8.39am GMT Syria
• At least 40 Syrian soldiers, together with several Iraqis, have been killed in Iraq’s western Anbar province, in the most serious cross border spill over of the conflict to date. The group were ambushed by unidentified gunmen as the Iraqi military were escorting them back to Syria in a bus convoy, the New York Times reports.
• The spillover into Iraq is an alarming development, warns Middle East analyst Juan Cole. In his latest blogpost he writes:
Shia-ruled Iraq faces an on-going guerrilla war from radical Sunnis, some of them apparently now fighting in Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. In addition, the Sunni Arab population of the west and the north of the country, about a fifth of the population, has been demonstrating peacefully against the Maliki government, with large rallies, for several months. Maliki is afraid that if the Sunni radicals win Damascus, there will be severe effects on Mosul and Ramadi. Indeed, those effects may already have begun.
Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria, just one year old, is now the fastest growing al Qaeda front in the world, attracting fighters from across the Islamic world. Jabhat al Nusra, translated variously as the Victory Front or the Support Front for the Syrian People, was founded in January 2012, almost a year after the first demonstrations against the dictatorship of President Basher al Assad. It was created with the assistance of the al Qaeda franchise in Iraq that was formed nearly a decade ago during the American invasion. The Iraqi base provided a safe haven for setting up the front in Syria and still provides sanctuary for the Syrian group to this day. Read more…
The group is Jabhat al-Nusra, which was designated an al Qaeda affiliate by the United States government last month. It is led by veterans of the Iraqi insurgency “and has shown itself to be the principal force against Assad and the Shabiha,” according to the study.
CNN obtained an advance copy of the analysis, set to be released Tuesday by the Quilliam Foundation, a counterterrorism policy institute based in London.
“The civil war in Syria is a gift from the sky for al-Nusra; they are coasting off its energy,” the lead author of the report, Noman Benotman, told CNN. Read more…