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Fending off Al-Qaeda
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Various permutations of Al-Qaeda have spread in Iraq and Syria in recent years, and Lebanon is now the latest country in which the group wants to establish a presence.

Al-Qaeda-inspired groups don’t have a history of forming viable institutions and offering much other than fiery rhetoric, spectacular violence and dictatorial rule. But their actions can nonetheless leave lasting damage on societies and the political systems that govern them.

In Iraq, the group took hold in the wake of the U.S. invasion and has experienced a resurgence thanks to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s biased government.

In Syria, the regime itself helped foster the spread of Islamist extremists, who have done considerable harm to the cause of mainstream rebels fighting against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

But in Lebanon, the phenomenon is still in its infancy, which means that every effort should be made to eliminate this violent political current while there is still time.

Thousands of Syrians were busy fighting back Friday against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, whether in the form of street demonstrations or armed clashes.

Anyone who is following the Syrian conflict should remember that the regime has done everything it can to convince the world Al-Qaeda, and not itself, is the reason for the chaos and violence there.

Efforts to counter Al-Qaeda should not serve to help the regime, whose acts have lured outside extremists. The mainstream opposition and many rebels now realize they must fight back, because a future political transition is at stake.

In Lebanon, stepped-up security measures may foil a terror attack, but if a solution to Al-Qaeda is to be comprehensive and durable, it must be anchored by a political approach to begin immediately.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 04, 2014, on page 7.
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