Al Qaeda Reaps Rewards of U.S. Policy Failures on Syria

By Charles Lister | Senior Fellow, Director of Extremism and Counterterrorism Program - The Middle East Institute | Jul 6, 2016
Al Qaeda Reaps Rewards of U.S. Policy Failures on Syria

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Warfare and diplomacy are intrinsically linked, except when it comes to the on . While a negotiated settlement remains the only viable pathway out of the Syrian crisis, currently existing facts on the ground do not in any way allow for a meaningful process, let alone a solution. As things stand, there is no reason for to view a political process as anything less than a game in which to taunt and kill his adversaries, while compelling his allies to double-down in defense of his regime.

Nevertheless, the principal benefactor of Assad’s survival is not Assad, nor Russia, Iran, Hezbollah or even ISIS—it is Al-Qaeda. Having spent the past five years embedding itself within broader revolutionary forces and strategically choosing to limit and very slowly reveal its extremist face, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is reaping the rewards of our failures to solve the Syrian crisis. According to sources close to the group, al-Nusra has accepted more than 3,000 Syrians from Idlib and southern Aleppo into its ranks since February alone. That is an extraordinary rate of recruitment from within a territory roughly the size of Connecticut.

It is desperately unfortunate and painfully ironic that for increasing numbers of Syrians, Al-Qaeda appears to have been a more loyal protector of their lives than the United States. Civilian protection is therefore key, and widespread perceptions of the moral bankruptcy of U.S. policy on Syria in this regard has unquestionably and directly stimulated Al-Qaeda’s growth.

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