Skip to comments.Has al-Qaida Lost its Mantle as the Leading Jihadi Organization?
Posted on 05/20/2014 6:34:56 PM PDT by nickcarraway
The ongoing war in Syria has crystallized divisions within the opposition jihadi camp, a development that will have a tremendous effect on the future of global jihad.
Despite the horrendous humanitarian catastrophe that is ongoing in Syria, the division between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaidas Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, could be good news for their opponents in Israel and the West, as the infighting makes attacks on Western targets less probable.
A report published on the Carnegie Endowments Syria in Crisis website by Jean-Pierre Filiu, professor of Middle East studies at Sciences Pos Paris School of International Affairs and a long-time French diplomat who served in Arab countries, makes the bold argument that al-Qaida is no longer the core of a global jihadi movement.
The former Iraqi branch of al-Qaida [ISIL] has now superseded [Osama] bin Ladens network to become the more important driving force behind the global jihad, he said.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over al-Qaida after bin Ladens death in May 2011, has been leading what typically has been seen as a complex of overlapping franchises that together make up the core of a global jihadi movement.
But it is ISILs leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and not Zawahiri, who is the leader of global jihad today, argued Filiu.
Filiu, who is a former adviser to the prime minister and minister of defense, explains that after the US invasion of Afghanistan, when all the attention was on the hunt for bin Laden, it was the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who was building his own organization in Iraqi Kurdistan, which was called al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.
Following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi grew his organization throughout the country, reversing bin Ladens priorities, seeking to first consolidate a solid local insurgent capacity before exporting his jihad abroad.
Filiu goes on to show how Zarqawi influenced the leadership of al-Qaida: It took a long time for bin Laden and his deputy, Zawahiri, to grasp the importance of Zarqawis game changer. Bin Laden was obsessed with the campaign that his al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula had just launched in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi jihad proved to be a failure, forcing bin Laden to appoint Zarqawi as commander of al-Qaida in Iraq, as al-Tawhid wal-Jihad was rebranded in late 2004.
The al-Qaida leadership worried that Zarqawis mass killings against Shiite civilians would cause a backlash, but at the same time did not want to lose the group that was leading the Iraqi insurgency, argued Filiu.
After Zarqawis death in 2006, and that of the following appointed leaders, the Iraqi Baghdadi took over the Islamic State in Iraq and refused to pledge allegiance to Zawahiri after bin Ladens death.
The uprising in Syria gave Baghdadi the opportunity to use the networks that brought fighters from Syria and to instead turn it around, and send jihadis to fight Syrian President Bashar Assads forces.
Then, in 2013, he renamed his organization ISIL, but the Nusra Front rejected the takeover of the Syrian front.
Their objectives were quite different, even contradictory. The ISIL was fairly comfortable with Assad staying in power for the time being, as it was more interested in building its own base, while the Nusra Front was adamantly resolved to topple the dictator, asserted Filiu.
Filiu told The Jerusalem Post that he believes the struggle between the two groups has nothing to do with pragmatism but like Zarqawi of yesterday and Baghdadi of today is about the quest for absolute control on the ground.
While bin Laden of yesterday and Zawahiri of today accepted the protection of Taliban patrons to develop their global networks, it is the ISIL that actually has a growing territorial hold, he said.
The al-Qaida senior leaderships power is dwindling, which is why the future of al-Qaida is with ISIL, emancipated from the illusions of bin Ladens virtual base, which did not survive him.
Filiu said the distinction between global jihad and national jihad, which sticks to state borders, was already clear in Iraq between the global outlook of Zarqawi and the national insurgency that included jihad propaganda and foreign volunteers.
When the Nusra Front was confronted by ISILs attempt at a hostile takeover in April last year, the group responded by pledging allegiance to Zawahiri, hoping to remove the pressure from ISIL.
The Nusra Front however, discovered that the al-Qaida leaderships power was virtual, since it did not alleviate the pressure, explained Filiu.
The Nusra Front did not pledge allegiance to Zawahiri before because there was no point in it, he said, adding that the group is basically a national jihadi organization, sticking to Syria and to the end of Bashar Assad, contrary to ISIL.
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum and a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, told the Post that he disagrees with Filius conclusion that ISIL fighters outreach is growing regionally as groups switch their allegiance from al-Qaida to ISIL.
The only real example he cites is Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis [based in Sinai], but in fact he could have noted Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia as well, argued Tamimi, adding that his own assessment is that overall, the global jihad movement is very divided and the trend does not point one way or the other.
None of al-Qaidas official affiliates in Somalia, the Maghreb or Yemen are planning to switch allegiance as Filiu seems to imply, though there are of course pro-ISIL elements within al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula, al-Shabaab, etc., but they do not control these organizations, he continued.
All that said, the level of foreign jihadi support for ISIL is sufficient to ensure the groups existence for the foreseeable future, he said, and any hope that Zawahiri has of marginalizing the ISIL, as happened to the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria during the 1990s, is unlikely to pan out.
Boy, did the folks back then love to drink, party and have sex. They remind me of the 60's hippies: drugs, sex 'n rock 'n roll.
You’re late. The president said years ago, they’re on the run.
However, he omitted in which direction.
WAIT!!!!! I was going to make Espresso!!!!!
more of a popcorn incident, lol
Most Muslims, except the most extreme conspiracy-minded ones now consider ISIS Khawarij, who are in many ways the result of following Islam to it's logical end.
Because Islam prescribes all types of violence against apostates, Khawarij appeared several times in Islamic history as those who were so Islamically pure, that they considered most Muslims to be too impure and should therefore be killed as apostates.
Left unchecked, the Khawarij have historically sought to kill or convert all Muslims into their fold, and bring them under 'real' Sharia law.
The sequence of events that led to ISIS becoming Khawarij, and ending up in full conflict with al-Qaeda is a rather long story, full of drama and betrayal. It's really interesting if you're into that sort of thing, and this article only scratches the surface.
Sowing discord among these people will cause them to devour each other and spare us their nonsense
A lot of ideological babel.
That ever rebel group is in control gets the most resources: guns, equipment, training, reinforcements, food, and yes CASH. => Your cash.
Trust that the leaders of these groups are feathering their nests and establishing themselves as (at least locally) warlords with all the perks that come with it.