Al-Qaeda in Syria, A Dangerous Development – RantAWeek

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Al-Qaeda in Syria, A Dangerous Development

Posted by Tyler Miksanek on July 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Westerners have tended to side with the rebels in Syria in their fight against Assad’s government.  The rationale is simple: Westerners view the rebels as freedom fighters and Assad as a dictatorial figure.  But these empathetic feelings may soon disappear.

Suspicions of al-Qaeda working in support of the rebels have been growing.  If al-Qaeda gains influence within voids created by a weakening Assad government, Syria could become a breeding ground for terrorism.

This creates a problem for the U.S. and other Western nations.  Theoretically, as nations pledged to democracy, they should support the ousting of an autocrat.  However, the collapse of Assad’s regime may only serve to further destabilize the region and further the spread of extremists.  The possibility of democracy is coupled with a threat of instability.

Up until now, the United States has appeared supportive of policies that allow the rebels to obtain arms through the Turkish-Syrian border.  However, the news of al-Qaeda influence gives the U.S. reason to double think that strategy.  A few decades ago, similar policies allowed the Taliban to obtain guns in order to combat the Soviets in Afghanistan.  Fast forward twenty years, and the U.S. government regretted that decision.  U.S. military leaders will not want to make the same mistake with Syria.

Then again, stopping Syrian rebels from receiving arms only serves to tip the fight towards Assad.  To fix this, the United States also has the option of trying to establish stronger diplomatic relations with the rebellion’s leadership.  The rebellion is actually based in Turkey, and since both the U.S. and Turkey have taken a strong stance against Assad, the two countries share a mutual interest in a strong but al-Qaeda free rebellion.

However, it is not exactly clear how much control rebel leaders headquartered in Turkey have on ground operations in Syria.  The U.S. has no way of telling if the rebellion’s leaders would have a way to successfully remove al-Qaeda influence from the rebellion.  And since the extent of al-Qaeda’s reach is still a mystery, the U.S. does not even know how widespread the problem is.

Because of the many unknowns still surrounding the situation, no extreme action should be expected in the short term.  Still, the danger a nascent al-Qaeda influence presents will likely impact international reactions in regards to the Syrian conflict.  Actions by the international community against Assad are more difficult when the alternative is just as scary.

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  • On July 26, 2012 at 8:21 am Betsy Dudak said

    So when do you guys have time to post this? You’re supposed to be enjoying CAMP! Just saying…


  • On August 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm Talan Tyminski said

    I second that, is this what you guys were doing after sign in? I’m not sure if I should be proud or shocked at your choice of sleep depravation. That being said, I’m curious. US and Western nations don’t exactly have the best track record for supporting democracy (Brazil ’64, Congo ’64, DR ’65, Iran ’79) While outright supporting Assad would have negative political ramifications, is the only reason they’re siding with the rebels one of image? On a larger scale should the US/ Western nations consider supporting not Assad but his government with a forced reform? Especially with the IRG members found within Syria could supporting the rebels lead to another Lebanon or worse, Iraq? It’s just super interesting. If Huntington is right and WLD is the last ideology is it a natural shift or a forced one? Alright, sorry I just needed to muse on democracy building but for real super cool guys I love that you have a blog!


    • On August 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm Tyler Miksanek said

      I think one of the reasons Western governments tend to side with groups like the Syrian rebels is that they (often mistakenly) believe that their support will give them better control over the post-transition period. The forced reform question is tricky, as it would probably need to be implemented by the U.N. Security Council. But not only would Russia and China then have to be on board, Assad himself, the rebels and Syrian civilians would all have to accept the implementation as well.


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