Friday, December 6, 2013

US Concerned al-Qaida may Establish Syrian Base

by Yoni Hirsch

New York Times report: Security community in the United States fears an al-Qaida base in Syria would threaten both Israel and Europe • New jihadi network appears to be spreading from Libya to Yemen • Obama administration's optimism unfounded.

Jihadi fighters in Syria
Photo credit: AFP

The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East has created new opportunities for terror organizations and is raising concerns in the American security community that terrorists identified with al-Qaida will create a base in Syria, threatening both Israel and Europe, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

According to the report, the new signs of a jihadi network, which spreads from Libya in the west to Yemen in the east, cast a shadow over the Obama administration's optimism that al-Qaida was weakening and the war on terror was in the final stretch. 

The heads of the intelligence committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), admitted on Sunday in an interview with CNN that the United States is not any safer from terror attacks than it was in 2011, when Osama bin Laden was assassinated. 

"To the extent that I am concerned about al-Qaida the brand, it's that it is clearly expanding its affiliates, both in number and in some cases in capability," chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told The New York Times. The report suggested that the American concern stems in part from an intercepted message from al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, in which he had said that he saw in Syria the potential for a terror base.

Experts believe this will force the Obama administration to implement more active policies to counter the threat posed by extremist rebel groups. The problem with this is that harming rebel groups could sabotage attempts to depose President Bashar Assad. 

"We need to start talking to the Assad regime again" about counterterrorism and other issues of shared concern, Ryan C. Crocker, a veteran diplomat who has served in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan told The New York Times. "It will have to be done very, very quietly. But bad as Assad is, he is not as bad as the jihadis who would take over in his absence."

Yoni Hirsch


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