A high-level official in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood said on Tuesday the United States had made a “very wrong” decision by designating the militant Islamist Al-Nusra Front rebel group as a terrorist organization.
“The designation is very wrong and too hasty. I think it is too early to categorise people inside Syria this way, considering the chaos and the grey atmosphere in the country,” Farouk Tayfour, deputy leader of the group, told Reuters.
The United States has designated the radical Islamist Syrian opposition group Al-Nusra, which is suspected of ties to Al-Qaeda, as a foreign terrorist organization on Tuesday.
In an order released on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department essentially classified the group, which has advocated for an Islamic state in Syria, as an affiliate of Qaeda in Iraq.
By blacklisting Nusra, authorities now can freeze any assets the group or its members have in U.S. jurisdictions. The designation also prohibits Americans from giving it any material support.
The group has been accused by other opposition factions of indiscriminate tactics in the bloody civil war aimed at ousting President Bashar al-Assad.
“The secretary of state concludes that there is a sufficient factual basis to find that Qaeda in Iraq ... uses or has used additional aliases,” including Jabhat Nusra, the State Department statement said.
Tuesday’s action comes as U.S. officials attend the Friends of Syria meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, to discuss the 20-month-old crisis in Syria as opposition fighter groups push forward on the battlefield and move to unify the political opposition.
U.S. officials have stressed their concern about the rising influence of extremist elements in the Syrian war.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been expected to attend before falling ill with a stomach virus. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns is attending in her place.