The Department of State has designated al-Nusrah Front leader Muhammad al-Jawlani as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. As a result of the designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which al-Jawlani has any interest is blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with him or for his benefit. Also, today the Department of the Treasury designated four Assad regime senior officials, as well as two Assad regime-linked entities, Syrian Arab Airlines and Addounia Television.
Al-Jawlani is considered the leader of al-Nusrah. He has stated in videos that his ultimate goal is the overthrow of the Syrian regime and the institution of Islamist shari’a law throughout the country. Al-Jawlani was specifically tasked by al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) to carry out these objectives. Under al-Jawlani’s leadership, al-Nusrah Front has carried out multiple suicide attacks throughout Syria. These attacks have been primarily in Damascus but the group has targeted other areas of the country as well. Many of these attacks have killed innocent Syrian civilians. Al-Nusrah’s claimed operations since the group’s December 2012 designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization have included a January 26, 2013 suicide attack on a military base in Syria’s Quneitra Province, near the Golan Heights; a February 15, 2013 statement claiming responsibility for early February suicide attacks on regime targets in Damascus and the nearby town of al-Shadadi; and a March 20, 2013 statement claiming responsibility for two separate suicide attacks that targeted a bridge and bunker near the city of Homs on March 6, 2013.
Although al-Nusrah Front was formed by AQI in late 2011 as a front for AQI’s activities in Syria, recently al-Jawlani publicly pledged allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qa’ida’s leader. On December 11, 2012, the State Department amended the designations of AQI as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224 to include al-Nusrah Front as an alias.
The violent, sectarian vision of al-Jawlani’s al-Nusrah is at odds with the aspirations of the Syrian people, including the overwhelming majority of the Syrian opposition, who seek a free, democratic, and inclusive Syria and have made clear their desire for a government that respects and advances national unity, dignity, human rights, and equal protection under the law – regardless of faith, ethnicity, or gender.
Extremism and terrorist ideology have no place in a post-Assad Syria, and all responsible Syrians should speak out against al-Qa’ida and other extremist elements. By opting for the use of force against its own people, the Assad regime has created the circumstances that attract the violent extremists, who seek to exploit civil strife for their own purposes. The sooner the political transition to a post-Assad Syria begins, the better it will be for the Syrian people and the region.