As al-Qaeda Grows in Syria, So Do US Calls to Court Them as Allies

Will the Administration Really Sell the American Public on 'Good al-Qaeda'

Before ISIS had formally split from al-Qaeda, there was often talk about “good al-Qaeda versus bad al-Qaeda” in Syria, centering around ISIS as the more extreme group, and Jabhat al-Nusra as the slightly less extreme group.

That talk sort of died on the vine, as Nusra lost fight after fight to ISIS, and became less relevant. Now, with al-Qaeda taking much of the Idlib Province and setting up a little statelet of their own, there is a new push in the US to endorse them as new allies against ISIS.

It’s the Hitler vs. Stalin thing all over again, and hawks desperate for a successful ally on the ground in Syria are desperately trying to rebrand al-Qaeda of all people as the “lesser of two evils,” and hoping to repair the terrorist group’s image domestically, which is still considerably tarnished after 9/11.

Can it really work though? After over a decade of war against al-Qaeda and with no intervening period of calm, it is hard to imagine that the administration or anyone else is going to be able to sell a de facto alliance with al-Qaeda as the lesser of two anythings, let alone a plan for “winning” Syria.

Underscoring exactly what a tough sell this is going to be, al-Qaeda is on the warpath in its newly conquered territory, attacking a Druze village and killing at least 20 civilians there. Attacks on religious minorities are every bit as de rigueur in al-Qaeda as they are in the ISIS caliphate, and that reflects the reality that Jabhat al-Nusra is the same old al-Qaeda.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.