When is a terrorist group not a terrorist group? Apparently when US foreign policy requires it not to be. This is precisely the case regarding Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch – Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) – the most recent rebrand of Jabhat Al Nusra – which currently occupies the northern Syrian governorate of Idlib.
The US corporate media has recently attempted to generate public sympathy for HTS – as well as animosity toward Syrian, Russian, and Iranian forces seeking to liberate the supposedly one million people trapped under the terrorist organization’s rule.
Another factor behind US media support for HTS is the necessity to explain why NATO member Turkey is providing direct military and material support for a US-designated terrorist organization, and why the US itself is in turn providing Turkey support to do so.
Articles have appeared in Newsweek – for example – framing Russian opposition to negotiations with HTS as negative – and echoing US State Department efforts to support the terrorist organization despite it appearing on Washington’s official Foreign Terrorist Organization designation list.
The article titled, “Russia Warns Against Any U.S. Talks with Militant Group It’s Bombing in Syria,” is actually referring to Al Qaeda’s HTS front when it refers to the “militant group” Russia is bombing in Syria.
Newsweek places Russian statements regarding the US designation of HTS as a terrorist organization in quotes as if to question the veracity of the claim.
However, a visit to the US State Department’s own website reveals a 2018 statement titled, “Amendments to the Terrorist Designations of al-Nusrah Front,” which openly admits:
The Department of State has amended the designation of al-Nusrah Front – an al-Qa’ida affiliate in Syria – to include Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other aliases. These aliases have been added to al-Nusrah Front’s designations as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224.
In January 2017, al-Nusrah Front launched the creation of HTS as a vehicle to advance its position in the Syrian uprising and to further its own goals as an al-Qa’ida affiliate.