For more than a year, the Obama administration has been assuring the world that the downfall of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is “a matter of time.” Yes, its own Middle East experts warned, but how much time matters. The longer the fighting goes on, they said, the more likely it is that what began as a peaceful mass opposition movement would behijacked by extremists, including allies of al-Qaeda.
President Obama ignored that advice, ruling out measures that could have quickly brought down the regime — such as a no-fly zone — in favor of a year of feckless diplomacy. But it turned out the experts were right. So now the consequence of Obama’s passivity has a name, one that will surely haunt the occupant of the White House in 2013: Jabhat al-Nusra.
Actually, the full name of the Middle East’s latest jihadist terror movement, announced on an al-Qaeda-linked Web site last January, is Jabhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham Min Mujaheddin al Sham fi Sahat al Jihad, which means “Support Front for the People of Syria from the Mujaheddin of Syria in the places of Jihad.” It was dismissed at first as a hoax, or maybe as a concoction of Assad’s intelligence service. Now its black flag is recognized, and often cheered, across Syria, and its bearded, baggy-pantalooned fightersare at the forefront of the critical battle for the city of Aleppo.