ALEPPO, Syria — The presence of foreign Islamic militants battling Syria’s regime is raising concerns over the possible injection of al-Qaida’s influence into the country’s civil war.
Syria’s rebels share some of those misgivings. But they also see in the foreign extremists a welcome boost: experienced, disciplined fighters whose battlefield valor against the better-armed troops of President Bashar Assad is legendary.
Many Syrian rebels are pious Muslims who frame the fight against Assad’s regime in a religious context. But some see the jihadis’ brand of Islam as too starkly black-and-white and intolerant, dividing the world between the faithful and the infidels. Their presence, some fear, casts doubts on whether a post-Assad Syria will embrace democratic values or come under the sway of Islamists.
Opposition members also worry that the presence of foreign jihadis in Syria lends credibility to the regime’s repeated assertions that the rebellion is the work of terrorist groups carrying out a “foreign conspiracy.”