And increasing evidence points toward the arrival in the country of jihadist fighters from Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and elsewhere. There is consensus among American and Western intelligence services that Al Qaeda fighters have reached Syria and have joined the fray.
So far, there have been 11 car bombings in Syria, some of which were coordinated attacks that killed hundreds of civilians and security personnel. Although it is difficult to ascertain the identity of the perpetrators, Al Qaeda’s alleged involvement is not surprising. The raging war in Syria has taken a sectarian Sunni-Shiite bent, which allows Al Qaeda, a Sunni-based movement, to exploit and position itself as a defender of the Sunni community. Most media accounts that assert either the existence of absence of AL Qaeda in Syria are speculative and, on balance, tend to be ideologically driven.
The current leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has publicly called on jihadists to journey to Syria, fight against the apostate Assad regime, and defend persecuted Sunnis. “Don’t depend on the West and Turkey, which had deals, mutual understanding, and sharing with this regime for decades and only began to abandon it after they saw it faltering,” he said in a video message released in February. Urging Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey to join the uprisings, he said, “Instead, depend on Allah alone and then on your sacrifices, resistance, and steadfastness.”