There’s no shortage of players acting in bad — or at least, questionable — faith in Syria. First, of course, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad; then the Islamic State — choose your poison. On another level, Russia, the United States, and France.
At the National Interest, Daniel DePetris writes about a player too often overlooked.
… with all of the concentration on the Islamic State, another highly significant and dangerous terrorist organization is operating largely under the radar: Jabhat al-Nusra [which] shares the same … interpretation of Islam as ISIL, despises any and all sectarian groups outside of Syria’s majority Sunni community and has engaged in the same kind of atrocities [as the Islamic State].
… some of Nusra’s key commanders were originally members of ISIL’s predecessor group, the Islamic State of Iraq.
Before the Islamic State was operating on the ground in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra was carrying out highly lethal terrorist attacks in the heart of the Assad regime’s territory. The first [likely] attack that the international media picked up [was] a double-suicide bombing in front of Syria’s State Security Directorate and an army office in Damascus, killing 44 civilians in the process. In May 2012, another suicide bombing in Damascus claimed 55 lives.
The Islamic State is more interested in attacking other rebel groups, and lately, the West. Whereas Jabhat al-Nusra
… continues to specialize in the kinds of attacks that other opposition groups in Syria are either unwilling or incapable of executing: strikes at the source of the Syrian regime’s military power.
In other words, should the Islamic State be destroyed or the Assad regime toppled, Jabhat al-Nusra will be waiting in the wings.