(NEW YORK) — Tuesday’s announcement by the main al Qaeda group in Iraq that it merged with the top al Qaeda-linked group in Syria appeared pretty cut and dried.
By Wednesday, however, there were questions about whether the Islamic State of Iraq had jumped the gun because of a cryptic statement by Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani.
While not necessarily denying that the two militant organizations had merged, al-Golani seemed to reject the banner of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” that his Iraqi counterpart had given the two groups. Al-Golani only pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Golani said the Nusra Front, which has been fighting in Syria to depose President Bashar al-Assad’s government, would keep its name while upholding its mission.
Still, the merger, in whatever form it takes, is problematic to the U.S. and the West because it means possibly having to deal with terrorist organizations running Syria if al-Assad is overthrown.
Furthermore, the combination of al Qaeda groups gives al-Assad more ammunition in his contention that the insurgency is run by foreign-backed terrorists instead of a popular movement to bring democracy to Syria.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN
Holly Yan, David Williams and Steve Almasy, CNN
Sugam Pokharel and Tim Hume, CNN
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN