Friday, 14 December 2012

Al Nusra Front Implements Its Model in the “Liberated” Areas of Syria

Yusuf Fernandez
armed men
An increasing number of international media outlets are currently describing a series of awful and scary developments in the militant-controlled areas of Aleppo and other Syrian towns or villages. Reports speak of numerous crimes committed by the armed groups in those zones and of protests by the local population against these militants, many of whom are foreigners.

Fadi Salem, a Syrian academic based in the Gulf region who visited Aleppo recently, wrote that even those in Aleppo who had previously supported the rebellion changed their mind when violence came with the flow of armed rebels to the city. “The population was not ready for this. The armed rebels are mostly not from the city itself. They do not have organic popular support”, he said.

While Western media keeps on insisting that these groups support the creation of a “healthy democracy” and a “rule of law” in Syria, the reality appears to be a bit different. One of them, the Revolutionary Committee of Aleppo, has recently installed a Taliban-style “Islamic Emirate” in the three areas that still controls in the city, as it previously happened in the quartier of Baba Amr (Homs) before its recapture by the Army.

The “herectis”, according to its extremist views –Sunnis, Sufis, Shiites, Alaouites and Ismaelites-, and the “infidels” -Christians- have been expelled of these areas and their belongings have been confiscated. The new “revolutionary” authorities also set up a “Committee to Command Good and Prohibit Impious Acts”, a Saudi-style religious police, to punish those people who do not follow their particular interpretation of the religion.

German journalist Daniel Etter recently wrote a report in the leading German newspaper Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about his visit to rebel-controlled towns near Aleppo. In the article, he suggests that all rebels there are members of extremist groups. Etter´s report also provides evidence that rebel authorities subject civilians to arbitrary arrests and torture and summarily execute captured members of the regular Syrian Army. In the town of Maraa, north of Aleppo, Etter saw some 120 prisoners, apparently civilians, “herded into a large classroom” in what had previously been a school. “Many of the prisoners showed signs of abuse,” he said. Rebel groups are also making it clear that they have the intention to continue targeting supporters of the Syrian regime.

What Etter describe in his article are clearly war crimes and crimes against humanity. But in what refers to the crimes and atrocities committed by the Syrian and foreign militants, the West´s alleged moral sensibilities become dull.

The Nusra Front´s role

Al-Nusra frontOn the other hand, around 80% of armed groups, including the powerful Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), have created a command center near the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria. All members of this command have recognized Sheikh Adnan al-Arour as their spiritual leader. Meanwhile, those commanders who disagreed with this extremist line have been killed and only Salafists or Wahhabis remain.

David Ignatius, a Washington Post foreign policy columnist, has written that the Nusra Front now has as many as 10,000 fighters on the ground in Syria and constitutes “the most aggressive and successful arm of the rebel force.” In the war fronts across the country, the Nusra Front and other similar groups are now doing the heaviest work.

According to the New York Times, the group is “a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq”, Iraqi officials and former Iraqi insurgents say, “which has contributed with veteran fighters and weapons” to the rebellion in Syria. “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 the Nusra Front´s efforts in Syria, to the Times.

The newspaper adds that the group “killed numerous American troops in Iraq and sowed widespread sectarian strife with suicide bombings against Shiites and other religious and ideological opponents. The Iraqi group played an active role in founding the Nusra Front and provides it with money, expertise and fighters, said Maj. Faisal al-Issawi, an Iraqi security official who tracks Al Qaeda´s activities in Iraq´s Anbar Province”.

The Nusra Front and other similar groups have also publicly rejected the authority of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which has been recognized by the US, some European countries and Gulf Arab monarchies as the “legitimate representative” for both the Syrian exterior and interior opposition. The militants have called the creation of this coalition a “Western-led plot”.

Washington discovers terrorism in Syria

The rejection of the Nusra Front and other groups fighting on the ground to US-supported National Coalition has irritated Washington, which made a notorious effort in order to create it in the hope it may become a future puppet government in Syria. This fact makes it clear that the coalition does not have real support inside Syria.

The coalition was set up under the direction of the US State Department and US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, at a five-star hotel in Doha in November. Its leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, who is being described as a “moderate” in Western media, is known by making inflammatory sectarian speeches against non-Sunni religious groups. His main qualification for leadership appears to be his long and close relationship with the Shell Oil corporation.

On December 13, the US Departament of State formally designated the Nusra Front as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization”. In a teleconference with a select group of journalists, a senior State Department official justified the designation by accusing the organization of launching “hundreds of attacks, nearly 600, in major city centers across Syria in which numerous innocent Syrians have been injured and killed.”

This statement was rapidly condemned by the most extremist groups, which accused the US of carrying out an open interference in the Syrian conflict, but also by the US-supported Free Syrian Army, which publicly defended its vital ally.

With this decision, Washington pretended to have discovered that the Syrian terrorists are committing atrocities in the country. In the past, the US administration had dismissed as a “diversion” claims by the Syrian government that it was under attack by international terrorist groups.

This is another evidence of Washington´s hypocrisy. In 2003, the US Administration justified the war and invasion of Iraq not only with allegations about non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but also with another false clain: the links between the former Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda. However, while the allegation of an Al Qaeda connection with Iraq was a complete fabrication, it has become clear that Al Qaeda-linked groups and foreign fighters are playing a decisive role in the Syrian conflict. However, the Obama administration keeps silence about it.

This silence can be explained because the terrorist groups inside Syria are actually acting as US proxies in the war for regime-change in Syria. They have been armed and funded by two US allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and have launched a brutal sectarian civil war aimed at destroying Syria and creating the conditions for the imposition of a US puppet regime in the country. Washington is supporting extremist Takfiri forces in several nations of the Middle East because they promote a sectarian conflict directed at weakening the influence of Shiite-majority Iran.

Nevertheless, US support for such forces could led to a “blowback” as it happened in Libya where the US consulate and secret CIA facility in Benghazi were assaulted last September by Al Qaeda-linked elements. There is no doubt that some experts in Washington see a similar threat in Syria. Joseph Holliday, an analyst from the Institute for the Study of War, has warned that “the emergence of Al Qaeda-linked terrorist cells working against the Syrian regime poses risks to the United States and a challenge to those calling for material support of the armed opposition.”

US neocons reject this view and claim that the US should arm the Al Qaeda militias in order to overthrow Assad. In the neocon Weekly Standard, a recent article by Lee Smith harshly criticized Barack Obama and his administration because they have not acted forcefully against Syria.

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