By Abdullah Iskandar
Those concerned about Syrian issue spent a long time talking about Al-Nusra Front and summoning it during the various stages of the crisis, some with the aim of defending a position and others with that of protecting its opposite.
Consequently, unprecedented stereotyping took place to perpetuate the desired image of Al-Nusra. Indeed, its' elements, who have come from all around the world, are masked and armed killers brandishing black flags and applying the most hardline interpretation of the Islamic religion, thus killing and torturing anyone they could get their hands on. This image was backed up by numerous videotapes posted online, some of which featuring extreme monstrosity and sadism. And to ensure further stereotyping, this image was isolated from the scene of the events, i.e. Syria, rendering Al-Nusra outside the context of whichever policy in the country that is suffering death and destruction, and transforming it into an issue in its own right used by the concerned parties when necessary and based on their respective needs.
Many testimonies confirm the existence of fighters, within the Syrian revolution, who follow a Salafi Jihadist ideology, mobilizing extremists from outside the country and trying to impose their ideology by various means, including the stick and carrot policy. They are present in known areas and have waged successful battles against the regime's troops. Moreover, they are close to other Islamic groups, especially ones affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood organization, which further facilitated the stereotyping of the revolutionary powers and their fighters.
Since the first days of the civil action, the regime tried to spread this stereotype, in parallel to the issuance of official announcements on various levels – even by the president – about the presence of Takfiris who had infiltrated the peaceful demonstrators and pushed towards an armed response. Hence, Al-Nusra was summoned by the regime on the action arena, even before the eruption of the wide-scale confrontations in the country.
Regardless of the ties between the Syrian intelligence services and extremist groups of all shapes and colors, including Jihadists and Takfiris who were especially used in Iraq and Lebanon, and regardless of the justified doubts surrounding the Syrian apparatuses' formation of terrorist groups such as Fatah al-Islam, the regime seemed to be in desperate need of an evil opponent which is threatening stability in the region and around the world, beside being dangerous and pursued everywhere, to justify its categorical refusal to meet any of the demands of the peaceful action or adopt any serious measure to cooperate with the popular aspirations. It also needed this opponent to justify its use of extreme violence against the civilians, the destruction of their homes, their displacement and their submission by force. The regime desperately needed Al-Nusra to justify its political and military behavior firstly, but also to exploit it and fuel the sectarian zeal in favor of the regime inside the country and around the region, reaching up to the direct involvement of Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard, under the pretext of protecting the Shiites and their religious sites against the Takfiris.
As for the Russian ally, it corroborated the official Syrian tale about the Takfiris and Al-Nusra, in the context of its support to the regime and the protection of its interests under the current authority in Damascus. Moscow tried to link these groups to the Caucasus, under the pretext that the victory of the Takfiris in Syria will enhance the position of their counterparts in the Caucasus and on Russia's border that has not yet healed from the calamities of the Chechnya war. More importantly, Russia had no stronger argument than the presence of Al-Nusra Front in the Levant to obstruct any serious international action to stop the killings in Syria, as Al-Nusra also constituted a necessity for Russian diplomacy in its debates to defend and support the Syrian regime's behavior.
For its part, the West – especially the United States – needed Al-Nusra as much as the Syrian regime, Iran and Russia did. Indeed, this organization which was dubbed a terrorist group, based on an international decision that followed the American classification, was the primary justification for the abstinence to translate the political talk about the support of the Syrian opposition into an actual support that would change the balance of powers, impose the end of the killings and launch the political solution desired by the popular action. Al-Nusra was also the headline, under which the non-provision of qualitative weapons to the opposition was justified, based on a decision by President Obama who is reassessing his country's strategy in light of the Arab spring.
Hence, Al-Nusra became a big necessity for all parties concerned, except for the Syrian people who wish to see the immediate cessation of the massacre, to which they are being subjected, as well as a future that is drastically different from the stereotypical image of this group.