al-Qaeda has lost: it will eventually be absorbed by ISIS in Iraq


1:49 pm - July 3rd 2014

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Washington Institute recently published a note titled ‘The War Between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement’ – on tensions between the two movements.

Its worth emphasising briefly that there are differences between the two, mostly that ISIS are even more brutal than AQ and freely break many rules that Osama Bin Laden set for his own people.

But I think al-Qaeda has effectively lost the battle for terrorism supremacy to ISIS / Islamic State already.

All the world’s focus, the momentum and the expansion is on side of ISIS, not al-Qaeda, which matters to the impressionable men who want to be on the side of winners not losers (like most people, really).

Plus ISIS is based in the Levant, which has much bigger symbolic value for Muslims than the mountains of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Al Qaeda militants have to hide from US drones or the Pakistani army. In Iraq and Syria, they have near free rein and their opposition is melting away (for now).

Most importantly, ISIS claim to have established an Islamic State – which has even more symbolic and religious value for the kind of impressionable men who want to get involved in jihad. I suspect more fighters will abandon Al Qaeda and join ISIS over coming months, effectively finishing off Osama Bin Laden’s brainchild.

But what prompted me to write this short note was news of heightened security warnings across US airports. I suspect that US Homeland Security officials have come to the same conclusion and know this infighting has grave consequences.

Al-Qaeda leaders will be making the same calculations about ISIS and will likely re-double their efforts to regain momentum and attention. And in the terrorist world there’s only one way to do that: by launching terrorist attacks in the West.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East

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Reader comments


Who cares whether it’s AQ or ISIS? The main point you are desperately trying to avoid here is that the Jihadists and Salafists are on their way to a total wipe-out of secular Arab regimes in the Middle East and Maghreb. The forces of religious extremism are winning. Something that must gratify theocrats and reactionaries everywhere from the Sunni of Saudi Arabia to the Fundamentalists, Neo-cons and those heralding the Rapture in the United States of America. United in their hatred of secularism.

All thanks to Western meddling.

Happy now?

2. Man on Clapham Omnibus

1 To be fair to Sunny, I think that is the implicit message. Its not that its going be bad; its just how bad. Something to think about the next time you have to undress at Heathrow security. But there are wider issues here. If the west has spent years propping up dictators in the Middle East and undermining/destroying democratically elected Governments, it isn’t really surprising that individuals react with a culturally ‘off the shelf’ ideology such as Islam. What Sunny underlines is the minutiae of the struggle between competing factions. There is however a wider point,this is not just a middle east problem, its a problem of the distribution of power in the west and the extent to which elites will threaten or use military coercion with the aim of increasing mineral extraction and profits. The West needs oil and it has absolutely no qualms about killing and subjugating for it. Lets not kid ourselves, the west will happily do business with brutal regimes if there is money to be made so there are, and never have been any moral precepts operating here. These are the murky waters in which the great white Tony Blair finds nourishment .Islam is just bad for business – end of! There is also a distinctly western ideology which goes with this too, one which sadly underpins much of Sunny’s commentary. Something along the lines of ‘I am really at a loss as to what we shall do about the colonies’. Leave them alone and build windmills maybe!

I don’t say it often, but I think you are pretty much on the mark there Sunny.

Of course, while ISIS is clearly the attractive strong horse for 2014’s extremists, being an actual state it is vulnerable in a way that Al Qaeda generally has not been. It can’t melt away now – well, it can, but that will be viewed as a bad defeat, not a tactical withdrawal. So it’s not beyond possibility that ISIS could be a dead duck in a year or two while Al Qaeda is resurgent. At the moment, though, as you suggest, the momentum is with ISIS.

@ Birdie:

“All thanks to Western meddling.”

The West did not meddle in Syria, although it was tempted to. Plenty of other countries did, mind. Indeed, there is even evidence that the Syrian government itself fostered and enabled jihadis in order to destabilise Iraq. Predictably it now has no control over them.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n07/peter-neumann/suspects-into-collaborators

In any case, the result of what has happened in Syria has been that ISIS established a base territory from which to invade Iraq. There have been a lot of meddling fingers which have brought this about, not just Western ones.

I think there will always be someone to fight. But if there isn’t , they can be made up. Way too much money and power is gained from war. Our government needs nerfed for thee good of humanity. How can ISIS exist when they dont have the characters I and S in their alphabet? I guess someone else named them?


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