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The U.S. recently joined dozens of other countries in recognizing the Syrian opposition. This was the same day it listed one rebel group, Jabhat al-Nusra, as a terrorist organization with ties to Al Qaeda.
Although the U.S. has not committed troops to Syria, the administration has hardly been quiet on the issue. The USS Eisenhower was moved off the coast of Syria a few days before Hillary Clinton insisted that Assad step down. Back in October as many as 150 “planners” were sent to Jordan to help with the refugee crisis and prepare to act in case Assad’s regime used chemical weapons. The Syrian government has since looked even more likely to use the weapons, although Defense Secretary Panetta has recently downplayed the chances.
While Assad may well be an unpleasant actor in an unstable region, the administration has been too eager to support his opposition. As bad as Assad may be it is far from obvious that his opponents are saints. As mentioned above, there are Islamic extremists in the opposition's ranks, some of whom are fighting with weapons that the U.S. sent to Libya to help overthrow Gaddafi.
Assad is being supported by Shiite Hezbollah, and is enjoying additional support from Russia and Iran. The rebels are a mixture of many different groups including Sunni Islamic extremists and Kurdish nationalists. As tragic as the situation may be, the conflict remains one in which the U.S. is destined to anger and provoke unpleasant elements that could haunt us later.