Syrian opposition chastises the Nusra Front
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Syrian opposition chastises the Nusra Front

The identification of a main Syrian opposition faction with al-Qaeda will prolong the Assad regime’s life, claims columnist

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

This Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 file citizen journalism image shows rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, as they sit on a truck full of ammunition, at Taftanaz air base, that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria (photo credit: AP/ENN)
This Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 file citizen journalism image shows rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, as they sit on a truck full of ammunition, at Taftanaz air base, that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria (photo credit: AP/ENN)

The pledge of allegiance of Syria’s opposition Nusra Front to al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri last week was finally met with a response by the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, leading the news in Arab dailies Monday.

“The ‘coalition’ warns al-Nusra and calls on it to remain ‘in the national fold,'” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat. According to the statement issued by the opposition coalition, Al-Nusra’s pledge to establish an Islamic state in Syria “contradicts the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat, opening its coverage with a comment on the “four-day delay” of the coalition’s response, says the statement “criticizes Zawahiri without naming him.”

The newspaper interviews Riyadh Shaqfeh, head of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, who calls on the Nusra Front to “stay away from foreign dictations and cooperate with all segments of Syria’s population on the ground.”

Al-Hayat columnist George Samaan claims in an op-ed titled “The Syrian choice: the regime or the Nusra Front?” that the newly proven affiliation of Al-Nusra with Al-Qaeda has joined the issue of chemical weaponry in Syria to prevent international consensus and further prolong the regime’s life.

“Julani did not pledge allegiance to Zawahiri, but renewed his pledge. In other words, he had tried for a long time to hide the cloak he was wearing,” writes Samaan.

“The bomb dropped by the Nusra Front will return the issue of arming the Free Syrian Army or its ‘moderate’ brigades to the starting point,” adds Samaan. “This bombshell will place another hurdle before those seeking a solution for the ‘the day after’ Assad’s fall, and scared of that achievement. This will prevent a consensus on a way out for Assad, and strengthen the fears of those who are hesitating.”  

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, writes that a decisive strike on Syria will most likely take place in June, after new revelations regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, either by the government or the opposition.

“The British defense ministry’s leak of finding earth samples near Damascus proving the use of chemical weapons cannot be [merely]… freedom of expression and strengthening the professionalism of the Times. This must be part of a certain plan, the elements of which we do not know, but which we will certainly discover later,” writes Atwan.

“The question to be forcefully asked is this: is the military mobilization — which may take place through the establishment of a no-fly zone and supporting the armed opposition with weapons — intended to drag Iran into greater public involvement or is it part of an American-Israeli-Arab war against Iran and Syria together?”

Meanwhile, Jordan announced on Sunday that it will turn to the UN Security Council to discuss the influx of Syrian refugees into the kingdom; a problem the prime minister defined as “a threat to Jordan’s national security.”

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour wishes to declare northern Jordan as a disaster area, considering the high number of Syrian refugees entering daily and affecting the economy in the north. Qatari-news channel Al-Jazeera quotes Ensour as stressing that no foreign armies or forces are being trained on Jordanian soil, denying reports that the United States was training Syrian opposition forces in the kingdom.

Fayyad — quit or was sacked?

The resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad continues to raise questions in Arab press Monday.

According to an article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Fayyad rushed to resign following the embarrassing position the United States had placed him in, which left him looking like an American puppet.

“Did Fayyad resign or was he fired?” wonders the editorial of Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

“President Abbas was forced to accept the resignation. The Fatah movement which he leads rattled its sabers with Fayyad for many reasons, mainly his failure in resuscitating the Palestinian economy. But the main reason was his refusal to allow [Fatah] officials to become ministers, men who also wished to occupy his position.”

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reports that a number of Fatah officials are now demanding punishment for Fayyad for the economic failure of the PA. These officials include Fatah MP Najat Abu-Bakr and economist Nasr Abdul Karim.

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