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The rise of radical Islamists in Syria came as attempts by Western and Arab countries to support moderate anti-Assad groups failed to unite the opposition or bolster the rebel Free Syrian Army, led mainly by former Assad army officers. Instead, what began as a peaceful uprising turned into a war involving about 1,200 groups, according to U.S. intelligence estimates. Now, some of them have turned against each other.
“They’re a problem now and they will be a big challenge in the next stage,” Sieda said by phone from Istanbul. “If the Free Syrian Army is given proper support properly it will undermine them, but if the Free Syrian Army is not properly backed, these groups will thrive.”
The conflict in Syria is more than a nation rising up against a tyrannical leader. Both sides have ties to terrorism and that means that whoever wins, the United States loses.
Last week, General Salim Idris, the head of the Supreme Military Command, made this point for the first time in a little-noticed interview he gave to al-Arabiya, about a fortnight or so after one of his deputy commanders was shot in the chest by the coastal emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Iraqi-based al-Qaeda syndicate now highly active in Syria. In the course of explaining how these “foreigners” were generally #ing up the noble rebel cause, Idris let slip this comment: “We refuse them strongly because unfortunately they work with the regime of the criminal Bashar al-Assad.”