In Syria, rebels are loyal to al Qaeda
A Syrian rebel group's pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda's replacement for Osama bin Laden suggests that the terrorist group's influence is not waning and that it may take a greater role in the Western-backed fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.Obama's dithering has been costly to our interest and our allies in the region. It will be difficult to separate out those we can support from those who are our enemies. If we could get Hezballah and al Qaeda to fight things would be less complicated.
The pledge of allegiance by Syrian Jabhat al Nusra Front chief Abou Mohamad al-Joulani to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri was coupled with an announcement by the al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, that it would work with al Nusra as well.
Lebanese Sheik Omar Bakri, a Salafist who says states must be governed by Muslim religious law, says al-Qaeda has assisted al Nusra for some time.
"They provided them early on with technical, military and financial support , especially when it came to setting up networks of foreign jihadis who were brought into Syria," Bakri says. "There will certainly be greater coordination between the two groups."
The United States, which supports the overthrow of Assad, designated al Nusra a terrorist entity in December. The Obama administration has said it wants to support only those insurgent groups that are not terrorist organizations.
Al Nusra and groups like it have seen some of the most significant victories against Syrian government forces in the course of the 2-year-old uprising in which Assad's forces have killed about 80,000 people. Rebels not affiliated with al-Qaeda have pressed Washington for months to send weaponry that will allow them to match the heavy weapons of the Syrian army. They've urged the West to mount an air campaign against Assad's mechanized forces.