For decades now, the US and NATO have been unwilling to get military without something vaguely resembling world permission. They will never get this because denying them permission is Russia and China's only chance at making themselves look no worse than the West. So the West will never act on Syria.
What, in this context, are we to make of Western fears about Al Qaeda militants lurking among the opposition to Assad?
Perhaps some few Western politicians don't really have such fears and are just looking for another feeble excuse not to act. In any case, facts will not persuade these people; they don't want to be persuaded. What follows just tries to show that, whatever the facts on the ground in Syria, any genuine fears are idiotic.
The West worries about two Muslim spectres, Al Qaeda and The Islamists, whom they may or may not identify with Al Qaeda. Let's ask ourselves, what sort of Islamists might actually take power in Syria.
Well the only major Middle Eastern nation that has anything like a real Al Qaeda presence is Iraq. That's because Iraq's Shia government is virtually at war with its Sunni population. What chance does Syria have of getting a Shia government? None.
So suppose the West is terrified of Islamists. What could they possibly be terrified about? For almost a century 'Islamist' in Syria has meant 'Muslim Brotherhood'. Oh, the same tendency the US has been willing to support in Egypt. The chances of Al Qaeda prevailing against the Muslim Brotherhood? None. No country in the world has both a strong Al Qaeda presence and a strong Muslim Brotherhood.
So Syria will end up with either a secular or with an Islamist government. In either case, no Al Qaeda. Well duh.