It’s worth noting that the United States and Al Qaeda are on the same side in Syria.
That’s not to deny that the government of Syria is conducting a brutal, no-holds-barred attack against a nationwide rebellion that is, increasingly, led by armed paramilitary forces and, well, terrorists.
But the Battle of Syria 2012 pits Saudi Arabia, Turkey, a bloc of Sunni Arab states, the Muslim Brotherhood and even Al Qaeda against Syria and the regime of President Bashar Assad, whose quasi-Shiite minority Alawite sect forms the core of his political power and who is backed by Shiite Iran. It’s no surprise that the United States, which swallowed Saudi Arabia’s ongoing vicious crackdown on the Shiite rebellion in the island Sunni kingdom of Bahrain, is on board with what increasingly looks like a Saudi- and Turkish-backed effort at forcible regime change in Damascus.
The latest wrinkles:
One, the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, a complacent oppositionist force there, is backing the rebellion in Syria. Although little or nothing is known about who’s leading the Syrian revolt, it’s almost certain that in cities such as Hama, Homs and Aleppo, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is leading the charge. For decades, Arab leaders such as Hosni Mubarak and Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father, warned that if they fell from power the Islamists would take over. It seems that they were right, although in Egypt today the military heirs of the Mubarak regime and trying to hold on to power while seeking a compact with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Two, the Iraqi Sunni movement, including its Al Qaeda in Iraq component, is mobilizing to support the Sunni sectarian revolt in Syria. That’s because many Iraqi Sunnis see the fall of Assad as a way of counterbalancing the Shiite, Iran-influenced regime of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. If Assad falls, Maliki is likely to come under much stronger Iranian pressure to tie Iraq to Iran more overtly, and if he doesn’t cooperate the Iranians will get rid of him and replace him with someone who’ll do so.
Three, in at least some high-profile cases Al Qaeda seems to responsible for a series of devastating bombings in Aleppo and elsewhere. One bombing in Damascus killed seventy people. A US official told the New York Times:
It comes as no surprise that Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate—through its networks in Syria—might attempt to seem relevant by going after the Assad regime.