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The Islamic State vs. al Qaeda


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islamic_state_vs_al_qaeda_next_jihadi_super_power#_Foreign Policy:

Who’s winning the war to become the jihadi superpower?

J.M. Berger



Since late 2013, it has been clear that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, now rebranded as simply the Islamic State, wants more than just a piece of land to call its own.


The Islamic State has thrown down the gauntlet to al Qaeda and seeks to supplant its former ally as the symbol and leader of a global movement acting out a twisted definition of jihad. Its sweeping military campaign has captured a huge swath of Iraq, even as it fights both Bashar al-Assad's regime and rival jihadi groups in Syria, while its proclamation in June of an Islamic caliphate has sparked a furious debate about its legitimacy among global terrorists.


The concept that Muslim militants around the world could even have a global leader is relatively novel and arguably unsound. During the 1980s and 1990s, countless independent regional groups were united by little other than a very broad outline of an ideology and, for some, the money and resources provided by Osama bin Laden.




Al Qaeda could arguably seek to re-establish its credibility through a major terrorist attack on the West, though between the command-and-control problem and the complicated politics of all this jihadi infighting, such a move may not be a forgone conclusion.


There is also an open question of what sort of al Qaeda might emerge post-Zawahiri. Nobody lives forever, and Zawahiri has some unique life-expectancy challenges, including both U.S. and Pakistani counterterrorism efforts. Whether Zawahiri is killed by his enemies, internal or external, or dies from natural causes, the next leader of al Qaeda is likely to have a big mess on his hands. The nature of the man who rises to meet that challenge may determine the ultimate fate of the network Osama bin Laden built.

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OTOH Who Cares which one wins

The Islamic State Is Nothing New
Its differences with other Islamic-supremacist groups are irrelevant.
Andrew C. McCarthy
September 3, 2014


The beheading of yet another Western journalist, Steven Sotloff, has ignited another round of commentary suggesting that the Islamic State is the worst terrorist network ever. There is value in this: The current jihadist threat to the United States and the West is more dire than the threat that existed just prior to the 9/11 attacks, so anything that increases pressure for a sea change in our Islamic-supremacist-enabling government’s policies helps. Nevertheless, the perception that the Islamic State is something new and different and aberrational compared with the Islamic-supremacist threat we’ve been living with for three decades is wrong, perhaps dangerously so.


Decapitation is not a new jihadist terror method, and it is far from unique to the Islamic State. Indeed, I noted here over the weekend that it has recently been used by Islamic-supremacist elements of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army against the Islamic State. It was only a few years ago that al-Qaeda beheaded Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg. Jihadists behead their victims (very much including other Muslims) all the time — as Tom Joscelyn notes at the indispensable Long War Journal, the al-Qaeda-tied Ansar al Jerusalem just beheaded four Egyptians suspected of spying for Israel.




I opined at the start of this piece that the threat to the United States is more dire now than it was before 9/11. How could it be otherwise? What jihadists need to attack the United States is safe haven and state sponsorship, which enable them to plan and train; financial and weapons resources; and lax immigration enforcement. On every one of those scores, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other violent Islamic supremacists are in a better position than they were circa 1998–2001. The Islamic State, to take the most prominent example, controls a country-size swath of territory; has seized riches and advanced weaponry during its rampage; has enjoyed support from several countries; and targets an America in which border security is a joke, no effort is made to police visa overstays, and the federal government has actually discouraged and prevented state and federal agents from enforcing immigration laws.

The threat is worse, and worsening. But it is not confined to the Islamic State, and we cannot protect ourselves from it — cannot even grasp that it is a threat to us rather than simply to a faraway region — unless we understand the totality of it.

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