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Germany’s intelligence agency (i.e. BND) believes that organisations close to al-Qaeda or jihadist groups executed about 90 terror attacks in Syria between December and July, according to John Rosenthal of the Asia Times. Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli expert on Arab affairs, told the Times of Israel that last week’s suicide bombing that killed four members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle and was carried out by local Muslim extremists who will vie for control of the country if Assad falls.
Kedar cited that the video of the attack is full of the type of Islamic messages and affiliation that the Free Syrian Army has consciously avoided as it attempts to rally all of Syria’s sects against Assad’s regime.
The July 18 bombing killed the Assad’s defence minister, who was the highest ranking Christian in the regime; brother-in-law, who was deputy commander of the military; military adviser to the foreign minister; and the national security chief at the national security headquarters in Damascus.
Kedar, a former military intelligence officer, said that the identity of last week’s attackers is highly significant in the sectarian struggle for power that will occur if Assad falls from power.
From the Times of Israel:
If Assad’s Alawite sect, considered infidels by Sunni Muslims, withdraws from Damascus and hunkers down in western Syria where it holds a majority — west of the Orantes River and between Latakia in the north and Tartus in the south — and the non-Arab Kurds break off into their own mini-state, as they have done in Iraq, then the remaining Druze, Christian, Sunni and Salafist sects will battle for what remains, Kedar said.
The Obama Administration is now set on rallying a coalition of like-minded countries – including Israel, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – to forcibly bring down Assad’s regime, as reported by Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper of the New York Times.
However U.S. officials told the Washington Post that America is simultaneously struggling “to develop a clear understanding of opposition forces inside the country” as the CIA has been unable to establish a presence on the ground in Syria (only on the Turkish side of the border).
Consequently, American, Israeli and Arab officials told WSJ that they are bracing for Kedar’s assessment coming true and Syria will fracture along sectarian lines if rebel fighters succeed in quickly overthrowing the regime.
The fallout from such scenario could be nightmarish, as Tony Karon of Time lays out, as it could lead to a combination of dangerous events, including: a brutal and prolonged sectarian war; jihadists filling the post-Assad Vacuum; Syria’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah; a territorial break-up between each of the sects; a spillover of violence in neighbouring countries Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.
More than 19,000 Syrians have died in the 16-month uprising and tens of thousands others have been displaced. BBC reports that fighter jets have bombed parts of Aleppo – Syria’s largest city and commercial hub – which is a significant escalation in the conflict as it’s the first use of warplane since anti-regime protests began in March 2011.