Syrian Rebels Pledge Allegiance to al-Qaeda-Linked Group

Following US decision to designate al-Nusra a terrorist organization, over 100 rebel groups pledge allegiance

by John Glaser, December 11, 2012

More than 100 Syrian opposition groups, including armed battalions and civilian committees, have signed a petition expressing solidarity with Jabhat al-Nusra and denouncing the recent US decision to officially designate the al-Qaeda-linked group a terrorist organization.

Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the Syrian opposition’s key fighting groups, has received much attention in Western media lately due to its expanding role in the rebellion trying to overthrow the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the State Department’s decision to officially designate it a terrorist organization.

Following the announcement by the State Department, an initial group of 29 rebel battalions signed a petition supporting al-Nusra. That number eventually grew to 83 different battalions, in a reflection of how radicalized the overall Syrian opposition has become.

The al-Nusra group is an Islamist group that the White House believes is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The petition promotes the slogan “No to American intervention, for we are all Jabhat al-Nusra” and urges supporters to “raise the Jabhat al-Nusra flag” as a “thank you.”

“Even mainstream opposition activists expressed anger at what they claimed was America’s last-minute attempt to ‘muscle in on their revolution,’” reports The Independent.

“It is terrible timing on the part of the United States,” said Mulham Jundi, who works with the opposition charity Watan Syria. “By calling Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists, the US is legitimising the Syrian regime’s bombardment of cities like Aleppo. Now the government can say it is attacking terrorists.”

“Opposition to the designation is only gaining momentum within Syria’s anti-Assad groups,” writes Aaron Y. Zelin in Foreign Policy. “The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was the face of the revolution until being superseded by a new coalition, released a statement rejecting the move.”

“The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood also stated that the decision to designate Jabhat al-Nusra was ‘very wrong,’” Zelin adds. “The recently elected chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army, Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss, piled on, saying Jabhat al-Nusra was not a terrorist organization, and ‘depend on young, educated Syrians’ for their efforts.”

The increasingly extremist nature of the Syrian opposition, like the rise of al-Nusra within the rebellion, presents serious dangers and obvious contradictions in US policy, which for months has been to lend limited support to the rebels – and coordinate the flow of weapons from Gulf Arab states – in a cooperative effort to overthrow the Assad regime.

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