Patrick Cockburn: The attempt to topple President Assad has failed
Militarisation of the protest movement and the increased sectarianism played to the strengths of the regime. Sectarianism not only weakens the opposition inside Syria, it helps divide the coalition facing it abroad. In a presidential election year, US voters do not care much who rules Syria, but they care a lot about al-Qa’ida.
One of Barack Obama’s themes in the presidential campaign will be that it was his administration that killed Osama bin Laden and focused, unlike President Bush, on eliminating the perpetrators of 9/11. The White House does not want al-Qa’ida to show signs of life, so it has been nervous of its increasing role in Syria. For instance, only last week an al-Qa’ida-inspired group called the Al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant claimed responsibility for two recent suicide bombings in Damascus that killed more than two dozen people. “We tell the [Syrian] regime to stop the massacres against the Sunnis, otherwise, you will bear the sin of the Alawites,” said the Al-Nusra Front statement. “What is coming is more bitter and painful, with God’s will.”