To U.S. Allies, Al Qaeda Affiliate in Syria Becomes the Lesser Evil

Foreign policy insanity at it’s worst:

In the three-way war ravaging Syria, should the local al Qaeda branch be seen as the lesser evil to be wooed rather than bombed?

This is increasingly the view of some of America’s regional allies and even some Western officials. In a war now in its fifth year, in which 230,000 people have been killed and another 7.6 million uprooted, few good options remain for how to tackle the crisis.

The three main forces left on the ground today are the Assad regime, Islamic State and an Islamist rebel alliance in which the Nusra Front—an al Qaeda affiliate designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and the United Nations—plays a major role.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the more secular, Western-backed rebels have found themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with Nusra in key battlefields. As the Assad regime wobbles and Islamic State, or ISIS, gains ground in both Syria and Iraq, reaching out to the more pragmatic Nusra is the only rational choice left for the international community, supporters of this approach argue…

…Yet, with Islamic State on the offensive, Washington is likely to go “pretty far” in tolerating the budding collaboration between its regional allies and Nusra, said U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who retired two years ago as NATO’s supreme allied commander.

“It is unlikely we are going to operate side by side with cadres from Nusra, but if our allies are working with them, that is acceptable. If you look back to World War II, we had coalitions with people that we had extreme disagreements with, including Stalin’s Russia,” said Mr. Stavridis, now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston.


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