The US government added Syria's al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant to the "foreign terrorist organizations" list on Dec. 10, with a notice printed in the Federal Register. In the designation of the Nusrah Front, the State Department called the group "a new alias" for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and said al-Nusrah is under the direct control of AQI's "emir," Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Qurshi AKA Abu Du'a (apparently the sucessor to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi). The Nusra Front, also known as Jadhat al-Nusrah, has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings in Syria this year, including one that claimed almost 50 lives in Aleppo. "The Department of State has amended the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 designations of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to include the following new aliases: Al Nusrah Front, Jabhat al-Nusrah, Jabhet al-Nusra, The Victory Front, and Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant," the State Separtment press release said.
Two senior Nusrah Front leaders, Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al-Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab, were also added to the US Treasury Department list of global terrorists. Al-Juburi "moved from Mosul, Iraq to Syria in late 2011 to exploit Syria's more permissive security environment with the objectives of transferring al Qaeda's ideology to Syria and forming likeminded terrorist groups," Treasury said in its press release. He became al-Nusrah's "religious and military commander" in eastern Syria, and ran a training camp.
Anas Hasan Khattab, another supposed AQI operative, is now said to serve as a key link between AQI and the Nusrah Front. In mid-2012, he was "involved with the formation of Al Nusrah Front for AQI," Treasury stated. Additionally, he "communicated periodically with AQI leadership to receive financial and material assistance and helped facilitate funding and weapons for Al Nusrah Front," and "works closely with al Qaeda-linked facilitators to provide logistical support to Al Nusrah Front."
The Treasury has not added Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Julani, self-proclaimed "emir" of the Nusrah Front, to its global terrorists list. His nom de guerre, al-Julani, indicates that he is a Syrian from the Israeli-held Golan Heights; his actual name has not been revealed. The Nusrah Front appears to be following the model of AQI which has obscured the real identity of the "emirs" of its political front, the Islamic State of Iraq, since its formation in late 2007. (Government Security News, Long War Journal, State Department press release, Treasury Department press release, Dec. 11)
US recognizes Syrian opposition
The newly formed Syrian opposition bloc, the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, was formally recognized by the United States Dec. 12 as the Friends of Syria met in Marrakech, Morocco. Claims by an unnamed US official that the Assad regime is using Scud missiles fired from near Damascus against rebel-held areas in the north have won widespread media coverage. While stopping short of confimring the reports, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the attacks would be “the desperate act from a regime that has shown utter disregard for innocent life, utter disregard for the lives of its own citizens”. (Al Jazeera, Dec. 13; CNN, Gulf Today, Dec. 13)