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article imageOp-Ed: America's plans in Syria running into trouble

By Sami Zaatari     Dec 9, 2012 in World
Damascus - Throughout the conflict in Syria, America has been one of Assad's staunchest critics, calling for his immediate removal, and possible prosecution.
America's antagonism towards Bashar al-Assad is not hard to understand, America has significant geopolitical reasons for supporting the overthrow of the current Syrian regime, which is mainly linked to it's strong alliance with Iran.
America sees the downfall of Bashar al Assad as a hit against Iran, in essence, Syria is the proxy to limiting Iran's reach and scope in the Middle East region. During the presidential campaign itself, Republican candidate Mitt Romney openly spoke on this during the debates, stating that it was imperative for America to support the Syrian rebels, because an overthrow of Assad would work against Iran. Romney accurately summed up the thinking into America's support for the opposition, though President Obama and other administration officials, haven't publicly used such reasons.
To that end, America has been politically aligning itself with certain opposition forces, such as the Syrian National Council, which was formed by opposition members in Turkey.
The SNC has also recently merged into a larger coalition of opposition movements, the Syrian National Coalition, which was formed in Qatar. The National Coalition was formed after several different opposition groups decided to politically align together under one main political bloc.
But in the midst of all of this, America's plans are starting to hit a snag. The snag comes in the form of jihadist rebel factions that have formed and appeared in Syria.
One such example is the militant rebel organisation, the Nusra Front. The Nusra Front have so far proven themselves to be one of the most organised and competent fighting movements in Syria, winning praise from other rebel groups, and ordinary Syrian citizens. The Problem for America, is that the Nusra Front are an Al-Qaeda linked movement, with goals that are vastly different to that of America's vision for Syria.
Al-Nusra's vision for Syria is the establishment of an Islamic state. The Nusra front has become such a major problem for American plans, that recent reports suggest that America is about to designate the group as a foreign terrorist organisation.
Another powerful and growing jihadi rebel movement, are the Ahrar al-Sham (free men of Syria), which also envisions a future Islamic state for Syria, and has several foreign fighters amongst it's ranks.
The two groups were recently left out of a new rebel command structure that was formed in Turkey. Even though the two groups were left out, the new unified rebel command structure still contained strong Islamist and jihadi elements.
Factions amongst the new united armed force include the Tawheed Brigade who advocate for a future Syrian civil state, with Islam as the main basis of the state in similar ethos to the Muslim Brotherhood.
All of this together presents a new challenge to America's plans for Syria, as the fall of Bashar, may simply lead to a new power vacuum that will be taken up by Islamist and jihadist elements, such as the Nusra Front.
So rather than having a new pro-western government that is no longer friendly to Iran, and which is compliant to American interests, Syria may end up with a new Islamist government or power that is not pro-western. Seeking to use the gains in Syria, as a launching pad to go into confrontation with America, and possibly Israel.
That certainly could be the case when specifically talking about the Nusra Front, with the fall of Assad, the Nusra Front may be able to begin creating states within a state, as was done by Al-Qaeda in Iraq when the country lacked a central organised government that was capable of running the country. The fall of Assad will lead to such a vacuum, with the loss of a central authority, groups such as the Nusra Front will be able to take advantage of the instability and establish themselves as the main power house in areas they've managed to take over.
The Nusra Front may even decide to join up with other like minded organisations, such as the Ahram al-Sham, and others. Together, they could create their own united faction, and dub it the Islamic state of Syria. Similar to what jihadi movements did in Iraq. Unifying under one main umbrella organisation to increase their strengths.
Being bordered with Israel will not go lost on such Al-Qaeda orientated organisations in the country. This will present foreign jihadists with their best opportunity for planning and carrying out attacks against Israel.
While the likelihood of the Nusra Front itself becoming the main central authority of Syria seems slim, the chances of an Islamist orientated government does not, and this would serve as a major concern to Israel, who would essentially be bordered by two Arab-Islamist led governments, both in Egypt, and Syria.
While the chances of the Nusra Front becoming the main central authority of Syria seems slim, if it were to form and unite with other like minded groups under one main umbrella as I just mentioned, then the possibility of jihadists seizing power in Syria as a whole does not seem so far fetched.
Though a lot of the above is based on analysis, what we do know as ground facts, is that there are growing and powerful jihadist movements in Syria, such as the Nusra Front who are linked with Al-Qaeda. And that these movements seek a future Islamic state for Syria, rather than the vision America wishes for. Which is a pro-western secular ruled state, and this alone, is a major obstacle the American administration is currently facing when it comes to it's own goals for Syria.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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