April 10, 2013
By Ahmed Kweidar and Nuha Shaaban
As government media cited an announcement by al-Queda that it was controlling Jabhat a-Nusra as proof of the revolution’s “terrorist” orientation, a variety of opposition figures cast doubt on the veracity of the jihadist declarations of a merger between the Islamic State of Iraq and Jabhat a-Nusra [JAN].
“The fact that al-Qaeda has adopted Jabhat a-Nusra, which was praised by Istanbul’s [National] Council and Doha’s Coalition, proves that the opposition abroad has been a tool for the West and the terrorists in targeting the Syrian people,” declared Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper.
State news agency SANA said “this statement will be a test for the UN Security Council and independent states’ credibility. They now face the test of choosing between terrorism or backing the rights of the Syrian government and its people to fight terror, after the West and Europe have ignored hundreds of media and intelligence reports on al-Qaeda’s involvement in what’s happening in Syria.”
Members of the Islamist opposition stressed that JAN is itself a coalition of groups and that Abo Muhammad al-Fateh al-Jolani and the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq do not represent the entire movement in Syria.
“The declaration of this state is wrong and we must respond to it,” said Abo Hamo, a leader of Ahrar al-Sham.
“We all know Jabhat a-Nusra in Aleppo and many of them are our friends. I’m not defending them, but we must respond in a cautious way,” Abo Hamo added.
“The declaration of an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria has nothing to do with reality. It aims to benefit the regime on both the national and the international levels,” said Samir Sattouf, a Christian member of the Syrian National Council.
“The timing is important. It’s simultaneous with the G8 Summit. It will strengthen the countries that hesitate to arm the rebels. It will also give credit to the Russian and Chinese policies,” said Satouf, a longtime dissident who has been living in exile in Algiers for more than two decades.
One Syrian journalist had difficulty accepting the authenticity of the merger statements, believing the JAN-Al Queda unity talk is a conspiracy by regional powers.
“During the American war on Iraq, Iran created an organization there under the flag of al-Qaeda and used it to bomb Sunnis in Iraq,” said Abo Mujahed, a journalist with Sham News Network in Aleppo.
“Their aim was to tarnish [Islam’s] reputation and culture. And now they tell us Jabhat a-Nusra is part of al-Qaeda,” he said.