Al Qaeda is quickly constructing its main regional Middle East base in Syria, from where it plans to export terrorism and Islamic radicalism to neighboring states, then to the West, a new report released by an Israeli security research institute warned.
The jihadis later aspire, according to the report, to turn "Greater Syria" -- an old geographic term encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories -- into an Islamic caliphate.
The exhaustive study took a year to compile, according to researchers at the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which released it.
The Center itself is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.
The report identified the Al Nusra Front as Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria; they added that the organization is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed.
According to Dr. Reuven Erlich, the head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the Al Nusra Front is entrenching itself in Syria at a rate several times faster than the time it took Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to become a serious international terrorist presence.
Erlich, who served in several posts in IDF Military Intelligence, also cautioned that Syria's location in the heart of the Middle East, its proximity to Europe, and its border with Israel mean that geopolitically, the jihadi threat from Syria is more central than the one from Afghanistan or Pakistan.
He compared Al Nusra's activities in Syria today to the incubation period of a virus, before it begins spreading and infecting other hosts. Later, Erlich warned, the plague of jihad will spread outwards from Syria to the region, then go on to threaten global security.
The researchers who composed the report assessed the chances of Al Nusra realizing its goal of building a caliphate as low, due to Syria's diverse sectarian, ethnic, and religious population, and strong tradition of secular Arab nationalism.
Nevertheless, they said, the group is on course to become one of the most prominent rebel entities, and will play a key role in shaping a post-Assad Syria, while using its growing presence as a springboard to launch international terrorist attacks.