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Why Washington took al-Qaeda in Syria off the terrorist list

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It might come as a surprise to many Americans that their government does not classify al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist organization. The reason it refuses to make the determination would shock them even more, reported Antiwar.

The Syrian franchise of the organization involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington has long gone by the name Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front), and was sent into Syria by the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi went on to launch the rival breakaway group ISIS, while Nusra maintained its status as al-Qaeda’s boots on the ground in the war against the Syrian government.

In 2015 the group decided to re-brand itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham while, as reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, continuing to incorporate smaller organizations into its structure. This is one of the reasons for the failure of last year’s cessation of hostilities in Syria: the "moderate" fighters and the legitimate terrorists were so intermingled that it was impossible for the US to separate them. But the State Department did not buy into the PR makeover of al-Qaeda and designated al-Sham a terrorist organization as well.

Then, early this year, al-Shams decided on a new rebranding and decided to name itself Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The leader of the new group is the same old leader, and is listed by the US as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" with a $10 million bounty on his head.

But strangely enough, the US has not designated the new organization a terrorist organization even as it warns off other groups seeking to join the newly branded al-Qaeda in Syria.

Why is that?
Again from the Canadian state news agency:
The reasons for the reluctance to list the new al-Qaeda formation may have to do with one of its new members, the Nour ed-Dine Zenki Brigade, a jihadi group from the Aleppo governorate.
The Zenki Brigade was an early and prominent recipient of US aid, weapons, and training. …

For the US to designate HTS now would mean acknowledging that it supplied sophisticated weapons including TOW anti-tank missiles to "terrorists," and draw attention to the fact that the U.S. continues to arm Islamist militias in Syria.

You read that right: The reason the US cannot designate al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist group is because that would make the US legally responsible for having supplied a terrorist group with extremely sophisticated weapons and training. The US is arming and training terrorists in Syria, but instead of just getting out it is pretending that al-Qaeda is not a terrorist organization.

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The rate of the civilian casualties in Syria has dropped 94 percent since the de-escalation zones' deal went into force 10 days ago, a monitor group reported on Tuesday, reported Xinhua News Agency (China).

The rate of the killings significantly dropped in the areas included in the de-escalation zones deal that was reached by Russia, Turkey and Iran early this month, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Still, the report said that 200 civilians have been killed since 10 days ago in areas under the control of the Islamic State (IS) group, whose areas are excluded from the deal.

According to the agreement, the government and opposition forces will halt fighting for six months in four zones, in the northwestern province of Idlib part of Aleppo countryside, the central province of Homs, the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, and areas in the Daraa and Qunaitera provinces in southern Syria.

Under the deal, the safe zones, or de-escalation zones, will be free of battles and airstrikes, but the battles against terror-designated groups will continue.
By June 4, guarantors of the deal will establish the exact borders of the zones, according to Russia's Defense Ministry.

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Tags: u.s., syria, Al-Qaeda
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