(NEW YORK) — A major al Qaeda group is sabotaging efforts by the international community to end the 31-month conflict in Syria, a State Department official told The New York Times.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime but at the same time, creating havoc for moderate rebel forces, the unidentified official said.
When Assad began his crackdown against opposition forces in March 2011, they were largely Syrians seeking democratic rights. However, Syria has become more destabilized since then, allowing many jihadists to join the fray.
These militias, which have different goals than Syrians fighting for government reform, have allowed Assad to label his enemies as “terrorists” supported by outside regimes.
As a result, the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other radical Islamists will make negotiating a peaceful settlement to the conflict more difficult, according to the official. It was announced that talks are supposed to get underway in Geneva on Nov. 23.
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