July 12, 2013
Reports of tensions between the two sides have been ongoing for more than a year now, ever since al-Qaeda-linked groups first joined the largely secular rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.
On the face of it, that alliance of convenience always seemed doomed to failure. After 40 years of secular Baathist rule under the Assad regime, ordinary Syrian Arabs had little obvious common cause with religious extremists, and plenty of very fresh memories of the horrors they inflicted next door in post-Saddam Iraq.
But war also brings out the devout element in many people, and given the rebels’ limited access to weapons, offers of help from well-equipped jihadis with skills honed against the mighty US army were unlikely to be turned down.