WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has formally designated a rebel group fighting in Syria as a terrorist organization in an effort to marginalize the Al Qaeda affiliate and reduce its chances of gaining power should the Syrian government fall.
Blacklisting Al Nusra Front is one of several diplomatic moves planned by the administration to try to maneuver moderate opposition groups into position to shape a pro-Western government if President Bashar Assad is ousted.
U.S diplomats are to take another step toward that end Wednesday at a meeting in Morocco, where the U.S. is expected to formally recognize a recently formed coalition of rebel groups — the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces — as Syria’s legitimate government-in-waiting.
“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime,” President Obama told ABC News on Tuesday in advance of the Morocco meeting.
U.S. officials acknowledge, however, that the umbrella group has limited influence with the dozens of insurgent groups that have emerged in Syria’s nearly 21-month-old civil war.