Al-Qaeda faces Syrian revolution with 'crossroads'

After last week's terror blasts in Aleppo, we noted a report in the New York Times to the effect that the US is pressuring Saudi Arabia and Qatar to hold back their support to the Syrian rebels for fear the arms could fall into jihadist hands. Now, the Times runs another story informing us that a "jihadist insurgent group" called the Nusra Front for the People of the Levant has claimed responsibility for last night's suicide attack on an intelligence compound on the outskirts of Damascus—and that the same group also took credit (on a "Qaeda-affiliated Web site") for the Aleppo blasts.

This was not the newspaper's first mention of this outfit. A July 24 story, "Al Qaeda insinuating Its Way Into Syria's Conflict," mentioned the Nusra Front as one of three Qaeda-affiliated Syrian insurgent groups, along with the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (which, we have noted, has been active in Jordan and Egypt in recent years, and which takes its name from a Palestinian Islamist thinker who was supposedly Osama bin Laden's mentor) and the al-Baraa ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade (which we know nothing about, but appears to be named for one of the companions of the Prophet). We also noted a "Nusra Front" that took responsibility for a deadly suicide attack on a Damascus mosque back n April.

A very interesting blog entitled The Liberation of Aleppo—apparently produced by an activist on the ground in the besieged city who opposes both the Assad regime and the jihadists—on Oct. 7 called the group Jabhat al-Nusra, and characterized it as "not mainstream Salafist or Islamist, but Qaedist." The blog says the Free Syrian Army is at a critical "crossroads," and must either repudiate and purge the Nusra Front or squander support from abroad...



New Syrian rebel alliance ditches jihadists?

News accounts (Reuters, Middle East Online) of Syria's new rebel alliance, the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, announced following Doha talks brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, make no mention of al-Qaeda or the jihadists one way or the other. And the fact that the pact was brokered by the Gulf states' conservative Sunni monarchies is not an encouraging sign. On the other hand, when the allaince's elected leader, Damascus Sunni imam Mouaz al-Khatib, flew to Cairo to seek the Arab League's blessing, he said: "We demand freedom for every Sunni, Alawi, Ismaili, Christian, Druze, Assyrian ... and rights for all parts of the harmonious Syrian people." Lip service? We'll see. But the jihadists, of course, never even use this kind of rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Assad's forces continue their aerial bombardment of rebel-held villages along the Turkish border, and (ominously) Israel fired shells into Syria from the Gloan Heights, ostensibly in retaliation for Syrian shells that came from across the line of control...