Terence P. Jeffrey
August 17, 2013
Speaking Thursday at a joint appearance  with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that there were “many al Qaeda leaders now operating in Syria”—where President Barack Obama decided two months ago to provide military support to rebel forces fighting alongside al Qaeda to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad.
Asad is a member of the Alawite sect, which is a derivative of Shiite Islam; the Syrian rebels are predominantly Sunni, and al Qaeda is Sunni.
According to the CIA, Assad’s Alawite sect represents no more than 16 percent of the Syrian population, while 74 percent of Syrians are Sunni. In Iraq, by contrast, about 32 to 37 percent of the population in Sunni and 60 to 65 percent is Shiite. Al Qaeda is in opposition to both the Shiite-connected government of Syria and the Shiite-majority government of Iraq.
“Iraq sits at the intersection of regional currents of increasingly turbulent, violent, and unpredictable actions,” said Kerry. “Sunni and Shia extremists on both sides of the sectarian divide throughout the region have an ability to be able to threaten Iraq’s stability if they’re not checked.
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