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The truly dangerous new dimension in Syria is its emergence as the epicenter of what many people have termed a new "global jihad," shaped by the emergence of half a dozen major Islamist militant groups that attract fighters from across the world.We must fully understand how we got into this situation in Syria if we ever wish to wind down the wars there. These critical dimensions are: the harsh political and socioeconomic conditions on the ground over many years that made Syria fertile ground for a popular uprising against the Bashar Assad government; the inability of the first secular nationalist anti-Assad rebels to generate credibility and efficacy on the ground among local populations; the Assad regime's violent attacks against the rebels and the civilian population; how this opened the door for a range of Islamists (jihadis, takfiris, salafists and others) to take root there; the support that government and opposition forces quickly obtained from neighboring powers like Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others; and, the on-and-off interventions of the world's powers like the U.S., Russia, and some Europeans.
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