US seeks to include 'moderate' Islamists in Syrian coalition
After the US' efforts to prop up the Free Syrian Army have failed and the larger Islamist brigades of the FSA, which have fought alongside al Qaeda, have defected and created the Islamic Front, the Obama administration is now seeking to court the Islamic Front. The catch: The group must denounce al Qaeda and join the peace process. Read the full story at The Washington Post. Here is an excerpt:
The Obama administration is willing to consider supporting an expanded Syrian rebel coalition that would include Islamist groups, provided the groups are not allied with al-Qaeda and agree to support upcoming peace talks in Geneva, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.
In addition, the official said, the Americans would like the Islamic Front groups to return U.S. vehicles, communications gear and other non-lethal equipment they seized last weekend from warehouses at the Syria-Turkey border.
Now, correct us if we are wrong, but didn't the US try the same strategy in Afghanistan, by attempting to get the Afghan Taliban to denounce al Qaeda and end military cooperation with the group, and to join the peace process? How well did that work out for the US? The Taliban have rejected negotiations and refused to denounce al Qaeda or even the generic term "international terrorism."
Keep in mind that the Islamic Front, in its official charter, calls for the establishment of an Islamic state and the imposition of Islamic law, both of which are goals shared by al Qaeda. The charter also hints that the Islamic Front will continue to work with al Qaeda's branches in Syria. It welcomes the "Muhajireen" [emigrants or foreign fighters] as "our brothers who supported us in jihad." [See LWJ report, Islamic Front endorses jihad, says 'the Muhajireen are our brothers'.]
And that just days ago Ahrar al Sham, one of the largest brigades in the Islamic Front, touted a joint operation with the Islamist State of Iraq and the Sham, and the Al Nusrah Front for the Peopel of the Levant, both al Qaeda branches that operate in Syria. Ahrar al Sham has a long history of fighting alongside al Qaeda in the Syrian civil war. Does the US really expect that to change by dangling some aid and cash?
Meanwhile, General Salim Idriss, the military chief of the now-gutted Supreme Military Council, won't even reject al Qaeda. Instead, he seeks to get the Islamic Front and al Qaeda's branches to work together.
"We are trying to stop the fight between the revolutionary forces and to go back to fight against the regime," Idriss told CNN, according to The Wall Street Journal [emphasis is mine].