"Designating his group as a terrorist organization might push it completely into al Qaeda’s camp."
Officially there are no more terrorist attacks, just man-caused disasters brought about by offensive YouTube videos. Also there are no more terrorists. Just Violent Extremists. And there's no more counter-terrorism, just experts on Countering Violent Extremism.
William McCants was a U.S. State Department senior adviser for countering violent extremism and is a director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings liberal think tank.
At the CFR's Foreign Affairs, McCants joined together with two others to argue that Ahrar al-Sham is, and I quote, "an al Qaeda–Linked Group Worth Befriending."
With the collapse of the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front is now the only game in town for the people who insist that we should counter Al Qaeda by supporting Al Qaeda.
The article begins by defending Obama's stupid jayvee crack, denounces the "political rights" and argues that, "The al Qaeda of yesterday is gone. What is left is a collection of many different splinter organizations, some of which have their own -- and profoundly local -- agendas."
That line is a bit misleading. The Al Qaeda of yesterday is not gone, it's overshadowed by local organizations, meaning that Al Qaeda has accomplished its goal of serving as a vanguard for a global movement of terrorist groups committed to its worldview.
The "jayvees" have overshadowed the Lakers because they have more people, more weapons and more territory. While the Lakers are content to sit and watch the expansion of new franchises around the world.
"Today, two different al Qaeda affiliates, the al-Nusra front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are battling each other in Syria’s Raqqa province. Perhaps Oliver North might argue that it is incumbent on the United States to take out both groups. But a more nuanced take would lead the president to ask key questions before taking precipitate action."
The article conveniently avoids answering the question while taking the time to sneer at Oliver North. But as the experts know full well, the old Al Qaeda had its share of violent conflicts.
The outcome of such a conflict is responsible for Zawahiri's current position.
Then the article argues that Ahrar al-Sham and the rest of the Islamic Front are the best hope for defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq. That may or may not be so, but the article fails to qualify why we should care which flavor of Al Qaeda emerges victorious in the battle to lose to Assad.
"Second, designating Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist group would destroy what little chance the United States has of building relationships with the other militias in the Islamic Front. Those relationships will be important for ensuring that the Front treats Syrian civilians well during the war and after, should Assad ever be toppled. Making a direct enemy of Ahrar al-Sham would also make it extremely difficult for U.S. nongovernmental organizations to move aid through territory controlled by it and the Islamic Front, because U.S. law prohibits working with terrorist organizations."
Which would be a good thing, because we could finally stop providing aid to terrorists.
Are we supposed to collaborate with Al Qaeda in the hopes that it will treat civilians and NGOs well when it takes over? Does that sound like the behavior of any Al Qaeda linked group?
"Finally, Ahrar al-Sham’s leader, Hassan Abboud, has never endorsed bin Laden’s vision of a global jihad. His struggle is limited to Syria. Designating his group as a terrorist organization might backfire by pushing it completely into al Qaeda’s camp."
And this is where it gets truly stupid.
The vision of a global Jihad wasn't something that Bin Laden came up with, it was something that Islam came up with. A group that believes in the primacy of Islamic law and rule in Syria also believes that this state of affairs should exist worldwide.
Furthermore Al'Suri was Al Qaeda's representative in Syria all along and was a co-founder of Ahrar al-Sham. That means a direct Al Qaeda involvement in setting up this flavor of Al Qaeda.
The article clings to the idea that we shouldn't push an Al Qaeda linked group all the way into Al Qaeda's camp by designating it as a terrorist group.
How exactly is this appeasement supposed to turn back time?