Growing chaos in the liberated areas of northern Syria is convincing some members of the Syrian opposition that the country will become a “failed state” unless an orderly political transition begins soon to replace President Bashar al-Assad.
This stark analysis is contained in an intelligence report provided to the State Department last week by Syrian sources working with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Describing the situation in the area from Aleppo to the Turkish border, where Assad’s army has largely disappeared, the report draws a picture of disorganized fighters, greedy arms peddlers and profiteering warlords.
This security vacuum in the Aleppo region appears to have helped Jabhat al-Nusra, which is allied with al-Qaeda. The group is benefiting not just from its prowess on the battlefield but from its refusal to engage in looting and other predatory behavior. In its emphasis on crude but egalitarian justice and social services, Jabhat al-Nusra emulates other successful Muslim extremist organizations, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Taliban in Afghanistan.