The head of the Syrian National Coalition, which was recognized yesterday by the United States as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, is urging the US to drop its designation of the Al Nusrah Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. From AFP:
“The decision to blacklist one of the groups fighting the regime as a terrorist organization must be re-examined,” the bloc’s leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, said at a meeting in Morocco of the Friends of Syria group that includes the United States.
“We can have ideological and political differences with certain parties, but the revolutionaries all share the same goal: to overthrow the criminal regime” of President Bashar al-Assad.
To summarize: The head of the US-backed Syrian National Coalition said he is quite comfortable fighting alongside al Qaeda in Iraq’s front group in Syria (see yesterday’s designation of the Al Nusrah Front, which the US called an “alias” for al Qaeda in Iraq). Al Khatib sees merely “ideological and political differences” between the Syrian National Coalition and Al Nusrah/al Qaeda.
Now I direct you to this press briefing that was held yesterday by “three senior Administration officials” (unnamed of course) after the Al Nusrah Front was designated. I suggest you read the entire briefing to understand the Obama administration’s view on the designation and its hopes that the designation will cause the Syrian National Coalition to distance itself from Al Nusrah.
This is what “senior Administration official number three” has to say:
And it is important for the Syrians in the political opposition and in the armed opposition to understand what Nusrah is and what it represents. The time of a political transition is approaching. It’s approaching quickly as events on the ground move. And it is important to understand that Nusrah is an extremist group that cannot possibly be a part of the political transition to a tolerant and free Syria.
Unfortunately, the head of the Syrian National Coalition seems to completely disregard what Al Nusrah represents, and to be just fine with including the al Qaeda branch under the coalition’s tent. And lest we think he is alone, 29 Syrian opposition groups have signed a petition that not only condemns the US’s designation, but says “we are all Al Nusrah,” and urges their supporters to raise Al Nusrah’s flag (which of course is al Qaeda’s flag).