The role of al-Qaida in Syria

Recent events involving the terrorist group al-Qaida confused Syrian scenarios. al-Quaida’s blame for Hezbollah’s attack in Lebanon and attacks against Assad are only two examples of how military groups could change the future of the conflict.

When two bombs exploded in Tripoli (Lebanon), the response given by al-Qaida chanced the way how coalitions involved in Syria could act. It brought in fact to the division of the front lines of anti-american groups, probably for the aim of the attack: a Sunni mosque. Sunni as the majority of Muslims in Maghreb, where the blame came from. As already reported: “The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which was once lauded by both Sunnis and Shias for its battles against Israel, has lost support from many Sunnis since it joined Bashar al-Assad‘s side in his fight against a majority Sunni uprising in Syria”. It’s a common phenomenon, signaled also in Iraq against the Shias government born after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Before the blame of the attack in Lebanon, al-Qaida had already moved. During the month of June, its chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri deplored Assad as a puppet of Iran, bringing to life the latent conflict with the axis of Shias Islam (Iran/Hezbollah/Assad). The first step will be – consequently – avoiding the simplifier link between Assad and anti-american sentiments: in 2011 Assad fund in accusations against al-Qaida one way to distract public opinion from repression toward rebels. Moreover, the presence of qaidist elements among opponents has been confirmed by a reliable source: Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The reason of Dempsey’s opposition to the intervention is simple: it wouldn’t assure any chance of cooperation with the U.S. A fragmentation confirmed by the events in Egypt, where Islamic and lay oppositions are now in conflict. What would be the “American side”? We don’t know. Another involvement is not therefore in United States’ prerogatives. Usually political chiefs don’t like to consider military’s opinions, but what Dempsey said is fundamental to understand interests at stake.

Before than Dempsey, CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell spoke to The Wall Street Journal, explaining the biggest worry of the American government: “The prospect of the Syrian government being replaced by al-Qaeda”. A bad prospect, in a post-conflict scenario, fulfilled with weapons and people knowing how to use them. Consequently, America would face a militarized and hostile society. More, we could imagine an al-Qaida changed with the death of Bin Laden, letting space to al-Zawahiri’s theory of far enemy and near one. “Survived by becoming regional, rather than international”, as said. Forces moved toward Syria could face this way the terrifying problem they had in Korea in 1950-1953: the prospect of never knowing who the enemy is. The choice would be shooting with the risk of hit civilians (as the U.S. made in Korea) or doing it not. With peacekeepers constrict between the fierce of fights and strict rules of engagement. As happened in Yugoslavia and Somalia where the strategy of bombing until the destruction of the country or shooting against civilians in the end prevailed.

Doubts about the responsibilities for the use of chemical weapons are now under discussion. Important scholars as Carlo Jean have been skeptical about the official version. “In the meantime, the massacres and destruction continues with impunity and the regime is triumphantly declaring victory over its opponents and gleefully celebrating the impotence of the United States” Nadim Shehadi, fellow at Oxford University said. At the contrary Jean report: “It’s really strange that Assad could had used chemical weapons with UN inspectors at home”. A false flag case? Perhaps. Surely a damage to reconstruction of a peaceful society, by letting no space to al-Qaida, as considered probable by Michael Kay on Huffington Post. But what’s the road to a pacific Syria?

Sometimes ago Renauld Girard intervened on Corriere della Sera, declaring the incompatibility of Islam and Democracy. The violence of Erdogan is one of the examples brought by Girard of such an irreducible fight. Such an ignorant thing to be said. If extremism widespread is also because of violence suffered. As Hamas exploded after the partially moderated (and lay) efforts of Al Fatah and PLO, Al-Qaida will win if Syria will be abandoned. Not a problem of Islam, but a problem of hope.

Photo: E. Arrott/VOA

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