Barack Obama: way behind, but hardly leading, in Syria

Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal tells us that the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group, has taken control of the last major Syrian Army base in western Aleppo. The base is believed to be involved in Syria’s chemical weapons program. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported last month that the base “contained clandestine scientific research whose purpose was unknown even to the rank and file,” according to a Syrian soldier who defected. Last week, moreover, the Al Nusrah Front took control of a chlorine factory in Aleppo.

It thus appears that this al Qaeda-linked group will get its hands on at least some of Syria’s chemical weapons sooner rather than later. And these weapons may well fall into the possession not just of homegrown Syrian jihadists, but also foreign ones. According to AFP, many of the Al Nusrah fighters are from other Arab countries and Central Asia.

The successes of the Al Nusrah Front highlight the fact that it has become the dominant force in the Syrian insurgency. Its fighters are better organized than those of their rivals, and have expertise from waging jihad in Iraq and elsewhere.

Things might have been different if the U.S. had gotten solidly behind more pro-western freedom fighters early on. Instead, President Obama once again chose to lead from behind. The U.S. is behind, all right, but it’s not leading. The Al Nusrah Front is.

But never fear. Roggio tells us that the administration is contemplating adding the Al Nusrah Front to the list of global terrorist groups. That will show them.

As Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post has said, the scariest thing about Syria may be the gap between the hair-raising scenarios senior Washington officials worry about and “their limp strategies for preventing [them].”

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