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Al-Qaeda Surges in Syria—U.S. Watches, Worries, Waffles

We’ve written before about what a patchwork mess of competing interests the Syrian resistance is. Today, we hear news that one of the rebel groups previously partnered (however loosely) with the Free Syrian Army may have connections to al-Qaeda and is claiming responsibility for some overnight blasts at an intelligence compound on the outskirts of Damascus.

The attacks have highlighted a worrisome theme in the Syrian conflict, in which Sunni extremist groups like the Nusra Front, some of which are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda, are claiming responsibility for deadly attacks on government targets, including suicide bombings, with increasing frequency. While the main opposition fighting force, the Free Syrian Army, has denied any ties to such groups, their presence has strengthened President Bashar al-Assad’s argument that the nearly 19-month-old uprising is being orchestrated by terrorists.

Loyal Via Meadia readers know our refrain by now: doing nothing is an active policy choice, with real consequences for U.S. interests in the region. By doing nothing decisive, we’re ceding ground to be bad guys in the resistance. There is plenty of money going to the extremists, and their networks (not destroyed or ‘back on their heels’) of fighters and funders are working overtime.  By not trying to find reliable partners to cooperate with among the rebels and giving them the tools to get the job done, we are ceding ground to al-Qaeda in whatever shape post-Assad Syria takes. And the longer the war goes on, the stronger the bad guys are, the more fragile Syria’s structures become, and the more hate, bitterness and suspicion there is for the bad guys to work with.

This war needs to end. The sooner the better.

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