"Before the revolution, there were no Al Qaeda here," says Abu Mohammed, the doctor. "When this regime makes these crimes, they come, and come to help.
"The US says their [pro-democracy line only]; Al Qaeda says, 'We will help.' So what do we do, smile to the US and kick out Al Qaeda?" he adds. "The longer [the war] takes, the more of them there will be."
Strategically, the US also sees through the prism of Afghanistan in the 1980s, when the CIA provided Stinger missiles and training to anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters, only to watch them eventually morph into anti-American militant groups such as Al Qaeda.
The geopolitical stakes are high in Syria, too, where Russian, Chinese, and Iranian support for the regime – along with that of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah – has ensured the longest and most lethal anti-regime battle so far of the Arab uprisings.