The United States has designated the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaida in Iraq operating in Syria, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The United States has designated the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaida in Iraq operating in Syria, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The group’s leaders were also sanctioned. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said al-Nusra is an affiliate of al Qaida that “is trying to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purpose.”
The conflict in Syria started in March 2011 when the Assad regime responded with force and brutal violence to peaceful anti-government protests. Since then, more than 40,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict that has pitted rebels against government forces.
The United States has backed the aspirations of the Syrian people in their struggle for a pluralistic, democratic state that supports and defends the human rights of all Syrians. But, as State Department Spokesperson Nuland said, al-Qaida-affiliated groups like al-Nusra have a “very different vision about how people ought to live and…there’s nothing democratic about it.”
Ms. Nuland noted that two Iranian-backed militias, Jaysh al-Shabi and the Shabiha, which are fighting on the side of the Assad regime and have played leading roles in the direct killing of civilians, were sanctioned as well:
“These militias have been absolutely instrumental in supporting and aiding the Assad regime’s campaign of terror and violence. They are underwritten by Iran and by Hezbollah. They look very much like the Basiji in Iran in terms of the tactics and techniques that they employ, and we have also sanctioned them.”
Ms. Nuland said the designation by the United States of these extremist groups fighting in Syria means that no American citizen can provide them with financial or material support. It also sends the message to others to beware of extremists and those who do not have the best interest of the Syrian people in mind.
The sanctions were announced shortly before President Barack Obama offered political recognition to the recently-formed Syrian Opposition Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Ms. Nuland said such political recognition, while not formal, legal recognition, will permit the U.S. to more actively work with the civilian opposition that is committed to a democratic political transition in Syria.