The US has blacklisted an Al Qaeda-linked rebel group in Syria, declaring that “extremists” could play no role in building a future for the Syrian people.
The move against the Al Nusra Front came as the Obama administration recently recognized the new Syrian National Coalition as the “legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.
The problem for the Obama administration, however, is that, though a minority, Al Nusra has been seen as one of the most effective rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, raising concerns that violent Jihadists are leading the Syrian revolt.
The State Department designated the Al Nusra, which linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) a foreign terrorist organization, while Treasury imposed sanctions on two of its leaders, Maysar Ali Musa Abdallah al-Juburi and Anas Hasan Khattab.
Declaring Al Nusra a terrorist group freezes its assets and bans Americans from any transactions with it. This step is purely symbolic as it is doubtful that Al Nusra or its members have much in the way of assets in the US to begin with and it is also highly unlikely that anyone in America, even Jihadist sympathizers, is dealing directly with the organization in above-board transactions.
Al Nusra has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings that have killed scores of people, and has said it hopes to replace the Assad family’s four-decade-old dictatorship with an Islamic state ruled under Shariah.
The Treasury Department has also sanctioned two armed militia groups supporting the Assad regime – Jaysh al-Sha’bi and Shabiha – as well as two Shabiha commanders.