30-year-old Eric Harroun, a US Army veteran, has been charged with “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction” by Federal authorities for his role in Syria’s Civil War.
Harroun reportedly went to Turkey in November to join the Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of the rebel factions backed by the US in the ongoing war. During a join FSA operation with Jabhat al-Nusra, he ended up withdrawing in a Nusra vehicle and, discovering he was an American they originally took him prisoner.
Instead of turning into a hostage situation, Harroun claimed to have won over the group, designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by US officials, and ended up joining them instead, participating in several attacks.
The “weapons of mass destruction” charge stems directly from Harroun’s own Facebook posts, where he bragged about fighting with al-Nusra and even using a rocket launcher to shoot down a Syrian military helicopter. The rocket launcher is the WMD in question.
The charge is virtually obligatory since Harroun publicized so much about his activities and engaged in multiple press interviews while fighting for the Jabhat al-Nusra. It underscores the problematic US policy in Syria, however, that someone could be charged by the administration with fighting for regime change, the Obama Administration’s own stated policy goal, using weapons that the CIA likely smuggled into Syria in the first place.
Harroun served in the Army from 2000 to 2003, when he was discharged for medical injuries suffered in a car crash. He was arrested at an airport on Wednesday, when he returned to the US. The charge could potentially carry a life sentence.