Analysts and western government officials are trumpeting what they see as an uprising against al-Qa’ida in Syria; however, it remains to be seen whether heavy fighting between various rebel groups in the country’s north and east will have decisive results. More likely, shifting alliances and blurred ideological lines across the spectrum of rebel militias will result in something less pronounced. Indeed, al-Qa’ida and radical ideology will likely continue to play a major role in anti-Asad war and politics for some time to come.

Fighting broke out between major anti-Asad camps in early January and has pitted al-Qa’ida affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) against a group of loosely aligned militias. In early fighting, ISIS appears to have been pushed out of its frontier positions in Syria’s second city of Aleppo and other cities and towns west of its core presence in Dair al-Zour and Raqqa governorates. Reports on 9 January indicate that militiamen might have overrun ISIS’ headquarters in Raqqa, the city with the strongest ISIS presence. Hundreds have been killed in the fighting, which has thus far mostly seen ISIS defeated. However, ISIS has quietly retreated from some positions without bloodshed, consolidating its ranks elsewhere. By 10 January, ISIS fighters had reportedly begun a counter-offensive in Raqqa. (CONTINUED - 1164 WORDS)