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.

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Read more at Long War Journal

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

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf