"In the course of their development" said Goldziher, "they also incorporated several Christian elements, as for example the consecration of bread and wine, a kind of communion and the celebration of feast days proper to Christianity."
On April 22, the Congressional Research Service published a report on the Syrian civil war that cited the United Nations Human Rights Council Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. "The report attributes war crimes to both government and opposition forces," said CRS.
"These crimes have intensified as Syria's civil war has taken on an increasingly sectarian dimension," said CRS. "In many areas, Alawite-led security forces and allied militia such as Jaysh al Sha'bi (Popular Army) are engaged in combat with predominantly Sunni rebel militias. Some of these militias are becoming more radicalized and aligned with extremists groups such as Ahrar al-Sham (the Free Ones of the Levant) or the Nusra Front."
The Nusra Front is a Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida. When the Obama administration correctly named it a terrorist group, Syrian rebel leaders objected.
"In December 2012, the Obama administration designated the Nusra Front as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and as an alias of al-Qaida in Iraq," said CRS. "Reactions from some Syrian opposition leaders and armed groups were negative. Several armed groups made statements of solidarity with al-Nusra, and prominent civilian figures, including then-President [Ahmed] Khateeb of the SOC [Syrian Opposition Coalition], requested that the U.S. government reconsider the designation."
The administration maintained the designation but will now arm some of the Nusra Front's brothers in arms.
Why do Obama, McCain and Zawahiri all support the same rebellion? Obama and McCain clearly hope that once the Assad regime has been swept away, the U.S. government can somehow foster a secular, democratic, pro-Western government in that country. Zawahiri presumably sees the Nusra Front and other Islamists fighting against Assad as the latest manifestations of the revolutionary Sunni radicalism sweeping the Middle East.
Looking at recent experiences in Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya, who is more likely to win the bet they are placing on the Syrian rebellion? McCain and Obama? Or the terrorist group that hijacked four American airliners on Sept. 11, 2001 and flew them into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.