The Death of the Caliph and Islamic State’s Uncertain Future

On February 3, American special forces surrounded the hideout of Islamic State’s current caliph, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, who blew himself up with his family to avoid capture. Born in a Turkmen-majority village in northern Iraq, the late caliph was likely involved with a jihadist network known as the Qaradash, which was active in the area even before the fall of Saddam Hussein. Hassan Hassan explains the significance of Qurashi’s origins for the future of IS as a whole:

This [Qaradash] network comes largely from the areas around the Turkmen-dominant border town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq. Because of the demography of this longtime jihadist incubator, it has often been assumed that any member of Islamic State who hailed from Tal Afar was Turkmen rather than Arab. As such, because [IS] emphasizes the need for its leaders to be of a specific lineage linked to the prophet Mohammad, a Turkmen could never become head of the organization even though the Afaris have always had an outsized influence within and on Islamic State.

Indeed, it is almost certain that official IS documents invented an Arab lineage for Qurashi—a sign, to Hassan, of the group’s desperation to find a new leader after the U.S. eliminated the previous caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2019.

Because Islamic State has been weakened, its options for leaders are limited and it has had to rely on a small pool of candidates it can trust, notwithstanding the inconvenience of having to prove they are of Arab background. . . . It’s hard to imagine Islamic State will venture outside the “Qaradashians” for its new leader.

Add to these internal problems a broader set of factors favoring its enemies, including the growing strength of rival groups and governments, and the weakening of the international jihadist movement writ large, and it becomes clear how the organization’s chances of recovery are currently slim.

The death of its leader under these circumstances will further disorient the group and weaken its ability to focus on international terrorism. In other words, the prospects for the group do not seem as promising as suggested by much of the media commentary that followed Islamic State’s operation two weeks ago in northern Syria, in which it attacked a prison controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces and freed some jailed leaders.

Read more at New Lines

More about: Iraq, ISIS, Jihadism, U.S. Foreign policy


Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada