Good news: AQ in Iraq merges with Syrian jihadists
A match made in hell - and one whose significance won't really be felt until the shooting stops in Syria.
Al-Qaida in Iraq says it has united with a Syrian jihadist group fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
An audio message from al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, posted on Islamist websites Tuesday, says his group has been funding cells from Syria's al-Nusra Front. The combined groups, the message says, will be called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The statement, first reported by the U.S.-based SITE monitoring service, could not immediately be authenticated.
The al-Nusra Front achieved prominence early last year when it claimed responsibility for several powerful bombings in the Syrian capital and the northern city of Aleppo.
The link between al-Nusra and al-Qaida had been suspected, leading the United States in December to designate the al-Nusra Front a terrorist group.
Baghdadi's declaration came a day after an al-Nusra-style suicide car bomb attack in the heart of Damascus killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 100 others.
Syria's National Coalition opposition grouping Tuesday condemned the bombing, saying the government bore responsibility for the blast.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he would meet members of the Syrian opposition in London later this week, adding that Washington is looking to provide more help to opponents of Mr. Assad.
Given the disorganization and weakness of the civilian opposition group, it is virtually guaranteed that the chaos in any post-Assad Syria will favor those who are most ruthless and have the most guns. A merged Al-Qaeda-Syrian jihadist entity will have a leg up on most other factions for that reason.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to give arms to anyone who says they oppose Assad. Unless they become more discriminating in their choice of allies, Syria will be a violent mess for years to come.