Officials and analysts warned that al-Qaeda could exploit the deteriorating situation in Syria to establish a foothold in the country.
Citing the organisation's bloody history in their countries, Yemeni and Iraqi security officials cautioned Syrians against al-Qaeda interference in the opposition movement and warned that the group's entry could compromise the protesters' objectives of freedom and democracy.
The organisation is trying to take advantage of the volatile security situation in Syria to gain a foothold in the Levant as it did in Yemen, said Saeed al-Jamhi, head of al-Jamhi Centre for Studies and Research in Yemen.
"[Al-Qaeda's] ambition is ideological, not just geographical, since the Levant is the head of the Arabian Peninsula," he said. "The fragility of the security situation and the social and political upheaval in Syria render it easy to infiltrate, especially as the organisation had announced that it has a presence in Syria. [Al-Qaeda] seeks to exacerbate the divisions so it can impose itself as a part of the equation."
"Al-Qaeda left nothing behind in Yemen or Iraq but booby traps and blood," al-Jamhi said. "This scenario will be repeated in Syria, and the organisation will seek to weaken the domestic front until it achieves a state of confusion."
Al-Qaeda exploited the deteriorating security situation in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, and also in Yemen following the outbreak of the popular revolution in 2011 to carry out suicide bombings that claimed the lives of thousands. The organization also seized areas in south Yemen where it established Islamic emirates before security forces expelled them.
Ahmed al-Rahwi, deputy governor of Abyan province in south Yemen, told Al-Shorfa about al-Qaeda's legacy in his country.
"After its defeat at the hands of the army and its expulsion from Abyan, al-Qaeda left behind tremendous destruction and innumerable tragedies and victims, in addition to more than 180,000 refugees who abandoned their homes and farms in fear of the organisation," al-Rahwi said.
"Even after it was defeated and expelled, the organisation planted booby traps and improvised explosive devices in public areas to kill as many innocent victims as possible, and the bombing that targeted a funeral in Jaar, where the organisation had established an Islamic emirate, was one of many tragedies that affected every family in Abyan," he said.
On August 4th, Al-Qaeda in Yemen detonated an explosive device during a wake for the nephew of Abdul Latif al-Sayyed, the leader of popular committees in Jaar. More than 40 people were killed and 45 were wounded.
"Almost every day we hear about an explosion that targeted innocent people, and this is all because of al-Qaeda's infiltration during the deterioration of the security situation in Yemen in 2011," al-Rahwi said.
Similarly, Yemeni political analyst Mohammed al-Ghabri said al-Qaeda could exploit a period of political transition to establish a grip on the country, pointing to attacks in both Iraq and Yemen.
"Al-Qaeda destroyed Iraq with its bombings and was responsible for tragedies in Yemen that claimed the lives of innocent people with its bombs and suicide belts that targeted the largest gatherings to inflict the greatest number of casualties possible," al-Ghabri said.
He added that the organisation violated human rights in the areas it controlled in Abyan, "where it cut off heads and hands in scenes reminiscent of the atrocities the organisation committed in Afghanistan".
The Seyaj Organisation for Childhood Protection in Yemen documented numerous human rights violations by al-Qaeda in Jaar during 2011, as al-Qaeda members practiced hadd punishment in its own legal proceedings.
Last year, group members cut off the hand of a 15-year-old child on charges of stealing electric cables and hung the appendage in a public square. In another incident, the group cut off another person's hand, and the individual died of his wounds at the conclusion of his trial in an al-Qaeda court.
"Al-Qaeda cannot by any stretch pose as a defender of freedom and peace for the masses," said Staff Lt. Gen. Tariq Hashim al-Azzawi, commander of the Iraqi army in the country's western sector. "The right to liberty and democracy can only be won by the Syrian people themselves, not by al-Qaeda members, who need to reform themselves first."
"Iraqis suffered greatly from al-Qaeda and are more familiar with them than the people of any other country in the region," al-Azzawi said. "We advise the Syrians to shut their doors firmly in the face of al-Qaeda or whatever name they use to disguise their terrorist plan for the region."
Any interference by al-Qaeda in Syria's conflict will have negative consequences, primarily for the Syrian people, said Brig. Gen. Ali Shabib al-Tai of the interior ministry's internal affairs directorate.
"We hope their revolution and their aspirations for plurality, freedom and democracy flourish from the public will without interference from terrorist elements," al-Tai said. "Al-Qaeda contributes nothing but destruction and ruin, which is contrary to the demands of the Syrian people who are fighting for freedom and democracy."
Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, leader of the Iraqi Sahwa movement, also warned of the consequences of allowing al-Qaeda to establish a base in Syria.
"We fought al-Qaeda after they cut us to the bone, and we suffered at their hands," he told Al-Shorfa. "If our Syrian brothers allow al-Qaeda to become active in their country, they would be exchanging fever for death."