunned on the ground and in the meeting room.

 

Do you think Jabhat-al Nusra are bad news for the opposition? Should the rebels make other ties or do they have no choice? Tell us what you think below. 

 


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