Is Al Qaeda Waxing or Waning?
by Russ Wellen
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may be deferring to the Islamic State. (Photo: Andres Pérez/ Flickr Commons)
Reading the tea leaves to determine whether Al Qaeda or the Islamic State will lead the Islamist extremist world.
In Politico Magazine, David Gartenstein-Ross and Bridget Moreng make the surprising claim Al Qaeda Is Beating the Islamic State. They write that, though the Islamic State "still controls more overall than Al Qaeda--most prominently, Tikrit and the southern half of the Salah al-Din province. … [it] has lost territory during this period." The "jihadist group that has won the most territory in the Arab world over the past six months is Al Qaeda."
What we are likely to see now is a titanic war of ideology and tactics between two vicious, radical groups that together probably command more prestige among Arab peoples than the weak, often delegitimized governments they have outsmarted and outfought. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that, in an era when the threat of terrorist violence is arguably worse than it was on the eve of 9/11, it is Al Qaeda--a decade ago, the scourge of Sunni governments--that may come to be seen as the more acceptable of the two by these same governments.
Aimen Dean was a founding member of al-Qaeda, who, in 1998, became a spy for Britain's MI5 and MI6. An interview with him was posted by the BBC on March 3: The spy who came in from al-Qaeda. He senses another dynamic, which he expresses in a post at Jihadology. Even though the site is administered by Aaron Y. Zelin, a fellow at WINEP -- the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy -- it bears reading. Titled The End of al-Qaeda, Dean writes:
Sources within Ahrar al-Sham [a coalition of Islamist movements in Syria] stated that their allies in Jabhat al-Nusra [an Al Qaeda branch in Syria and Lebanon] have told them that AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri will relinquish his authority – or what['s] left of it – over AQ branches globally and absolve them of their allegiance to him.
Take a moment and let that sink in. Why would Zawahiri do such a thing?
The move was in response to the rising power of Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Nigeria as well as new IS incursion into Yemen. AQ and Zawahiri can no longer offer any meaningful leadership and the trend among the two strongest and largest AQ branches (al-Nusra and AQAP) is that the association with AQ is no longer an asset when it come to local conflicts in Syria and Yemen, instead it is a hindrance and a liability.
Oh, there may be another reason: Zawahiri, once an MD, wants to return to medicine and spend his dotage as a country doctor. Unlikely, of course -- he never quite grasped the medical axiom "First do no harm."
Available at Amazon.com:
- Prospects for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East
- Stephen Walt's Call to Adopt a Containment Policy Toward the Islamic State
- Kids Paying the Price for Yemen's War
- Turkey's AKP Doomed by Poverty, Growing Inequality and Its War on Trade Unions
- Multiculturalism Will Save Turkey
- Saudi Arabia Fixated on Iran When Sunni Extremists Are Real Threat
- The Dark Plot to Tip the Scales
- Deconstructing the Mainstream Narrative About the Saudi War on Yemen
- Syrian President Assad Using Islamic State to Defeat Other Rebel Factions
- The Islamic State Doesn't Want True Muslims
- Obama's Strategy in Iraq: Escalation
- Iraqi Army Overmatched Against Islamic State Fighters
- Islamic State May Not Be Worth a Strategy
- The Islamic State Needs to Be Stopped, But With Imagination, Not Intervention
- Seizures of Ramadi and Palmyra Suggest Islamic State, Despite Setbacks, Still on a Roll
- Bashar al-Assad: The Problem with Young Dictators
- A Fateful Triangle: the United States, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in Yemen
- The Islamic State's Crimes Against Islam
- DC's Dictator Summit
- Yemen's War Is Redrawing the Middle East's Fault Lines
- Identifying the West's Flaws in Logic When Discussing Islam
- The Islamic State's Strange Co-dependency With Syrian President Assad
- Chlorine: Assad's Double-Edged Sword
- Number of Atheists in the Arab World Rivals the West
- US-Saudi-Iran Rapprochement Needed Before Peace in Syria Can Happen
- How the U.S. Contributed to Yemen's Crisis
- Is Al Qaeda Waxing or Waning?
- Diplomacy Is the Only Plausible Solution to Syria and Yemen
- Will Israel 'Bounce the Rubble' in Gaza?
- Yemen and the Congress of Reaction
- Autocrats United Against Yemen
- The Clash of Civil Persuasions
- The Great Convergence with Iran
- Iran Deal: A Game-Changer for the Middle East
- Another Illegal War in the Middle East
- Jim Crow in the Holy Land
- Netanyahu's Victory Is Just as Bad as It Looks
- Why America Lacks Credibility in the Middle East
- America's Hydra Problem in the Middle East
- The Islamic State and Turkey's 'Precious Loneliness'
- Reviving the North Korea-Iran Axis?
- Authoritarian Symps
- Celebrating Wars & Destruction
- Healing or Harming? The Provision of Health Care by Peacekeepers
- Two-Track War Against ISIL
- The Need for a New Syrian Narrative
- Why ISIS Exists
- Why Are Women Joining the Islamic State?
- When Bibi Came to Town
- The Geopolitics of Speeches
- 10 Reasons I'm Praying for AIPAC's Decline
- Understanding Turkey's Tilt
- Some Good News from the Middle East
- ISIS Unites the World
- An Eritrean in Israel
- Global Warming Triggered Syria War
- Is Turkey Holding Up a Resolution in Syria?
- Does Syria See the U.S. as an Ally?
- Nationalism under Pressure: Islamic State, Iraq and Kurdistan
- Syria's Future and the War against ISIS
- The Syrian Labyrinth
- So, Islamic State, You Want to Rule a Caliphate
- Wanna-Be's Doing Islamic State's Bidding
- Is ISIS Capable of Nuclear Terrorism?
- Khomeini Drew the Line at Nukes
- Israel's Lack of Interest
- Recognizing Palestine
- Gaza: Bipartisan War on Human Rights
- Iraq Long Awash in Carnage
- Turkey's Dealings With ISIL
- In What World Are the Kurds as Dangerous as the Islamic State?
- Iran: Netanyahu UN Speech Baseless
- Without Iran, Coalition to Confront ISIS is Doomed
- Treat ISIS Like an Onion
Article: Republished with permission of Foreign Policy in Focus.
"Is Al Qaeda Waxing or Waning?"