The Associated Press reports: With Syria’s shaky cease-fire holding, peaceful protesters have yet again taken to the streets in opposition-held areas of the country. But this time, in addition to President Bashar Assad’s government, they have another despised authority they seek to topple — al-Qaida’s affiliate in the country, the oppressive Nusra Front.
The developments have raised questions as to whether the al-Qaida branch can be sidelined — or in fact even completely eradicated — from any future scenarios for Syria.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, protesters recently set fire to an office belonging to the Nusra Front after major fighting in the area saw the al-Qaida-linked militants crush a division of the U.S.-backed rebel Free Syrian Army, which has become popular with residents in the town of Maaret al-Numan and elsewhere across the province.
The nearly three-week truce — which excludes the Nusra Front and its rival, the Islamic State group, both designated by the United Nations as terrorist organizations — and the peace talks currently underway in Geneva between the Syrian government and Western-backed rebels have increased pressure on the Nusra Front.
According to Charles Lister, a Middle East Institute fellow who has written a book on jihadist dynamics in the Syria conflict, the truce “was a test of exactly how much” the Nusra Front would succeed in casting itself as a political force and a heavyweight in the conflict.
Apparently, not much. [Continue reading…]