Consideration to geostrategic pulse 233 - Potential understandings between Al Qaida and Daesh (Islamic State)?

Potential understandings between Al Qaida and Daesh (Islamic State)?
Corneliu PIVARIU

Al Qaida and Daesh (IS) broke apart officially some three years ago when Daesh begun its accelerated series of territorial conquests and expansion of its influence in Syria, Iraq but also in other areas such as north, west and Central Africa, where different Muslim extremists organizations of other countries were eager to join a powerful organization which seemed to have very good prospects of turning the dream of establishing the world caliphate into practice. At the same time, after the 9/11/2001 attacks Al Qaida entered gradually the stage of  diminished power and influence but, having in place a well developed  infrastructure  in numerous zones of the world and lead by the versed  Ayman al-Zawahiri, it continued to represent an important terrorist threat and another pole of attraction for various groups in the Middle East and not only.

Yet, 2016 was marked by a series of defeats and territorial losses for Daesh while the first quarter of 2017 brings a rather gloomy prospect for the organization, having in mind that the actions of the international forces focused on fighting Daesh will be conducted mainly for eliminating the terrorists in Mosul and Raqqa. Under these circumstances and according to some specialists studying the two extremist movements, favourable conditions might be created for the two leaving aside their frictions and in front of the common danger represented by the “apostates” join their forces. It is certain that if they join their forces, the two organizations would become a much more dangerous ennemy fot the democratic and Christian world. It seems that such an action is improbable having in mind not only the past relations between the two organizations but also some irreconcible differences. So, there is more than an animosity at the higher command level of the two organizations after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi -  the self-proclaimed caliph of Islamic State described Ayman al-Zawahiri as a dishonest manipulator and frequently labeled him as   “deviant” (anomalous) and accused him of abandonning Osama bin Laden’s  “pure legacy”  (see Daesh publications Dabiq and Rummiyah). In his replay, Al-Zawahiri describes the Daesh fighters as radical rebels (Kharijites) and liars, denies to accept al-Baghdadi’s title of caliph and characterizes Daesh as “a caliphate of explosions, destructions and damages”. The new magazine issued by Al Qaida in Syria - Al-Haqiqa, presents al-Baghdadi in its edition of February, 27th, as being engulfed by the flames of hell.

There are big ideological differences between the two groups as far as interpreting the Islamic doctrine of takfir is concerned. Daesh considers it can rule entire sects as being apostate while   Al Qaida considers this doctrine should be used with more restraint. The two organizations differ also in what regards the issue of non-Muslims living in Muslim countries. Slaughtering people of other religion was a basic label of Daesh since its beginnings while Al Qaida considers that populations having other religions (Christians, Hindus...) who do not err towards the Muslims should not be attacked and that mainly due to a pragmatic reason – for not triggering a similar response from these communities. Daesh still remains much more sectarian as compared to Al Qaida and prefers, at least for the time being, regional objectives instead of global objectives. While Al Qaida advocates the Maoist concept of “long wars”, Daesh views the local wars, for immediately establishing the caliphate, as an opportunity of attracting foreign armies in Iraq and Syria where it will destroy them. In such a way the organization considers it will open up the possibility of expanding the caliphate up to the moment the caliphate will control the entire globe.

The firm determination of each organization’s members to die for a cause they consider being determined by the right interpretation of Islam is another cause making a reconciliation between Daesh and Al Qaida improbable under the circumstances. The fact that Daesh proclaimed al-Baghdadi leader of all Muslims is another reason the two organizations cannot reconciliate at least in the near future. Such a situation does not preclude a precise cooperation between the two organizations mainly in areas where their forces did not attack each other. Cooperation is totally different  from reunification. Certainly there will be betrayals from one side or another, individual or group-related, mainly when the structures are weakened as a result of the battles carried, but that doesn’t mean blending two separate ideologies, either. Reconciliation may begin when the two organizations cease to publicly attack each other but the chances of giving up the positions separating them are very little.  We notice lately the actions of an Al Qaida affiliate in Syria – Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham ( Committee for the Liberation of Levant) – the third variant of reconstructing Jabhat al-Nusra, a suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in Damascus on March, 12 (80 dead) and another attack with two suicide bombings in Damascus as well on March, 15 at a tribunal and at a nearby restaurant  (dozens of dead and more than 150 injured). Al Qaida is preparing to replace Daesh in Syria when the subject of a possible removal of Daesh from Raqqa and Mosul is on the table.

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