Damascus bombings prompt warnings of Iraq-style insurgency
Yesterday's bombings in Damascus were the largest since the uprising began. The US and others are sounding an alarm about a particularly worrisome turn in the conflict.
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State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday that the US still ultimately pins the blame on the Assad regime because by not abiding by the cease-fire, and by turning to violence initially, it pushed the opposition in that direction.Skip to next paragraph
Middle East Editor
Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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“The degree to which that chaos, that they are leading, also leads to other kinds of chaos, we still put responsibility firmly at their feet,” she said of the regime, according to Bloomberg. “These kinds of tactics are not in keeping with what we’ve seen from the legitimate opposition,” she said of the bombings.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said yesterday that the Pentagon knows there are "extremist elements trying to make inroads in Syria," but that they are "distinct from the opposition."
But US officials are also arguing against the opposition's use of violence because it "erodes the opposition's moral advantage," increases the likelihood of sectarian fighting, and undermines efforts at brokering a diplomatic solution, according to Bloomberg.
The New York Times reports that a recent report from the International Crisis Group backs the US line on where the blame lies:
“The fact is that the regime’s behavior has fueled extremists on both sides and, by allowing the country’s slide into chaos, provided them space to move in and operate,’’ the report said. “The fighting came at a huge cost to civilians and, in its aftermath, security forces engaged in widespread abuse, further radicalizing large swaths of society.’’
Bill Roggio, an analyst on terror and military issues and the managing editor of the Long War Journal blog, told CNN that the attacks were likely carried out by an al Qaeda-linked group called Jabhat al-Nusra, which emerged only recently and has claimed responsibility for some of the past bombings. Jeffrey White, a defense fellow and analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that yesterday's attacks bore a resemblance to the attacks carried out by Al Qaeda elements in Iraq.
Rather, they feel al-Assad's regime is using "jihadists and al Qaeda types" that it was tied to during the Iraq war. There are people in the Syrian opposition, [Mr. White] said, who call the Al Nusrah Front a Syrian government organization.
"The opposition guys are saying the regime still controls them. When they want them to do something, they order them up," White said.
Noting that the attack "is not typical of Free Syrian Army-type actions such as ambushes, bombings of regime vehicles, targeted killings, and attacks on checkpoints," White said there is no way to know definitively who is responsible. But he said he doubts the government is behind attacking "pillars of the regime."
CNN reports that members of the opposition have accused the regime of working with al-Nusra and other jihadist groups, but the Monitor notes that the government and jihadist groups are "unlikely bedfellows" because of the secular nature of the Syrian regime and its Alawite faith, considered apostate by many jihadis.