Syria’s protracted civil war is spilling across its borders, creating breeding grounds for extremists, sharpening sectarian schisms and threatening to destabilize U.S. allies in the Middle East.
The war has attracted jihadists from across the region, including Libya, where rebels overthrew Moammar Gadhafi’s regime a year ago and where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has sought to put down roots.
“If al Qaeda-related groups gain a foothold in Syria, that is very bad news for everybody,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
“And if governments that have long been allies of the U.S. – [I’m] thinking here of a country like Jordan – end up being destabilized, that is also potentially very harmful for the United States,” she said. “There are so many wild cards.”
In just the past month, a mortar shell fired by the Syrian military killed five civilians in Turkey, provoking a Turkish attack on Syrian targets; a top Lebanese intelligence official was assassinated in Beirut by a car bomb blamed on Syria; and a Jordanian soldier was killed in a border clash with armed men trying to cross over from Syria.
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