When members of Jabhat al-Nusra — the Syrian opposition's best fighting force — took control of the town of Mayadin in eastern Syria, they immediately commandeered the grain silos and the nearby al-Ward oil and gas field.
Now, according the Reuters, the band of al-Qaeda in Iraq-affiliated rebels give children free loaves of bread if they attend hardline Islamic teachings and sell oil to local Syrian government authorities.
Residents of Mayadin, a town of 54,000 close to the Iraqi border, said Nusra has been t ransporting crude oil in large tankers 28 miles north to Deir al-Zor, where the government still has a presence.
And local authorities in Deir al-Zor are so strapped that they'll buy oil off the group that their president considers terrorists.
The contradictory reality in Mayadin exemplifies Nusra as a whole:
• Some of its more than 5,000 members are leading on the front lines while others are hoarding resources (read:power) in remote places like Mayadin.
It's clear at this point that the opposition needs Nusra if they're going to topple the regime. The rub is that the group may be hijacking a rebellion initially driven by "the love of a freedom [and] the love of a country" to " establish a crueler regime than the tyranny under Assad."
Neverthless, the bottom line is that al-Nusra becomes stronger as the 22-month conflict drags on and will be a force to reckoned with when it ends.
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