August 23, 2012

What is Al Qaeda doing in Syria?

That question has recently moved to the forefront of the West’s debate over how to respond to the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — the bloodiest, most protracted and most explosive revolt of the Arab Spring.

Reports from Western officials, militant Islamist Web sites, neighboring countries and, to a limited extent, inside the Syrian opposition indicate that Al Qaeda and homegrown militants are joining the fight and competing for influence. And that poses a vexing question for American policy makers and politicians. So far, all sides of the debate in Washington have called for supporting the insurgency, and the only question is how much. The Obama administration talks of diplomacy and economic sanctions, while some Republicans push to provide weapons to the insurgents. Is the United States acting side by side with Al Qaeda?

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