Al-Nusra jihadists in Syria sanctioned by U.S.December 11, 2012
The U.S. State Department listed al-Nusra Front as a foreign terrorist organization yesterday (h/t Twitter user Sal Imburgia @salimb94). A parallel designation by the Treasury Department will include a prohibition against business deals between Americans and al-Nusra and a freeze of al-Nusra assets in U.S. banks.
A BBC profile of the al-Nusra Front calls the group’s ideology “clearly jihadist,” and says that al-Nusra has claimed responsibility for “many of the bombings that have rocked Syria since the uprising began in March 2011.”
Additional reports have indicated a warm relationship between al-Nusra and Al Qaeda.
Given U.S. support for many groups fighting in the Syrian rebellion, the designation may present a schizophrenic approach to American foreign policy in Syria wherein certain Syrian rebels receive financial support and rebels that they work alongside with receive financial penalties. McClatchy lays out several other complicating factors in the al-Nusra designation in a good report here.
Kenneth Rijock also weighed in prior to the the designation on what it would mean for U.S. banks with commercial relationships in Syria and the Palestinian territories:
Multiple reports of the imminent OFAC designation of the Al-Nusra Front, a radical Sunni organisation fighting the Assad regime in Syria, should alert compliance officers whose clients are sending relief funds, and supplies, to Syrian Opposition groups. Its Arabic name is Jabhat Al-Nusra, and the approximate English translation is Front for the Protection of the People of the Levant.
One important detail: Al-Nusra, which has spewed forth anti-American and Anti-Israeli hatred, reportedly contains a fair number of Palestinians. Don’t get caught in an OFAC violation if your clients are in the midst of what you thought were contributions to Palestinian causes, but go straight to Al-Nusra. It has been reported that the OFAC action will take place around 12 December.
I would piggyback on Rijock by making the following suggestion to non-profits, NGOs, charities and their donors: if you are involved with relief work in either Syria or the Palestinian territories, you should factor the risk of funding this Al Qaeda offshoot into your aid distribution plans. Are making such donations so important to you that you would risk supporting an Al Qaeda takeover of Syria?