June 19, 2013
My thanks to the Gouda Kid for bringing this article to my attention.
I should add to the information contained in the article below that U.S. intelligence analysts, and even President Obama, agree that as much as we may dislike the Al-Nusrah Front because of its deep and longstanding ties to al Qaeda, it is, by far, the largest gruop of fighters combating Bashar al-Assad’s military, with an estimated 10,000 fighters under its command. It is also the best equipped and most cohesive unit amongst all the various and disparate ‘brigades’ comprising the Free Syrian Army (FSA). It short, it is the best combat unit presently available to the Syrian rebel forces.
Analyst: Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria now best-equipped of the group
Barbara Starr. Holly Yan and Chelsea J. Carter
June 18, 2013
(CNN) — Al Qaeda’s affiliate inside Syria is now the best-equipped arm
of the terror group in existence today, according to informal
assessments by U.S. and Middle East intelligence agencies, a private
sector analyst directly familiar with the information told CNN.
Concern about the Syrian al Qaeda-affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra,
also known as the al-Nusra Front, is at an all-time high, according to
the analyst, with as many as 10,000 fighters and supporters inside
Syria. The United States has designated al-Nusra Front as a terrorist
group with links to al Qaeda in Iraq.
That assessment is shared by some Middle Eastern intelligence agencies
that have long believed the United States is underestimating the
Sunni-backed al Qaeda movement in the country, according to a Middle
East source. It is also believed that Iran is running training camps
inside Syria for Hezbollah and that other Iranian militia fighters are
coming into the country to fight for the regime.
The analyst has been part of recent discussions with the U.S.
intelligence community, which is urgently working to understand what is
going on inside the war-ravaged country and is consulting outside
experts. The analyst, who declined to be named because of the sensitive
nature of the information, stressed that all assessments about Syria are
approximate at best because of the lack of U.S. personnel on the ground.
With the growing strength and support for al-Nusra, U.S. concerns are
growing about its influence to further destabilize Syria and potentially
pose a greater regional threat, administration officials have told CNN.
Next moves for the U.S. on Syria
“They are making desperate attempts to get chemical weapons,” the
analyst told CNN, noting that in the past few weeks, security services
in Iraq and Turkey arrested operatives who were “trying to get their
hands on sarin.”
A senior U.S. intelligence official told CNN recently that gathering
intelligence on Syria, including its potential future use of chemical
weapons, is now one of the top priorities of the U.S. intelligence
The Obama administration announced last week that it will start arming
rebels because Syria crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons —
including sarin gas — against the opposition.
The development is likely to be at the center of the Group of Eight
summit in Northern Ireland on Monday, setting a riveting backdrop to the
meeting after Syria’s longtime ally Russia said the move supports “those
who kill their enemies and eat their organs.”