The Connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda
In the lead up to the Iraq War, President George W. Bush used his State of the Union address to document a connection between Saddam Hussein’s government and al-Qaeda, stating, “Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda.” As the New York Times reported, one of those links between al-Qaeda and Iraq was the “presence in Baghdad” of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who “had received medical treatment in Iraq for wounds supposedly suffered in Afghanistan.” James Risen, “STATE OF THE UNION: Collecting PROOF; Bush’s Speech Puts New Focus on State of Intelligence Data,” New York Times, January 29, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/29/world/state-union-collecting-proof-bush-s-speech-puts-new-focus-state-intelligence.html.
Nearly one week after President Bush’s address, the paper reported that an “intelligence breakthrough,” gathered through interrogations and an intercepted phone call, “made it possible for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to [present evidence that] a well developed cell of al-Qaeda operating out of Baghdad that was responsible for the assassination of the American diplomat Laurence Foley last October.”Patrick E. Tyler, “Intelligence Break Led U.S. to Tie Envoy Killing to Iraq Qaeda Cell,” New York Times, February 6, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/06/world/threats-responses-terror-network-intelligence-break-led-us-tie-envoy-killing.html.
The British press was far more skeptical. As Colin Powell was set to present his case to the United Nations, the BBCreported that a leaked British intelligence report concluded there were “no current links” between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The article noted frustration among British “intelligence sources” that their work was being politicized to support the war, stating that the intelligence report’s conclusion “flatly contradicts one of the main charges” against Saddam Hussein.“Leaked Report Rejects Iraqi Al-Qaeda Link,” BBC News, February 5, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2727471.stm.
The Guardian was even more skeptical in its coverage of the Iraq–al-Qaeda link. For an article titled, “False Trails That Lead to the Al-Qaeda ‘Links’,” the outlet interviewed a former CIA analyst who said that his “sources at the CIA…are saying the evidence [of a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam] is simply not there.” The Guardian claimed that his view “summarizes what many in the intelligence community on both side of the Atlantic believe,” concluding bluntly, “The evidence on al-Qaeda is very flimsy. Claims of a meeting between an Iraqi intelligence officer and Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 suicide bombers, are shaky at best. So too is knowledge of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an alleged associate of Osama bin Laden’s, who is said to have been in Baghdad for medical treatment.”Ed Vulliamy and Martin Bright, “False Trails that Lead to the Al-Qaeda ‘Links,’” Guardian (London), February 1, 2003, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/feb/02/alqaida.iraq.
Zarqawi Pledges Allegiance to Al-Qaeda
When Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad organization pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in October 2004, the Associated Press noted that al-Qaeda and Zarqawi had been in contact for eight months, and pointed out that “[Zarqawi’s] relationship to bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership has long been the subject of considerable speculation.”“Zarqawi Movement Vows Al-Qaeda Allegiance,” Associated Press, October 18, 2004, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-10-18-iraq-alqaeda_x.htm. CNN noted that the report Colin Powell presented to the UN in 2003, which asserted a link between Zarqawi, al-Qaeda, and the Iraqi regime, “had been called into question,” and that reports of Zarqawi having his leg amputated in Iraq “appeared to have been incorrect.”“Al-Zarqawi group claims allegiance to bin Laden,” CNN, October 17, 2004, http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/17/al.zarqawi.statement.
The Associated Press also pointed out that “terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” and al-Qaeda had been in contact for eight months, though it similarly noted the “considerable speculation” that had long surrounded his relationship with the organization.“Zarqawi Movement Vows Al-Qaeda Allegiance,” Associated Press, October 18, 2004, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-10-18-iraq-alqaeda_x.htm.
The BBChedged its report by referencing the “speculation before now about whether Zarqawi and Bin Laden are allies or rivals,” and noted that, “Some reports claim the two men have little connection at all.” Furthermore, the same report cautioned that “bogus messages” had been posted on Islamic websites before, though it cited analysts who said that the pledge “may well be genuine.”David Bamford, “Zarqawi ‘Shows Bin Laden Loyalty,’” BBC News, October 18, 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3752616.stm.
In its obituary for Zarqawi, the Guardian called him the “self-styled leader” of ISI that Britons would “forever associate” with the 2004 kidnapping and beheading of British citizen Ken Bigley. The obituary stated that Zarqawi “played a pivotal, if curious role, in the US decision to invade Iraq,” but also highlighted much of Zarqawi’s brutality in Iraq, and mentioned his plan for igniting civil war between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites.Lawrence Joffe, “Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi,” Guardian (London), June 8, 2006, http://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/jun/09/guardianobituaries.alqaida.
The Associated Pressfocused very little of its immediate coverage on the legacy and background of Zarqawi. Instead, the network reported details of the airstrike that killed him, while noting that his death “was not likely to end the insurgency” because another “foreign-born militant was poised to take over the terror network’s operations.”“Al-Zarqawi Tried to Flee in Dying Moments,” NBC News, June 10, 2006, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/13222000/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/al-zarqawi-tried-flee-dying-moments/#.U58GmrHOddg.
For its part, the BBCcalled Zarqawi “Iraq’s most notorious insurgent,” but highlighted that “most information on him is restricted to what his enemies and supporters have attributed to him.” The obituary for Zarqawi also hinted that the BBC remained unsure of Zarqawi’s links to Saddam Hussein’s regime. “Intelligence reports indicated he was in Baghdad and—according to Mr. Powell—this was a sure sign that Saddam Hussein was courting al-Qaeda, which, in turn, justified an attack on Iraq.” In conclusion, the obituary surmised that, “like so much else about Zarqawi’s life, the true facts seem likely to remain shrouded in uncertainty.”“Obituary: Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi,” BBC News, June 8, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5058262.stm.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq Declines
By mid 2008, the media narrative shifted to the success of the Sunni Awakening as former insurgents turned against al-Qaeda, resulting in the decline of al-Qaeda’s strength in Iraq.
The Associated Pressquoted General David Petraeus, then-commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, as saying, “We do think that there is some assessment ongoing as to the continued viability of Al Qaeda’s fight in Iraq.”“Petraeus: Al Qaeda Could Be Shifting Focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, Pakistan,” Fox News, July 19, 2008, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/07/19/petraeus-al-qaeda-could-be-shifting-focus-from-iraq-to-afghanistan-pakistan.
When Coalition forces killed AQI’s deputy leader Abu Qaswarah in October 2008, CNNreported that the Sunni Awakening Councils had “turned against al Qaeda in Iraq, helping to diminish its presence in several parts of the country.” The article concluded by quoting military officials who said that the deputy leader’s death “will significantly degrade [ISI] operations in Mosul and northern Iraq, leaving the network without a leader to oversee and coordinate its operations in the region.”“U.S. Military: Senior Al Qaeda Chief Killed in Iraq,” CNN, October 15, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/10/15/iraq.alqaeda.leader/index.html?eref=time_world.
Deaths of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri
When Coalition forces killed top ISI leaders Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri in April 2010, Fox Newshighlighted statements from Vice President Joe Biden and General Ray Odierno regarding the organization’s status. According to Biden, the deaths of the two leaders marked a “potentially devastating” blow to the network, and the raid that killed them “demonstrates the improved security, strength and capacity of Iraqi security forces.” Odierno echoed similar sentiments, commenting, “The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency.”“2 Most Wanted Al Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Killed by U.S., Iraqi Forces,” Fox News, April 19, 2010, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/04/19/iraqi-al-qaeda-leader-killed-countrys-intelligence-team-pm-maliki-says.
The BBC noted the same comments from both men, but cautioned that “the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006 did little to slow the insurgency...The militants’ fortunes in Iraq are at a low ebb…and the deaths of its leaders are no doubt a factor in that, but there are many other elements involved too.”“Senior Iraqi Al-Qaeda Leaders ‘Killed,’” BBC News, April 19, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8630213.stm.
The Associated Presswrote, “Though al-Qaida has shown it is still capable of staging its hallmark coordinated suicide attacks against high-profile targets in the heart of the capital, U.S. and Iraqi military operations have diminished its power since the height of the violence several years ago.” Furthermore, the network described their deaths as “a significant boost for [Iraqi Prime Minister] al-Maliki, who has staked his reputation on being the man who can restore stability to Iraq after years of bloodshed.”Lara Jakes and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, “U.S.: Top Al-Qaida in Iraq Leaders Killed,” NBC News, April 19, 2010, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/36647757/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/us-top-al-qaida-iraq-leaders-killed/#.U580ObHOddg.
ISI: Neutralized or Resurgent?
In June 2010, the New York Times carried General Odierno’s reports that ISI had “lost connection” to its central leadership, and would “face difficulties as it tried to promote new officers for its efforts to topple the Iraqi government and establish havens.” That news prompted the paper to run with the headline, “Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Neutralized, U.S. Says.”Thom Shanker, “Qaeda Leaders in Iraq Neutralized, U.S. Says,” New York Times, June 4, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/05/world/middleeast/05military.html.
The Guardian offered a starkly different take. In an article just two months later, the outlet wrote that al-Qaeda was “attempting to make a comeback in Iraq” and “exploiting the imminent departure of US fighting troops” by recruiting former Sunni Awakening fighters who were disgruntled that they had not collected their paychecks for more than two months. One of the Awakening Council leaders was quoted saying, “Al-Qaida has made a big comeback here. This is my neighborhood and I know every single person living here. And I know where their allegiances lie now.”
At the end of 2011, the New York Times offered a different assessment. The paper reported in November 2011 that, as U.S. combat troops prepared to leave the country, “senior American and Iraqi officials are expressing growing concern…[that ISI] is poised for a deadly resurgence.” The paper attributed ISI’s rebound to a change in tactics, allowing it to “exploit gaps left by the departing American troops….”Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, “Leaving Iraq, U.S. Fears New Surge of Qaeda Terror,” New York Times, November 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/world/middleeast/leaving-iraq-us-fears-new-surge-of-qaeda-terror.html?pagewanted=all.
By 2012, the Associated Press reported that ISI had established training camps for insurgents in western Iraq, drawing from a pool of men who either escaped or were released from Iraq’s prisons to double in size between late 2011 and late 2012. One “Shiite” government employee that the paper interviewed said that ISI “is much stronger than what the Iraqi officials are imagining…The terrorist group is able to launch big attacks and free its members from Iraqi prisons, and this indicates that al-Qaeda is stronger than our security forces.”Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Lara Jakes, “Al-Qaida Making Comeback in Iraq, Officials Say,” Associated Press, October 9, 2012, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/al-qaida-making-comeback-iraq-officials-say.
Emerging in Syria or Regime Propaganda?
One of the problems with reporting on the Syrian civil war, especially in its early stage, was a relative dearth of media outlets actually reporting from inside the country. Journalists based in neighboring countries were still piecing together reports from accounts they were hearing from Syrian citizens on the ground and from the Syrian regime itself.
When al-Qaeda–style attacks began occurring more frequently in Syria between late 2011 and early 2012, reports from Syrian citizens and the regime tended to contradict each other entirely. When two car bombs hit the State Security Directorate in Damascus on December 23, 2011, the New York Times wrote that it “appeared to be the most brazen and deadly attack” against the Assad regime since the uprising began, and Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad remarked, “We said it from the beginning, this is terrorism…They are killing the army and civilians.” The paper also published reactions from opposition members who accused the regime of playing a role, but state that they “offered no proof for that claim.”Kareem Fahim, “Syria Blames Al Qaeda after Bombs Kill Dozens in Damascus,” New York Times, December 23, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/24/world/middleeast/syria-says-suicide-bombers-attack-in-damascus.html?_r=0.
Reporting the same news, the Guardian gave substantially more space to the opposition’s claims against the government, raising their accusations in the second paragraph of the article. The Guardian highlighted the fact that the bombs detonated “shortly after the arrival of Arab League observers” to Damascus, noting that it was the first large bombing in the capital since the uprising began. According to one opposition activist the paper interviewed, “The presence of the Arab League advance team of observers pushed the regime to give this story in order to scare the committee from moving around Syria.” Adding further skepticism to the regime’s position, the article noted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem’s prediction that the Arab League observers would “come and see that [terrorist groups] are present.”Martin Chulov and Matthew Weaver, “Syria blames al-Qaida after two car bombs kill dozens in Damascus,” Guardian (London), December 23, 2011, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/23/syria-blames-alqaida-bombs-damascus.
When the next major bombing struck on January 6, the New York Times seemed torn between which narrative to believe. The paper flatly noted that “Evidence was scant for either the government’s or the opposition’s narrative, but the bombing seemed to underline each party’s version of events: a dictatorial government so cynical as to kill its own people or a religiously inspired opposition bent on sowing anarchy in an increasingly combustible country.”Anthony Shadid, “Bomb Kills Dozens in Damascus, Stoking Suspicions,” New York Times, January 6, 2012, http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/01/07/world/middleeast/bomb-attack-in-syrian-capital-kills-25.html.
Haaretz was markedly less torn in its coverage. The Israeli newspaper opened by saying that the Syrian opposition “demanded an independent investigation” of the bombing, and then quoted “eyewitnesses” in the neighborhood who reported that “tens of ambulances were in the area approximately three hours prior” and “added that state-run news crews began their on-site coverage of the attack almost immediately after it occurred.” Meanwhile, the report gave almost no space to the government’s side of the story.Jack Khoury, “Syria Opposition Claims Assad behind Deadly Damascus Terrorist Attack,” Haaretz, January 7, 2012, http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/syria-opposition-claims-assad-behind-deadly-damascus-terrorist-attack-1.406008.
However, as bombings continued to strike Damascus and Aleppo, the media quickly turned their attention to al-Qaeda’s affiliates in the region. When car bombs hit security buildings in Aleppo in February 2012, the New York Times conceded that, while the perpetrators were still unknown, “it seemed Syria was facing the kind of violence it had long been accused of supporting in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon.” The report went as far as to say that the attacks “suggest that now foreign fighters may indeed be jumping into the conflict….”Neil MacFarquhar, “2 Security Complex Car Bombings Kill Dozens, Syria Says,” New York Times, February 10, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/11/world/middleeast/blasts-in-aleppo-syria-homs-violence-said-to-continue.html?pagewanted=all.
The day after the bombings, McClatchy cited unnamed U.S. officials who pinned responsibility on al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The report stated flatly that ISI “carried out two recent bombings” in Damascus, though noted it “likely was behind suicide bombings Friday that killed at least 28 people in the largest city, Aleppo…” According to one of the officials, the bombings in Aleppo were “[al-Qaeda leader] Zawahiri basically taking the shackles off.”Jonathan S. Landay, “U.S. Officials: Al Qaida behind Syria Bombings,” McClatchy DC, February 10, 2012, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/02/10/138593/us-officials-al-qaida-behind-syria.html.
ISI Merges with Nusra Front, Forming ISIS
When the Islamic State of Iraq merged with the Nusra Front to form the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in April 2013, the New York Times reported that the union “appeared to strengthen the role of Islamic militants in the Syrian insurgency and further complicate Western assistance efforts.” But it also highlighted pushback from the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA) in response to ISIS’s leader telling Syrians to not “make democracy a price for those thousands among you who have been killed.” An FSA spokesman retorted that, “No one has the right to impose any form of state on Syrians. Syrians will go to the polls to choose their leaders and form their own state.”Hania Mourtada and Rick Gladstone, “Iraq’s Branch of Al Qaeda Merges with Syria Jihadists,” New York Times, April 9, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/world/middleeast/Iraq-and-Syria-jihadists-combine.html.
The Financial Times also reported that the merger would increase the power of “radical Islamist factions” and also “dismay western backers of the rebellion….”Michael Peel and Borzou Daragahi, “Syria and Iraqi Radical Islamists Merge,” Financial Times, April 9, 2013, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f27707c6-a12e-11e2-990c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz34LD14Jyj. London’s Daily Telegraph noted that the U.S. designation of the Nusra Front in December 2012 showed “the ambiguous attitude of the West to the revolution in Syria.” The Telegraph also claimed that the major dilemma for Western policy was embodied by Eric Harroun, a U.S. army veteran who fought alongside the Nusra Front in Syria before a Virginia court charged him with firing a rocket-propelled grenade while fighting with a terrorist group.Richard Spencer, “Al-Qaeda in Iraq Claims Merger with Syria’s Jabhat Al-Nusra,” Daily Telegraph (London), April 9, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9982477/Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq-claims-merger-with-Syrias-Jabhat-al-Nusra.html.
Safe Haven for Foreign Fighters
During summer 2013, media outlets reported that jihadist groups had secured safe havens in Syria and posed a major terrorist threat. The New York Times reported that the West had lost an opportunity to influence the outcome of the conflict in Syria as more than 6,000 fighters had entered the country as a result of its “fear of militants coming to dominate the opposition…”.”Anne Barnard and Eric Schmitt, “As Foreign Fighters Flood Syria, Fears of a New Extremist Haven,” New York Times, August 8, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/09/world/middleeast/as-foreign-fighters-flood-syria-fears-of-a-new-extremist-haven.html?pagewanted=all.
In September, The Washington Post editorial board argued that, while U.S. members of Congress were rightfully worried that Western military action in Syria could strengthen extremists, “[T]he threat to both Syria and U.S. national interests from the jihadists” would worsen if they failed to act. As the board further noted, “…They are determined to create a safe haven for al-Qaeda in Syria…while imposing a Taliban-style fundamentalist regime.”
By October 2013, the Washington Times reported that “Syria has become al Qaeda’s largest safe haven, with more than 10,000 fighters” and “provides al Qaeda with a new base from which to attack Western targets.”Kristina Wong, “Syria Becomes Largest Home to Al Qaeda; Jihadists Find Safe Haven to Plot Attacks,” Washington Times, October 31, 2013, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/31/syria-becomes-largest-home-to-al-qaeda/?page=all.
Media coverage of rebel in-fighting has centered on ISIS’s brutal attacks against the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other local rebel brigades, which undermine rebel efforts against the Syrian regime. In July 2013, the New York Times reported that ISIS had shot and killed one of the FSA’s commanders and had beheaded several FSA foot soldiers. One FSA fighter told the paper that Syrians had “staged demonstrations to get freedom, not to have an emir ruling us.”Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “Syrian Rebel Infighting Undermines Anti-Assad Effort,” New York Times, July 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/13/world/middleeast/syrian-rebel-infighting-undermines-anti-assad-effort.html?pagewanted=all.
When ISIS battled local rebel groups in Azzaz, a group of six rebel brigades reportedly “took a jab at the strict ideology of the ISIS jihadists,” telling them not “to shed the blood of Muslims and be hasty in calling them heretics and apostates.”Ben Hubbard, “Fighting between Rebels Intensifies over a Strategic Town in Syria,” New York Times, October 3, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/04/world/middleeast/syria.html. After rebel brigades pushed ISIS out of its headquarters in Aleppo in January 2014, the New York Times highlighted opposition members “who have compared the group’s heavy-handed tactics to those of Mr. Assad’s government.” One activist said, “Now my neighborhood has been liberated twice. Once from the regime and the second time from ISIS.”Ben Hubbard, “Syrian Rebels Deal Qaeda-Linked Group a Reversal,” New York Times, January 8, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/world/middleeast/syrian-rebels-said-to-oust-qaeda-linked-group-from-its-aleppo-headquarters.html.
Al-Qaeda Central Cuts Off ISIS
When al-Qaeda leaderAyman al-Zawahri issued a statement cutting ties with ISIS in February 2014, multiple outlets interpreted the move to mean that ISIS was too extreme for its former mother organization.
CNN’sPeter Bergen wrote, “When even al Qaeda publicly rejects you because you are too brutal, it’s likely a reasonable indicator that you are.”Peter Bergen, “A Terror Group Too Brutal for Al Qaeda?” CNN, February 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/04/opinion/bergen-al-qaeda-brutality-syria. Bergen also noted that al-Qaeda’s leadership has long been concerned about alienating Muslim populations—which became apparent when Ayman al-Zawahri asked al-Qaeda in Iraq to stop killing Shiite civilians in 2005 and when Osama Bin Laden told al-Shabab “to stop attacking in the central market” of Mogadishu.”Peter Bergen, “A Terror Group Too Brutal for Al Qaeda?” CNN, February 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/04/opinion/bergen-al-qaeda-brutality-syria.
The Huffington Post explained that “[T]he blunt statement from al-Qaeda reinforced [ISIS’s] pariah status as a militant body so inflexible that it is shunned even by other hardline Islamists.”Max J. Rosenthal, “Al Qaeda Cuts off Powerful but Brutal Islamist Group in Syria,” Huffington Post, February 3, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/03/al-qaeda-isis_n_4717567.html. The article suggested that the move might isolate ISIS and boost the credibility of the Nusra Front, which “has gained a reputation as a pragmatic group” despite its “hardline Islamist doctrine.”Max J. Rosenthal, “Al Qaeda Cuts off Powerful but Brutal Islamist Group in Syria,” Huffington Post, February 3, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/03/al-qaeda-isis_n_4717567.html.
The Daily Telegraph continued with the same conclusion that al-Qaeda disavowed the group because it was “too extreme even for the organization founded by Osama bin Laden.”Ruth Sherlock, “Al-Qaeda Cuts Links with Syrian Group Too Extreme Even for Them,” Daily Telegraph (London), February 3, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10614037/Al-Qaeda-cuts-links-with-Syrian-group-too-extreme-even-for-them.html. Like the Huffington Post, it also claimed that the Nusra Front “has grown in popularity in Syria” because it has a smaller contingent of foreigners in its ranks, and “has used a more pragmatic, less dictatorial approach to imposing hardline Islamic law on the country.”Ruth Sherlock, “Al-Qaeda Cuts Links with Syrian Group Too Extreme Even for Them,” Daily Telegraph (London), February 3, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10614037/Al-Qaeda-cuts-links-with-Syrian-group-too-extreme-even-for-them.html.