Is David Cameron planning to include al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra in his group of ‘70,000 moderates?’
Right on cue, on the Lebanese border on 1 December, dressed in black ski masks and waving the al-Qaeda Jabhat al-Nusra flag, came “moderates” to hand over 16 captured Lebanese soldiers and policemen in return for 13 of their own – including the ex-wife of the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
All eyes, of course, were on Saja, the young woman from the Iraqi Dulaimi tribe, whose brother is the bodyguard of the “caliph” of the so-called Islamic State, but whose marriage apparently lasted only two months. One of the three sons she shepherded to freedom with her is Baghdadi’s child
But the real story lay behind the prisoner exchange – and Nusra’s claim to be a moderate force in Syria. For it was Qatar, a source of financial support to Nusra, which negotiated the swap, along with General Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security and the most powerful man in Lebanon. The general has been travelling to Doha on the Emir of Qatar’s private jet for months to seek the lives of his soldiers and policemen who were seized in the border town of Arsal in August of last year. Four were executed in captivity by Nusra; a soldier’s body was also released by the group on 1 December.