|Flag of Al Qaeda|
I have spoken with rebel units who told me they were offered large amounts of money, in exchange for pledging allegiance to al-Qaida. But it comes with a caveat: they can not leave. One rebel commander told me that one of his relatives had joined al-Qaida and tried to leave – but was executed for his apparent treason.Al Qaeda's ability to insinuate itself in Syria shouldn't come as a surprise: before Al Qaeda attacked America, it was at war with Russia and Assad's Syria is a Russian/Iranian client state. Further, While the majority of Syria population is Sunni, Assad's regime is Alawite, a variation on Shia. Al Qaeda is Sunni.
The government that replaces Assad might make Assad's regime seem "moderate."
The lesson that we learned in Iraq is that it is easy to topple to unpopular Arab regime but hard work to nurture a better (i.e. democratic) government. Obama's policy of destabilizing governments, such as Libya and Egypt, without doing the hard work of supporting a good replacement will likely be as disastrous as Jimmy Carter's efforts to replace the Iran's Shah with the Ayatollahs.