February 13, 2013
Al Qaeda Winning Hearts and Minds in Syria
There is a great line from Gladiator which summed up Roman politics well: Whoever controls the mob, controls Rome. And the way you controlled the mob was to give them bread and entertainment.
Which, parenthetically, seems very much related to Obama's SOTU address last night. But I digress.
I'm not sure how al Qaeda is doing with the entertainment -- public beheading might eventually fill that role -- but it seems they've go the bread part down pat:
y distributing fresh vegetables, bread, cooking oil, water and blankets to Syrians in rebel-held areas, the Al Nusra fighters - considered one of the most effective rebel groups but blacklisted as terrorists by the US - have exploited an opportunity to boost their popularity for when the regime of Bashar Al Assad falls.The irony here is that the US is the #1 supplier of humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Yet most Syrians don't know this because we no longer mark the aid as from the US, the thinking being something along the lines that if they knew it was from the US they'd be pissed. For some reason.
"It's a way for them to win hearts and minds even if people don't agree with their ideology," said Aaron Y Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, referring to the group's end goal of creating a strict Islamist state.
So, we're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't.