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Islamic State’s Master Plan Revolves around a Long War with the West

April 21 2017

In The Master Plan, Brian Fishman traces the history of Islamic State (IS) from its origins as al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch through to the present. In many ways, Fishman argues, IS has remained loyal to a seven-stage plan drawn up by one of Osama bin Laden’s deputies shortly after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Kyle Orton writes in his review:

Al-Qaeda held that while the “near enemy” (local Arab regimes) had the support of the “far enemy” (the West, led by the U.S.), it could not be toppled. The master plan identified two exceptions—Iraq and Syria—where the regimes could be brought down without a need to sever them from the West first. Indeed, at the time the plan was being written, Saddam Hussein was clearly on borrowed time, courtesy of the [imminent] U.S. invasion. . . .

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [the founder of IS] was in Baghdad by May 2002 and found throughout Iraq large, powerful Salafist networks that allowed the IS movement to find a foothold quickly. The regime had allowed [these] networks to grow, partly due to Hussein’s increasing Islamization of the country, but also because a mortally weakened regime was unable to restrain them. . . .

Fishman’s book punctures a number of myths about the history of IS. It is often said that IS turned to international attacks when its “caliphate” started to contract. [But] IS was always focused on the West; it just had the West on its doorstep between 2003 and 2011 [in the form of American and allied forces in Iraq]. . . .

While Gulf donors and the Saudi government are [frequently accused of] assisting IS, the reality is that, to the extent states have assisted the rise of IS, the real villains are Iran, [which sheltered important figures during the movement’s formative years], and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Assad provided IS a hinterland that helped it ride out defeat in Iraq and facilitated its recruitment of foreign fighters during the entire period of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Once this terrorist network turned on his regime, the support did not end.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Al Qaeda, Iraq, ISIS, Osama bin Laden, Politics & Current Affairs, Saddam Hussein

 

Hamas Sets Its Sights on Taking over the PLO

Oct. 20 2017

Examining the recent reconciliation agreement between the rival Palestinian organizations Fatah and Hamas, Eyal Zisser argues that the latter sees the deal as a way to install its former leader, Khaled Meshal, as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and thereby the Palestinian Authority. It wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened:

Even the former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat . . . took the PLO leadership by force. His first steps, incidentally, were with the Fatah organization, which he cofounded in January 1965 in Damascus, under Syrian patronage. Fatah was meant to serve as a counterweight to the rival PLO, which had come into existence [earlier] under Egyptian patronage. Arafat, however, was relegated to the sidelines in the Palestinian arena. It was only after the 1967 Six-Day War that he exploited the resounding defeat of the Arab armies to join the PLO as the leader of Fatah, which led to his gaining control over [the PLO itself].

Meshal [most likely] wants to follow in Arafat’s footsteps—a necessary maneuver for a man who aspires to lead the Palestinian national movement, particularly after realizing that military might and even a hostile takeover of [either Gaza or the West Bank] will not grant him the legitimacy he craves.

It is hard to believe that Fatah will willingly hand over the keys to leadership, and it is also safe to assume that Egypt does not want to see Hamas grow stronger. But quasi-democratic developments such as these have their own dynamics. In 2006, Israel was persuaded by Washington to allow Hamas to run in the general Palestinian elections, thinking the Islamist group had no chance of winning. But Hamas won those elections. We can assume Meshal will now look to repeat that political ploy by joining the PLO and vying for its leadership.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Khaled Meshal, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, Yasir Arafat