The Washington Times - September 4, 2013, 09:16AM

The public has been confused about the identity of “Syrian rebels” - who could receive arms and training from the U.S. is the very near future. One conservative watchdog group blames this confusion on broadcasters.

“The United States is poised to fire missiles at Syria in response to chemical attacks on Syrian civilians. But the assault will also pit the U.S. against one side of the civil war and aid the other side, which includes al Qaeda,” says Dan Gainor, vice president for business and culture at the Media Research Center.

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“Broadcast news outlets are clearly aware of the Islamic terror group’s role in Syria, but rarely report it. Nearly 94 percent of all Syria stories since the gas attacks have made no mention of al Qaeda whatsoever,” Mr. Gainor continues.

“It’s not like the networks haven’t had time. Since the gas attack on Aug. 21 in Ghoutta, Syria, ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows have done at least 171 stories on the conflict,” he says. “Just 11 of those stories have made any mention of the terrorists of al Qaeda, and all of those have been passing references. There hasn’t been one story focused exclusively on al Qaeda in Syria during that time.”

The connection is clear and journalists know it, Mr. Gainor says, citing ABC’s chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross, who noted the unusual alliance. “The role of the al Qaeda group fighting against Assad is one of the great ironies of the United States military strike in Syria,” Mr. Ross explained.