Editorial: Al-Nusra shows its true colors

Editorial: Al-Nusra shows its true colors
Updated 12 April 2013

Editorial: Al-Nusra shows its true colors

Editorial: Al-Nusra shows its true colors

When something is left to rot, it is not surprising that puss will run out of it. The international community, by refusing to intervene decisively in Syria has brought about the alarming growth of the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, which is proving itself one of the most effective units challenging the forces of the Assad regime. This is not a case of an enemy’s enemy being one’s friend. Whatever its internal disputes, Al-Qaeda is united in a fanatical bigotry and is nobody’s friend but its own. On Wednesday, Al-Nusra chief Abu Mohammed openly declared his group’s allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri. At the same time Mohammed denied that his jihadists had joined up with the Iraqi wing of Al-Qaeda, as announced the day before by that terror group’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. He had said that both groupings would now be known as “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” Mohammed protested that the first he had known of this was when he read about it in the newspapers. Meanwhile there are reports that because of a falling out between the two groupings, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been urging jihadists not to go to Syria to fight with Al-Nusra.
Such bickering would be laughable except that it is taking place between ruthless killers. The clear danger for Syria’s revolution is that once Assad and his cronies have been toppled, as they assuredly will be, the agony of the Syrian people may still not be over. The horrific possibility exists that the victorious Free Syria Army will find itself with a new opponent in the shape of Al-Nusra, which at present is nominally one of its formations. The fear must be that the group is already planning its campaign against its current allies, assembling dumps of arms and explosives to be used, not against Assad but against the triumphant Syrian people.
It is also possible that even now, Al-Nusra members are being infiltrated into the rank and file of what will become the new Syrian armed forces, the units of the Free Syrian Army that will need to protect the liberated country and keep the peace. In addition it must be wondered if these Al-Qaeda thugs will wait until Assad is overthrown, before they begin their assault on the real revolutionaries. Could it be that as the tide of battle moves decisively in the rebels’ favor, Al-Nusra will begin a murderous campaign targeting senior commanders and political figures within the revolutionary ranks?
There are further risks. One place where Al-Qaeda-linked groups seem to be strong is the area spanning the border between Syria and Iraq. The uneasy possibility opens up of a “badlands,” similar to that currently covering the Afghan-Pakistani border, which would allow terror gangs to escape military operations against them by simply withdrawing across the frontier. Given the antipathy of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government of Nuri Al-Maliki and its barely concealed support for Assad, it seems unlikely that Baghdad would very readily reach an agreement with a Free Syria government in Damascus, that would permit regular forces from each country, to close in simultaneously on Al-Qaeda elements from both sides of the international frontier.
The Syrian people have endured more than two years of devastating loss and suffering. Millions have become refugees in neighboring countries or within Syria itself. They want only to go home and to live at last in peace. Their country cannot become another Iraq, where terror feeds hungrily on division and discord.
Everybody, not least the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution and commanders of the mainstream Free Syria Army should be planning now for the awful possibility that Al-Qaeda’s killers will seek to destroy their successful revolution. And that is now the clear risk. Decent Syrians rebelled against the Assad dictatorship out of anger and despair at the iron fist with which it grasped absolute power. Al-Nusri and other grouping who walk in Al-Qaeda’s dark and icy shadow embrace violence for no high motive whatsoever, but out of sheer hatred and contempt for their fellow human beings. That they feel that they can now openly declare their allegiance to a wicked and destructive terror organization perhaps demonstrates the confidence they currently feel.
Decent Syrians must be prepared to act decisively to counter the poisonous puss that Al-Nusri represents. It used to be said of men who led the fight against colonial rule that today’s terrorist becomes tomorrow’s respected politician. This can never be true of Al-Qaeda. Today’s Al-Nusra “freedom fighter,” is already a terrorist and he will be a terrorist tomorrow as well.