While Syrian President/Dictator Bashar al-Assad fights for his political and military control over Syria, the supposedly heroic rebels against his repressive regime have made some…questionable friends. The Washington Post reports that James D. Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, has been noting the presence of Al Qaeda operatives within the Syrian rebel ranks:
Two bombings in Damascus in December, as well as deadly attacks on security and intelligence buildings in Aleppo last week, “had all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda-like attack,” Clapper said, adding that the network’s affiliate in Iraq “is extending its reach into Syria.”
But Clapper suggested that al-Qaeda has so far not sought to call attention to its presence, and that its operatives may have slipped into groups of fighters opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
How the United States will react to this news is not immediately clear, as enemies of the U.S. exist on both sides of the Syrian conflict. Moreover, several U.S. allies have officially withdrawn recognition from the Syrian President’s regime, while trading partners like Russia and China have been supportive of the regime. The fact that Al Qaeda operatives are apparently operating within the rebellion without the knowledge of the rebels also complicates things.
If Al Qaeda does gain a foothold in Syria, however, it will be well-positioned to forge an alliance with the Iranian government. As this website has reported, Al Qaeda’s main contact in Iran – Yasin al Suri – is himself from Syria. Ayman al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s effective leader, also recorded a video message calling on Jihadists in Syria to overturn Bashar Assad’s “secular regime.”