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The Enemy of Our Enemy
Al Qaeda-ISIS Feud Put On Partial Hold By US Airstrikes

One of the few silver linings to the current bellum omnium contra omnes that is the Middle East was supposed to be that, as much as they both hated us, our old terrorist enemy and new—al Qaeda and ISIS—hated each other as well. As Al Arabiya reports, that is increasingly not the case:

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, classified by the United States as the network’s deadliest franchise, “prohibits taking part in the fight against” ISIS, which controls swathes of both Iraq and Syria, AQAP said in a statement posted on jihadist forums.

“We urge all mujahedeen [Muslim fighters] to set aside their differences and inter-factional fighting and move instead against the crusade targeting all” jihadists, it added…

“This is a campaign against Islam” that has brought together “crusaders [Christians], majus [a pejorative term for Iranians], and traitor apostate leaders,” it said.

This news comes about a week after reports that the Al Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, was trying to patch things up with ISIS. As we noted then, the US air campaign against ISIS not only has been historically weak, but also ran the risk of bolstering ISIS’ credibility among its fellow jihadis.

Note too the anti-Iranian ‘majus’ language in AQAP’s release. As TAI editor Adam Garfinkle has pointed out, attacking ISIS in Syria without going after Assad at the same time had the potential to confirm the worst Sunni fear, i.e. that the US was being used as an Iranian-Syrian cat’s-paw. The more this seems to be the case, the more ISIS’ claim to be a sort of Sunni self-defense force, rather than a radical, repressive bunch of millennialists, will have holding power.

If we don’t find a way to make American airstrikes more damaging than the support they gin up, we could wind up with a worst of both worlds scenario—confirming ISIS’ narrative while leaving it intact and dangerous.

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  • MartyH

    I’ve said before that this Presidency is driven by optics, not results. Consequently, we have a lot of “Potemkin accomplishments” that sound like they are are solutions but often, in reality, make the problem worse. As cited above, we are striking ISIS about as softly as we can. The military results are minimal, while the political effects appear to be negative. We deposed Gaddaffi and left half of Libya in radicals’ hands.We deposed Mubarak and left Egypt a complete basket case. We drew a red line in Syria but Assad still apparently has chemical weapons and got ISIS as an added bonus. We have sanctioned Russia but Putin seems intent on controlling the territory controlled by the USSR. The President assures us that the odds of Ebola outbreak are extremely low; a few weeks later two healthcare workers are infected with the deadly disease, and one is told by the CDC that it is okay to travel when she has a fever. We continue to “negotiate” fruitlessly with Iran. We withdrew from Iraq, surrendering control of it to Iran, ISIS, and whatever the Kurds can hang onto. Anything more than the most superficial details of the ACA implementation are not available.

    Consequently, many of the decisions made in the past-driven by how they’d look, not how they would turn out-are coming back to haunt us.

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