Jabhat al-Nusra and Iraq

Rival Clerics in the Syrian Jihad

The last heard from Jabhat al-Nusra was the killings at the Ikhbariyya TV station on the 27th of June, and before that the executions in Deir al-Zor on the 29th of May. Though they claimed responsibility for both, the opposition’s version of the events suggests there is much more to it. Furthermore, these attacks are very different from the earlier bombings in Damascus and Aleppo which they also claimed responsibility for. Whatever the case, it is very hard to imagine that this group, coming out of nowhere, has been able to cause so much havoc from as early as 2011, without any role for the regime in it. The JF article counters this, beginning with the following point:

While non-jihadi Syrian dissidents often accuse Jabhat al-Nusra of being a regime creation, most signs indicate that it may be a spinoff from the al-Qaeda-affiliated ”Islamic State in Iraq” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 22). U.S. government sources have repeatedly linked Jabhat al-Nusra to al-Qaeda generally and the Iraqi branch specifically, and the group has a very active branch in the Deir al-Zor region along Syria’s eastern desert border, where tribal smuggling networks have remained active since the Iraq war (McClatchy, February 10; Guardian, March 22; see also Terrorism Monitor, June 1).

A fundamental and well known fact has been missed here, namely that the Syrian regime has played a substantial role in the Iraqi resistance against the U.S. invasion. The supposed Iraqi origin of Jabhat al-Nusra does therefore not contradict any hand the Syrian regime may have in it, quite the contrary. What is interesting is that according to the article, al-Tartousi has been “raising doubts about its authenticity and asking why there is no known spokesman for the group.”

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