October 26, 2016


Islamic State v. al-Qaida (Owen Bennett-Jones, 11/03/16, London Review of Books)

After some years of mutual respect, tensions between the two organisations came to a head in 2013 when they tussled for control of the Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra. The arguments were so sharp that the al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, eventually said he no longer recognised the existence of the Islamic State in Syria. The former IS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani hit back, saying that al-Qaida was not only pacifist - excessively interested in popularity, mass movements and propaganda - but an 'axe' supporting the destruction of the caliphate.

The disagreements reflect contrasting approaches. Bin Laden - with decreasing success - urged his followers to keep their focus on the 'far enemy', the United States: Islamic State has always been more interested in the 'near enemy' - autocratic regimes in the Middle East.

...was how to turn attention to the Near war instead of the Far war, which toppling Saddam began but which the rise of ISIS was immensely helpful in achieving. The war is now down to everyone against the Salafi, including themselves.  Neither secular dictatorship nor Islamicist regime are alternatives any longer.  

ISIS Failure in Kirkuk Shows Its Loss of Sunni Arab Support (YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, Oct. 26, 2016, WSJ)

Last Friday, just as Iraqi, Kurdish and coalition troops were inching closer to Mosul to retake it, Islamic State launched a similar surprise attack on another major Iraqi city, Kirkuk. As the news of the assault spread, Islamic State authorities in Mosul staged street celebrations to salute the imminent addition of Kirkuk to their caliphate.

That attack, however, quickly ended in failure. The main reason is that Sunni Arabs, many of whom once viewed Islamic State as a liberator from Shiite or Kurdish oppression, have grown increasingly disgusted by the militant group.

After all, it is Iraq's Sunni Arab community that has paid the highest toll in the war unleashed by Islamic State, with their cities such as Ramadi and Fallujah lying in ruins and millions displaced from their homes. This draining support for Islamic State, as demonstrated by its quick defeat in Kirkuk, gives hope that the militant group will struggle to stage a comeback after it loses Mosul and control of other remaining areas in Iraq.

Posted by at October 26, 2016 2:01 PM