International Concern Over Islamic Militants in Syria Increasing


Things are looking increasingly grim for Assad's regime. Russia, one of the Syrian government's closest allies, recently evacuated many of its citizens from the war-torn country, and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Assad's chances of staying in power are "slipping away" at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos. Although the Syrian government is losing support Assad's potential downfall leaves the international community with some concerns.

Assad's opponents include Islamic militants, some of whom have links to Al Qaeda. There are worries that a post-Assad Syria could provide an ideal theatre in which these Jihadist groups could operate. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius recently voiced these concerns. From Reuters:

Addressing the opening of a conference in Paris with senior members of the Syrian National Coalition, Laurent Fabius said the meeting must focus on making the opposition politically and militarily cohesive to encourage international assistance.

"Facing the collapse of a state and society, it is Islamist groups that risk gaining ground if we do not act as we should," he said. "We cannot let a revolution that started as a peaceful and democratic protest degenerate into a conflict of militias."

Officials in Israel are also concerned. Iron Dome defense systems have been deployed to northern Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent national security adviser Ya'akov Amidror to Moscow for talks on the situation in Syria. One of the main concerns is that chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic militants. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom has said that Israeli air strikes could be used to stop chemical weapons being acquired by either Al Qaeda-linked militants or members of Hezbollah fighting for the Assad regime.

Israeli strikes on fighters sympathetic to Assad could result in Iran getting involved. A few days ago an aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that an attack on Syria would be viewed as an attack on Iran. While the conflict in Syria is being portrayed as a civil war the reality is a little more complicated. Last month, The Independent reported that fighters from as many as 29 countries are involved in the Syrian conflict. The involvement of fighters from so many countries only adds to the unpredictable nature of the conflict, as does the increased potential involvement of Iran and Israel. Considering the complex international situation in Syria and the fact that Israel and Iran have already mentioned intervention it would be best not to send additional support to the Syrian opposition, despite what Sen. John McCain (R-AZ.) might think.