December 11, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 5089

Signs Of Mounting Criticism Of U.S., Support For Syrian Jihadi Group Jabhat Al-Nusra, Following Its Designation As Terrorist Organization By Obama Administration

December 11, 2012
Syria, Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 5089

On the backdrop of the Obama administration's decision to designate the Syrian jihadi group Jabhat Al-Nusra a terrorist organization, there have been signs of mounting support for the latter. The designation, set for release today, December 11, 2012, is, in fact, an amendment to the 2004 designation as terrorist of the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which the current U.S. administration, relying on "sufficient factual basis," claims that has been operating in Syria under the guise of Jabhat Al-Nusra.[1]

The designation, as mentioned, has generated a fresh wave of support for Jabhat Al-Nusra, which has been credited with executing numerous sophisticated attacks against the Syrian regime and playing a crucial role in weakening the latter. Syrian opposition websites and online campaigns on Facebook and Twitter have called on the public to take part in support rallies for Jabhat Al-Nusra to be held this coming Friday, under the slogan "No to American Involvement [in Syria] – We Are All Jabhat Al-Nusra." At the same time, the designation has also generated increased anti-U.S. sentiment among Syrians.

Following is an initial review of the reactions to the U.S. designation of Jabhat Al-Nusra as a terrorist organization:

On December 6, 2012, the Syrian opposition website published an article in which it acknowledged Jabhat Al-Nusra's role in weakening the Syrian regime. It also questioned the U.S.'s motives behind its designation of the group as a terrorist organization, claiming that, in doing so, it hoped to check the mounting popularity and support Jabhat Al-Nusra enjoys among the Syrians. On the issue of Jabhat Al-Nusra's declared goals of establishing an Islamic state following the toppling of the Bashar Al-Assad regime, the website said that there was "nothing wrong" with Jabhat Al-Nusra's stated aspirations, especially since these are shared by a large number of Syrians, particularly among members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The website warned the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) against accepting such "serious dictations" by the U.S. as the terrorist designation, urging it to oppose the move decisively.[2]

In another article, urged all Syrians to unite behind Jabhat Al-Nusra. It also questioned why the group was targeted by the U.S. despite not having killed even a single American, whereas, it said, the Syrian regime has killed tens of thousands of Syrians and committed multiple massacres of its own people. The website urged FSA leaders and members to declare their solidarity with Jabhat Al-Nusra, and called upon the SNC to take political steps to halt the U.S.'s move.[3] In yet another article, warned the U.S. against escalating its hostile actions vis-à-vis Jabhat Al-Nusra, adding that such actions would backfire, leading to a dramatic increase in the group's popularity among Syrians. It also said that the U.S. has missed its chance for effective involvement in Syria, and warned it that any involvement now would turn the country into a graveyard for America.[4]

Social media outlets were also used to voice criticism of the U.S.'s designation. Several Facebook pages called on the Syrians to take part in rallies to show solidarity with the group, planned, as noted, for this coming Friday, December 14, 2012, under the slogan "No to American Involvement [in Syria] – We Are All Jabhat Al-Nusra." One such page has thus far generated over 20,000 "likes." On Twitter, one member asked supporters of Jabhat Al-Nusra to flood the social networking service with the group's propaganda, in a show of support for the mujahideen and by way of censuring the U.S.

Image from pro-Jabhat Al-Nusra campaign on Facebook

The increasing support for Jabhat Al-Nusra was also expressed in a document endorsed by over 100 Syrian webpages that report on the revolution, including those belonging to various FSA brigades. The document criticized the U.S. for its designation of Jabhat Al-Nusra, and said that it actually condemned every Syrian loyal to the Syrian cause who had fought against the Syrian regime, and not only Jabhat Al-Nusra. The document's signatories reaffirmed Jabhat Al-Nusra's central role in bringing about victory against the Syrian regime. They also described Jabhat Al-Nusra's fighters as heroic mujahideen with the courage to stand up to the Syrian regimes' atrocities against its own people.


[2], December 6, 2012.

[3], December 7, 2012.

[4], December 11, 2012.

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