Islamic State’s Rivalry with al-Qaeda Runs Deep

Originally known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State (IS) had been in increasing tension with bin Laden’s organization for several years before it split ties altogether and took on its current form. Since then forces loyal to IS have clashed with those loyal to al-Qaeda in Syria, Gaza, and Yemen. The Yemeni IS province issued a video on April 29 condemning its rival, and showing that the conflict between the two terrorist groups isn’t going away. In his analysis of the video, Thomas Joscelyn writes:

For those who have followed Islamic State’s messaging since its rise to power in 2014, . . . the allegations [it makes against al-Qaeda] will be familiar.

[But] al-Qaeda’s senior leaders and the group’s regional branches are not the only ones featured in the video. Islamic State harshly criticizes various other Salafists and Islamists, especially [the former Egyptian president] Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s men in Egypt. There are brief glimpses of Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well. The former caliphate argues that all of them are insufficiently religious and have “betrayed Allah’s sword.” Those same figures are used mainly to impugn al-Qaeda’s own jihadist reputation, as the organization cooperated with some of those same parties, or took a lenient approach to them, during the Arab Spring.

The fact that some of the IS’s current criticisms of al-Qaeda are identical to those it voiced in 2014, writes Joscelyn is evidence that the group has “a deep institutional memory.” He concludes:

It is always possible that some factions within each group are currently working together, or they will do so. . . . But the video indicates that a grand reconciliation between the two jihadist rivals is unlikely in the near future.

Read more at Long War Journal

More about: Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Jihadism, War on Terror, Yemen

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy