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The Syrian opposition, the mainstream rebels and their western backers are facing serious challenges after the Iraqi wing of al-Qaida terror network extended its reach into Syria and declared establishment of an Islamic state that combines Iraq and Syria.
On Tuesday, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaida franchise in Iraq, declared the merging with the radical group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is currently operative on Syrian soil.
"It is time to declare to the Levantine people and the whole world that al-Nusra is merely an extension and part of the Islamic State of Iraq," al-Baghdadi said in an audio message posted onto jihadist websites on Tuesday.
The Syrian government has repeatedly warned that al-Qaida had been capitalizing on the current crisis in Syria and that it was behind the explosions and disturbances nationwide.
In his audio message, al-Baghdadi said the disclosure came a little late for two reasons: security concerns and a desire for Syrians to get to know Jabhat al-Nusra for their own without prejudgments based on previous perceptions toward the group.
The merging declaration came also two days after the central leader of al-Qaida Ayman al-Zawahiri urged unification of jihad in Syria.
On Wednesday, the leader of al-Nusra in Syria Abu Mohammed al-Jawalani pledged allegiance to al-Zawahiri. Even though he said his group hadn't been consulted on the merger with al-Qaida beforehand, al-Jawalani appeared to have formally accepted it considering his vow of allegiance to the universal terror group.
The declaration has placed the Syrian opposition and the mainstream rebels before a dilemma as their two-year-old uprising that aims to reach a democratic and plural state seems now hijacked by jihadist groups wanting to fulfill their dream of an Islamic state.
The Syrian opposition's Western backers, mainly the United States, are now in the same spot with the opposition, facing two choices: either to continue supporting the opposition at the risk that their aid might fall in the hands of jihadists; or to push regional countries to chock off the routes from which most of those fighters are pouring into Syria.
Bassam Abu-Abdalla, a political analyst and head of political research center, said the recent development "puts the international community before difficult challenges and clear choices: either to continue to support the rebel groups or to realize that and declare that Syria is fighting al-Qaida."
He told Xinhua that the declaration is "an escalation toward a new phase," adding that Syria and Iraq must partake in controlling the situation.
Head of the National Coordination Body Hasan Abdul-Azim told Xinhua that such a move will not succeed due to the lack of supportive climate in Syria.
"It will not succeed. They will not find a supportive environment in Syria and will eventually have to pull out," he said.
"That is their dream to establish an Islamic emirate. Syrian people want to liberate from tyranny and corruption and want to choose their own leadership, but al-Qaida's declaration contradicts the dreams of the Syrian people," said Abdul-Azim.
Also, Loai al-Miqdad, the political and media coordinator of the rebels' Free Syrian Army, said recently that the Free Army " doesn't work in coordination with the Jabhat al-Nusra and has no ideological relation with it."
Al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for most of the fatal bombings targeting civilians and government institutions across Syria after the outbreak of the country's political conflict in early 2011. Damascus has repeatedly warned of the growing threat of such groups not only to Syria, but the entire region as well.