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Syrian rebel force to receive Saudi arms has worked with al-Qaeda group

The leader of the Saudi-backed rebel Southern Front, which Riyadh intends to arm with advanced weaponry, has openly collaborated with al-Qaeda during the course of the Syria war.
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According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia, apparently with US backing, has agreed to provide advanced weaponry, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, to a newly formed “Southern Front” of the Syrian rebellion under the leadership of Bashar al-Zoubi. Zoubi is the commander of the Yarmouk Brigade, a powerful rebel formation operating in the region of Daraa, near the Jordanian border. The choice to arm Zoubi and his fighters was reportedly made to the detriment of the Islamic Front, a coalition of rebel formations operating in the north, and on the assumption that the arms provided to the Southern Front would be less likely to “fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-inspired groups.”

If this is indeed the calculation of Washington and its regional allies, the problem with it is that Zoubi’s Yarmouk Brigade — like elements of the Islamic Front in the north — has been known to collaborate with none other than Jabhat al-Nusra. Jabhat al-Nusra is not merely “al-Qaeda-inspired.” It is the jihadist faction in Syria that is officially recognized as an al-Qaeda affiliate by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri. It was designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department in December 2012.

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