…here’s today’s headline from the Los Angeles Times print edition
CIA sizes up Syria radicals for drone hits
For the webversion, the LAT went with the more conventional and presumably more accurate presentation:
CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes
Syrian radicals of the non-Islamist extremist persuasion can, I suppose, breathe a sigh of relief that they do not occupy the “kill on sight” overlap region of the Arab/radical/Islamist extremist Venn diagram, at least as far as the US government is concerned.
As to the motivation for assembling “target packages” on drone-worthy individuals:
Identifying possible threats in Syria would be "a logical step if the policy community sends a signal that, 'Hey, you guys might want to think about how you would respond to a possible request for plans about how you would thin the herd of the future insurgency,'" said a former CIA officer with experience in the Middle East.
I assume the target audience for this article is not “Syrian radicals” or “Islamic extremists in Syria”, neither of whom probably has the inclination to enjoy the LA Times’ superior blend of world-class reporting, in-depth entertainment news, and punchy headlines.
It is probably the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, which are receiving a warning that the fall of Assad to predominantly Islamist forces will not mean the end of Syria’s civil war, or US attempts to channel Syrian politics into more US-friendly channels.
In other words, that designation of the al Nusra Front as a terrorist organization—which appears rather nonsensical as the Front advances the US cause of removing Bashar al Assad through its bloody business-- is good for something. It provides a continuing justification for US intervention a.k.a. "thinning the herd" even after the insurrection ends.
Considering that the United States has been unable to effect the removal of Assad, a secular authoritarian eager to do business with America, I wonder if US disapproval, as expressed by the occasional drone strike, will be enough to deter the Saudis and their Salafist assets in pursuit of their project of Sunni resurgence in Syria and Iraq.