Report: White House weighs sanctions against Syrian rebel groups

Pentagon and State Department officials are reportedly looking at placing Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) on the terror list, with a decision coming as soon as next week during a scheduled visit to the Mideast by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to Reuters. 

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Clinton is slated to visit Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates as part of the trip, which is designed to drum up regional support for rebel forces in Syria battling against government troops loyal to president Bashar Assad. 

Like the Haqqani Network before them, members of Jabhat al-Nursa would be banned from receiving any material support from the U.S. citizens and would have any assets located in U.S. territories frozen if the group is placed on the list. 

In May, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) lobbied hard to have the Haqqani Network put onto the State Department's terrorist list. 

Prior to their efforts, State Department officials had held off placing the organization on the terror list, due to strong objections by Islamabad. 

Operating along Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan, the Haqqani network is closely allied with the Afghan arm of the Taliban and is responsible for a number of attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in the country.

Jabhat al-Nursa, a known al Qaeda affiliate, have been carrying out strikes against Assad's forces with the support of Turkish forces near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo according to recent reports. 

The group's addition to the U.S. terror list is the latest effort by Washington to tamp down on extremist elements within the Syrian resistance. 

The growing influence by al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups fighting alongside Syria's rebels is one of the main reasons why Washington has been hesitant to supply arms directly to rebel forces. 

In October, a classified U.S. review found the majority of small arms and munitions already sent to Syrian rebels by Arab nations have fallen into the hands of terror groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and others. 

Those reports in October coincided with news that formerly disparate groups of al Qaeda militants operating in Syria are now coordinating themselves into functional terror cells. 

That type of consolidation among al Qaeda forces in the country could lead to the growth of al Qaeda faction in Syria, akin to those headquartered in Yemen, Africa and Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence. 

The Defense Department continues to argue that al Qaeda militants have not infiltrated the rebels' ranks, but that scenario could change quickly if rebel leaders decide to open up their forces to the terror group.