'Welcome to the Islamic state of Syria'

That's the headline from this Foreign Policy article by Brian Fishman reporting on the now official merging of AQ in Iraq (known as the Islamic State of Iraq) with the top jihadist outfit in the Syrian opposition. As soon as peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turned violent in summer 2011, it was clear that al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq -- known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) -- would play a terrible role shaping Syria's future. That reality was reemphasized on April 9, when ISI leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi publicly acknowledged that his organization had founded the preeminent Syrian jihadi group, Jabhat al-Nusra. Baghdadi then renamed their collective enterprise the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIGS). Kudos to Baghdadi for confirming what has long been known. The United States had already listed Jabhat al-Nusra as an alias for al Qaeda in Iraq in December 2012, and the basic relationship between the Iraqi and Syrian branches of al Qaeda was...(Read Full Post)