Islamic State and al-Qaeda Are Still Going Strong

Drawing on the State Department’s latest terrorism report, Thomas Joscelyn comments on the persistence of the two largest international jihadist groups, and sees little reason for complacency:

The U.S. has hunted down many senior al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) figures over the past two decades. And the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism highlights the top al-Qaeda personnel taken out in 2020. But the two most senior al-Qaeda and IS leaders on the planet—Ayman al-Zawahiri and Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal Rahman al-Mawla, respectively—have survived the American-led manhunt. They’ve also survived the bitter rivalry between their two organizations. This is no small accomplishment.

Does this matter? I think it does. It demonstrates that America’s high-value targeting campaign has missed some of its highest value targets.

One line in the report deserves additional emphasis. It reads: “Senior AQ leaders continued to reside in Iran and facilitate terrorist operations from there.”

As I’ve written on many occasions, the State and Treasury Departments have regularly exposed al-Qaeda’s network inside Iran since 2011. As Treasury first reported, the Iranian regime and al-Qaeda entered into a “secret deal” some years ago. Under the terms of their “agreement,” al-Qaeda is allowed to operate its “core facilitation pipeline” on Iranian soil. According to the State Department’s latest report, that remained the case throughout 2020.

Read more at FDD

More about: Al Qaeda, ISIS, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship