The U.S. Special Operations Command hosted Mouaz Moustafa, an American Islamist who urged U.S. policymakers to embrace the Islamic Front in 2013, at their Tampa headquarters on Thursday, a post on his Facebook page shows. The Islamic Front's charter called for replacing the Assad regime with an Islamic theocracy ruled by shariah law.
Moustafa heads the Syrian Emergency Taskforce (SETF), an organization that lobbies on behalf of anti-Assad rebels. SETF organized U.S. Sen. John McCain's May 2013 Syria trip. SETF also enjoyed close ties with the Obama State Department.
"The focus now is to depose the regime and kick out people like Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and others that are killing us. And so that's the best way to describe their ideology," Moustafa said in 2013. "I think the international community and the West ... must engage with the Islamic Front and need to be more pragmatic and realistic about what is going on ground in Syria in order to bring them on board with whatever political solution will happen in the future."
The Islamic Front was a coalition of rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham (aka "the Syrian Taliban"), Suquor al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam, Ansar al-Shariah, Tawhid Brigade, and Liwa Al-Haqq. Suquor al-Sham and Liwa al-Haqq have since merged with Ahrar al-Sham.
Ahrar al-Sham remains one of the most important factions in Syria's ongoing civil war. Its founder, Abu Khalid Al-Suri, acted as al-Qaida leader Ayman Zawahiri's right-hand man there. Late Ahrar al-Sham leader Hasan Aboud condemned democracy, calling it a "sword hanging on everyone that Western powers want." He preferred establishing a caliphate under shariah law.
Jaish al-Islam also engaged in atrocities, including beheading captive ISIS fighters while forcing them to dress in uniforms similar to "Jihadi John." In one instance, Jaish al-Islam executed and subsequently crucified a man it accused of cursing God, practicing witchcraft, taking drugs, committing adultery and kidnapping. Images of the executed man's crucified, decapitated body were circulated online.
Groups comprising the Islamic Front also fought alongside Jabhat al-Nusra prior to Moustafa's request for the Obama administration to work with the jihadist coalition.