Al-Qaeda In Iraq Announces Merger With Notorious Syrian Rebel Group

nusra syria

On Monday the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda announced that it will merge with Jabhat al-Nusra — a highly effective Syrian rebel force deemed a terrorist organisation by the U.S. — and operate under the title the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

The merger came after “al-Qaeda Central” leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video calling for unification of the jihad in Syria as they attempt to create a new Islamic Caliphate.

Although the influence of al-Qaeda on Nusra has been known for months, Aaron Zelin at The Washington Institute explains that the timing of the announcement shows that al-Qaeda’s central leadership in Pakistan is still relevant to the global jihad that it originally called for in 1998.”

Furthermore Zelin writes that al-Qaeda’s Central may have actually ordered the establishment of al-Nusra. There are several indications that al-Nusra was founded around the end of July 2011, which coincides with Zawahiri’s first video related to the Syrian uprising on July 27, 2011.

In any case, the merger creates a major headache for the West. Al-Nusra are the Syrian opposition’s best and most organised fighters, and they also govern villages and parts of cities — including half of Aleppo — in northern and eastern Syria.

No wonder the CIA has expanded its support of non-islamist Syrian rebels, placed itself on at least three of Syria’s borders, and is collecting intelligence on al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria for possible drone strikes.

Given the dominance of Nusra and other islamist groups, the secular Syrian rebels and their Western backers have their work cut out for them.

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