DARAA, Syria – At first glance, all appears calm in this southern Syrian city where protests first broke out seven years ago. Residents mill around shops in preparation for the evening Iftar meal when they break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
But the tension is nonetheless palpable in this now government-controlled city. A few weeks ago, Russian-brokered reconciliation talks in southern Syria fell apart when Western-backed militants rejected a negotiated peace.
Whether there will now be a full-on battle for the south or not, visits last week to Syria’s three southern governorates, Daraa, Quneitra, and Suweida, reveal a startling possibility: al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise—the Nusra Front—appears to be deeply entrenched alongside these U.S.-backed militants in key, strategic towns and villages scattered throughout the south.
U.S. media and think tanks obfuscate this fact by referring to all opposition fighters as “rebels” or “moderates.” Take a look at their maps and you only see three colors: red for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies, green for opposition forces, black for ISIS.
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