U.S., Allies Reach Out to Syria's Islamist Rebels

(Wall Street Journal) Stacy Meichtry, Ellen Knickmeyer and Adam Entous - The U.S. and its allies have held direct talks with key Islamist militias in Syria, Western officials say, aiming to undercut al-Qaeda while acknowledging that religious fighters long shunned by Washington have gained on the battlefield. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is moving to directly arm and fund one of the Islamist groups, Jaish al-Islam, the Army of Islam. The Saudis and the West are pivoting toward a newly created coalition of religious militias called the Islamic Front, which excludes the main al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria - the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). The shift reveals the West's failure to unite Syria's rebels under the banner of a secular opposition force capable of toppling the Assad regime. The critical difference between the two camps of Islamists is that al-Qaeda's avowed enemies include not just Assad, but the West and its allies, including the Saudi monarchy.

2013-12-05 00:00:00

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