– The battle over Syria has descended into sectarian strife led by extreme Salafists and other Islamic splinter organizations in a carefully orchestrated uprising coordinated and fueled by al-Qaeda operatives.
– The Syrian National Council, the main opposition group, could well be in a process of disintegration, as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) did not recognize its authority. Yet the FSA is no longer the sole force in the fight against Assad.
– As in Egypt, in Syria the Muslim Brothers have succeeded in appropriating (some would call it hijacking) the revolt and ultimately becoming its backbone. Moreover, Muslim fighters from around the globe are coming to join the ranks in the battle against Assad.
– The gradual transformation of the Syrian opposition into a movement led by extremist Muslims allied with al-Qaeda does not serve the opposition well. The majority of Syrians do not identify with those radicals. The more the opposition wears the mask of al-Qaeda, the more there is cohesion in the ranks around Assad.
– Recent street fighting in Tripoli, Lebanon, between Alawites and Sunnis is a reflection of the wider war between two alliances, with Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah opposed by an alliance led by Saudi Arabia and its allies, including its Salafist and Muslim fundamentalist troops.
– In addition, the battle over the future of Syria is symptomatic of the revival of the Cold War between the West – with the U.S., UK, France, and Turkey backing the anti-Assad forces – and Russia, steadfast behind the Alawite regime.
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence