Islamic State and al-Qaeda Are Still Formidable Enemies

Feb. 23 2018

According to the National Defense Strategy released by the Pentagon in January, “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” Thomas Joscelyn does not disagree. He cautions, however, that Islamic State (IS)—despite suffering major territorial losses in Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan over the past two years—is far from vanquished. Neither is al-Qaeda, which in many places waits in the wings to recruit IS fighters who have survived the organization’s defeats. Joscelyn writes:

Consider the situation in Egypt. In November 2014, an al-Qaeda-linked group known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis swore its fealty to the IS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group was then rebranded Wilayat Sinai, or the Sinai Province (of the caliphate), and pledged to fight for the caliphate’s cause. Wilayat Sinai remains a security threat to the Egyptian state. Its members blew up a Russian airliner in October 2015, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board.

The bombing was the jihadists’ first successful attack on commercial aviation since the 9/11 hijackings. Wilayat Sinai has assassinated Egyptian officials, harassed locals, and conducted a series of bombings against mosques, tribesmen, and Christians. At times, the IS branch has been strong enough to capture Egyptian checkpoints and overrun security facilities. IS also spawned a terror network in mainland Egypt that has dispatched suicide bombers to strike Coptic churches, including on Palm Sunday last year.

The Sinai jihadists are so fierce that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s men haven’t been able to contain them on their own. Earlier this month, the New York Times confirmed a thinly veiled secret—Israel has been helping the Egyptians hunt down IS leaders and commanders in the northern part of the Sinai since 2015. Despite this assistance from Israel’s expert terror-hunters, Wilayat Sinai hasn’t been eradicated. . . .

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, IS loyalists fight their foes nearly every day. . . . Some claim that outfits such as Wilayat Khorasan [as its major Afghan branch is called] have merely adopted the caliphate brand and lack meaningful connections to Baghdadi’s enterprise. This is not so. The U.S. military has discovered connective tissue. General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has explained that . . . the first head of Wilayat Khorasan “went through the application process” and the group has received “advice,” “publicity,” and “some financial support” from IS [in Syria]. . . . [Meanwhile], the Taliban, [which remains closely linked to al-Qaeda], contest or control more than 40 percent of Afghanistan’s districts.

Joscelyn also mentions the two groups’ presence throughout Africa, as well as in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

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More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Egypt, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Sinai Peninsula, U.S. Foreign policy

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror