The Barack Obama administration’s designation of Jabhat al-Nusra asserts that the group is an extension of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — merely one of the terrorist organization’s aliases. Whether this is the case or whether the administration is issuing the designation as part of a political effort to convince the opposition to shun Jabhat al-Nusra, the move will likely fail to marginalize the group at this juncture. Following the fall of the regime, however, it could help sideline the most destructive influences trying to gain a foothold in post-Assad Syria.

The reaction among anti-Assad Syrians was perhaps best captured by an image that appeared on Facebook shortly after news of the planned designation broke last week. In the picture, residents of the northwestern town of Kafr Anbel hold up a poster showing Obama pointing accusingly toward a flag associated with Jabhat al-Nusra, saying “Terrorism.” Behind the U.S. president, however, is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad standing triumphant on a pile of murdered Syrian civilians…

Opposition to the designation is only gaining momentum within Syria’s anti-Assad groups. The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was the face of the revolution until being superseded by a new coalition, released a statement rejecting the move. The SNC, which still maintains considerable influence in opposition politics, goes on to explain that the Assad regime’s massacres are the true terrorism in Syria today. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood also stated that the decision to designate Jabhat al-Nusra was “very wrong.” The recently elected chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army, Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss, piled on, saying Jabhat al-Nusra was not a terrorist organization, and “depend on young, educated Syrians” for their efforts.