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

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy