Jabhat al-Nusra’s ties to Syria seem stronger than its allegiance to Al Qaeda

Scott Lucas writes: You know that a media narrative has been established when Reuters puts it into its boilerplate text.

For example, the standard reference for the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra is now “the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda linked rebel group“.

Other news outlets have joined in — or go even farther. Associated Press also uses “Al-Qaeda-linked group“.

The New York Times chooses “aligned with Al Qaeda“. Then, after declaring, “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of”, it asserts: “Among the most extreme groups is the notorious Al Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned force declared a terrorist organization by the United States.”

But what if that narrative is only part of the story, based on a repetition of a distorted interpretation of a Jabhat al-Nusra statement, which misses crucial points and nuances?

How does that affect our understanding of the Syrian conflict, and our responses to it?

While the US Government established the “extremist” label for Jabhat al-Nusra late last year when it designated the faction as a terrorist group, the “Al Qa’eda-linked” mantra was fostered last month after a statement by JAN head Abu Mohammad al-Golani.

Responding to an attempt by the Islamic State of Iraq to claim leadership of JAN, al-Golani emphasised the autonomy of the movement, stressing that it is a local faction that is working and fighting with other local groups.

However, that part of the message was lost — at least in the Western press, who rather than analyzing the nuances of al-Golani’s statement and placing those within a wider context, focussed entirely on a reference to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al Qa’eda after the death of Osama bin Laden.

However, the full text of al-Golani’s statement, translated by EA, is far different from the simplistic, reductionist “allegiance to Al Qa’eda” soundbite presented and re-presented in media outlets, few (if any) of which actually read al-Golani’s full statement in English, let alone Arabic. [Continue reading…]

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