In other words, those who work with al-Nusra Front even if they do so from time to time are de facto not moderate – whether they are described as such or not.
"The Obama Administration thus continues with the fiction that there are completely separate, vetted, moderate rebels who are dedicated to creating an inclusive, multi-cultural, multi-confessional, secular and democratic Syria as soon as both [Daesh] and the Assad government are defeated," political analyst Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, noted ironically.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the US to convince those rebel groups which they support in Syria to leave areas where al-Nusra Front militants are present. The Americans "are telling us not to hit [al-Nusra Front], because there is 'normal' opposition next to it," the diplomat said. "But that opposition must leave terrorists' positions, we long have agreed on that."
In fact, this agreement was reached months ago, but it has not been implemented yet, making counterterrorism efforts in Syria less efficient.
#Lavrov: Americans have not implemented their February 2016 promise to divide the patriotic opposition from Jabhat al-Nusra on the ground— MFA Russia (@mfa_russia) 26 мая 2016 г.
#Lavrov: The territorial contiguity of the opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra affects the effectiveness of counter-terrorist operations in Syria— MFA Russia (@mfa_russia) 26 мая 2016 г.
Interestingly, both Moscow and Washington view al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization. In this context, distancing itself from al-Qaeda's offshoot should have been a non-issue for what Russian officials often have referred to as "patriotic" opposition. Why are they not severing ties will al-Qaeda then?
"To be sure, it has been clear for years that the US-allied anti-Assad rebels in Syria lean on al-Qaeda's military prowess for their survival. Some US officials stress that Nusra and opposition forces currently are working together on occasion and that such cooperation is not born out of shared ideology but practical wartime necessity," the Daily Beast asserted.
But what wartime necessity could justify killing civilians? For instance, in May, al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, a group that the US considers to be moderate, killed 19 civilians in a joint attack on the Alawite village of Zara, located in the Hama province.
"They killed elderly people, took children and women as captives," Abdou Khalifa, a villager wounded in the attack, told RT last month. Another villager, Munzer Qasem, referred to the attack as a massacre. "I heard of two or three entire families killed. Abu Naval's family was killed. He was an old man and was killed together with his daughters. They were slaughtered in their own house."
In the last few days they have launched attacks on Aleppo, Syria's second largest city, as well as Ard al-Wata, Rasha and Kinsibba in the Latakia province, Tesnin in the Homs province, Marj al-Sultan in the Damascus province and the northern region of al-Manshiya neighborhood in the Daraa province.
The latest assaults claimed the lives of more than 270 civilians.
"Why is no one asking why … moderates would want to associate themselves with al-Qaeda in the first place? Why do they seek to integrate into al-Qaeda command structures? How are they not to be considered ducks when they walk like ducks and quack like ducks?" Daniel McAdams asked.