Facing Setbacks in the Middle East, Jihadism Gains Strength in Africa

This year, al-Qaeda suffered the death of its longtime leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, and saw little success in its Middle Eastern operations, even if it has benefitted from the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. Its offshoot-turned-competitor Islamic State (IS) has fared somewhat better, although the U.S. has managed to eliminate some of its key leaders as well. But, as Cole Bunzel explains, both organizations seem to be doing their best in Africa:

The most successful al-Qaeda affiliates were in Africa—al-Shabab in Somalia and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) in the Sahel. In 2022, both were dynamic and dangerous organizations that posed major security challenges in their areas and beyond.

In 2022, IS boasted several “provinces”—or wilayat in Arabic—in sub-Saharan Africa, including in Nigeria in West Africa, Mali in the Sahel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa, and Mozambique in southern Africa. It also boasts a particularly active franchise in Afghanistan along the Pakistan border known as IS-Khorasan Province or ISIS-K.

Unlike al-Qaeda, IS still had a strong presence in 2022 in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, Syria, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. IS released a weekly newsletter called al-Naba documenting insurgent attacks in its various provinces. The pace of attacks was somewhat lower in Syria and steeply down in Iraq compared with previous years.

Read more at Wilson Center

More about: Africa, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Radical Islam, Sinai Peninsula, War on Terror


How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy