Al-Qaeda playing a bigger role in Syrian rebellion
The longer this conflict lasts, the harder it's going to be to dislodge the terrorists who have poured into Syria to battle the Alawite ruling class.
The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising's most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists.
Money flows to the group, the Nusra Front, from like-minded donors abroad. Its fighters, a small minority of the rebels, have the boldness and skill to storm fortified positions and lead other battalions to capture military bases and oil fields. As their successes mount, they gather more weapons and attract more fighters.
The group is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi officials and former Iraqi insurgents say, which has contributed veteran fighters and weapons.
"This is just a simple way of returning the favor to our Syrian brothers that fought with us on the lands of Iraq," said a veteran of Al Qaeda in Iraq, who said he helped lead the Nusra Front's efforts in Syria.
The United States, sensing that time may be running out for Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, hopes to isolate the group to prevent it from inheriting Syria or fighting on after Mr. Assad's fall to pursue its goal of an Islamic state.
As the United States pushes the Syrian opposition to organize a viable alternative government, it plans to blacklist the Nusra Front as a terrorist organization, making it illegal for Americans to have financial dealings with the group and most likely prompting similar sanctions from Europe. The hope is to remove one of the biggest obstacles to increasing Western support for the rebellion: the fear that money and arms could flow to a jihadi group that could further destabilize Syria and harm Western interests.
Another foreign policy blunder by the administration. Perhaps it would have been wise to "isolate" the terrorists before they became powerful? And lord knows who Qatar and the Saudis are supplying weapons to. While both nations oppose al-Qaeda, they also want the biggest bang for their bucks. Giving supplies to the most effective fighting forces regardless of their ideology is dangerous and the US has been pleading with both nations to be more discriminating in their choice of allies.
The Nusra Front are not the only Islamic extremists fighting in Syria against Assad. When the Syrian dictator falls, the real war will begin and the terrorists who have proven themselves on the battlefield will have the advantage.