As the United States embraces a plan to get rid of all chemical weapons in Syria, the Syrian rebels are reorganizing themselves into Islamic coalitions that are independent of the US-backed Syrian National Coalition and are in opposition to an ascendant al-Qaeda. This reorganization represents a significant loss of US influence among the rebels, their willingness to adopt a hard-core Islamist character, and the probability of internal fighting between al-Qaeda and the other Sunni rebels in Syria.
Al-Qaeda branches in Syria are consolidating their holds over Sunni areas in North and East Syria. Its strategies include displacing local Sunni sheikhs by controlling governance and the economy, while ethnically cleansing Shia population centers. Further escalating tensions are Iranian media campaigns that influence Shia militias to go fight Sunni rebels in Syria.
With fighting in Syria escalating, Hezbollah has openly began assisting the Syrian regime in the battle for the strategic city of Qusayr. Sunni rebel groups, including the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, are retaliating by beginning violent campaigns in Lebanon. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is attempting to capitalize on the chaos in Syria by bombing Shia population centers in Iraq. An analysis of these recent developments illustrates the short- to mid-term forecast of events in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.