On Tuesday the U.S. designated Syria's al-Nusra Front as a Global Terrorist organization because of its direct links to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and then recognized the mainstream Syrian National Council as the representative of the Syrian people.
The blacklisting of al-Nusra — which makes up about nine percent of opposition forces — was met by swift backlash as both Syrian Islamists and nonviolent activists perceived the move as an attempt by the U.S. to manipulate the outcome of the 21-month-conflict.
The U.S. admitted as much, saying that the move is "intended to expose them" because the group's "extremist ideology has no role in a post-Assad Syria."
Al-Nusra aims to create an Islamic state in Syria ruled by strict Sunni Islamists and has vowed to fight any secular government.
An Iraqi who joined the Free Syrian Army (FSA) told The New York Times that there will be so many battles between" rebel groups after Assad falls and that forces "will unite against al-Nusra."
Given that al-Nusra leads FSA offensives from the front lines, the force may be difficult to stamp out. These pictures of an al-Nusra training camp published on a jihadist forum (h/t @HaraldDoornbos) give an indication how intense the group is.
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