Much has been written over the last few days about the anti-Islam rant of Bill Maher and Reza Aslan response to them. See here, here and here. Personally, I think that the approaches adopted by both sides are rather problematic. This is why.
Dictators can often get way and for long time with treating their people like subhuman entities; so long as they can provide the basics, their people, for a variety of reasons, might tolerate their oppressive ways. But when they cannot even provide that, those hurting will begin to fight back, to reject, and they can bring the house down in time, no matter how violent the crackdown against them is.
The competition that America and Western Europe are facing on a global level from Russia and China, and the local level from a host of countries including Iran, India, Korea, Brazil, etc., is not meant to change the nature of the game, that is, the game of power projection through military and economic might, including operating viable nuclear programs, exercising control over energy sources and routes, involvement in arms production and sales, and engaging in imperialist actions under different guises and while offering all different sorts of justifications.
The reason why the Assad regime survived for so many decades, and why in particular it has survived for the last three years, has little to do with how smart its leaders are. Cruelty and Machiavellian tactics are signs of intelligence. Moreover, the Assads simply came to grasp, in time, an obvious fact about their position, namely that they have become in charge of a country where change in leadership and system of governance requires consent from a variety of regional and international actors, and is not a purely domestic affair. They also understood that regional and international rivalry will make consensus in regard to change in Syria well-nigh impossible to achieve, a fact that gave them ample leeway to do what they wanted internally, and to occasionally engage in some regional adventurism of their own.
So the group that could pose the greatest danger to America is Khorasan, a terror group whose leader Muhsin Al-Fadhli, used to live in Iran up until 2012, along other members of the Al-Qaeda, before finally relocating to Syria. Intelligence reports say that Al-Fadhli used to raise funds from various GCC donors, especially Kuwaitis, to help support Al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria.