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


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria