Islamic State vs. Al Qaeda
Baghdadi or Zawarhi the battle for the rights of jihad (Intro from new paper)
Since the dominance and ascendancy of the Islamic State (IS)over the last few years and particularly since its universal declaration of the new ‘kalifa’ caliphate in early 2014, there has been an ongoing clash of ideology, minds and even divisions in the international Islamic jihadi community.
Disputes have arisen over direction, control, leadership and loyalties between the heir to the late Osama Bin Laden’s seat Al-Qaeda’s emir Ayman al-Zawarhi and the new kid on the block the self acclaimed Caliph Ibrahim, otherwise known as IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,
The impatient and wild-eyed Baghdadi during his short reign thus far has made incredible and unpredicted progress. Whilst making some significant territorial gains in his rise to the top he has claimed that it’s his organisation, the Islamic State, who are the true followers of the path as was reintroduced by the late Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda movement. He openly declares that it is, the current Al Qaeda incumbents who have strayed from their original message and path.
Whilst Baghdadi impatiently orchestrates the speedy establishment of his new caliphate his adversary Al-Qaeda’s emir Ayman al-Zawarhi remains impassive and patiently awaits Baghdadis own destruction or demise.
It’s very clear after hearing the daily rhetoric coming from both camps that some Al-Qaeda leaders and the Islamic States Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are heavily engaged in a verbal and philosophical war for the hearts and minds of Islam’s revolutionary activists.
It was predestined that once Baghdadi asserted contention and then claimed his sovereignty over Zawahri by manoeuvring his forces into Syria following which he decreed the new Islamic caliphate, that the two organisations would be in an all out struggle for the loyalty of militant jihadist groups across the Islamic world.
However Baghdadi has shown the upper hand and foresight not only with the way he has delivered his message but more importantly getting it heard in places where AL Qaeda had previously failed or where they were very weak. In countries like the Maldives, Belgium, The Netherlands amongst many others.
Baghdadi has brought the Islamic militant Jihad and message into the 21st century by recruiting hundreds of IT and tech specialists all busy finding new innovating ways to find and send out his organisations messages to every corner of the planet.
Al Baghdadi has shown some immense prudence and acumen out recruiting Osama Bin laden himself
His world wide web call for support has brought in Jihadi youth from every corner too. Incredibly in just over 2 years more than 35,000 men have somehow and despite the radar of the worlds intelligence services found their way into Iraq and Syria to pledge allegiance to their new caliph and if required sacrifice their lives for his caliphate. That’s 33,000 more than the periods combined beginning with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the eighties, throughout the rise of Al Qaeda in the nineties and during the USA & allied invasion of Afghanistan to the present.
In addition to his call for Mujhareen (foreign fighters) he dispatched intellectual ambassadors (salesmen) to win over support and pledges (Baya) of loyalty from major Jihadi groups including many who had previously pledged Baya to Al Qaeda.
A surprise to even Baghdadi’s inner circles was when on November 10th 2014 Egypt based militant group ‘the Defenders of Jerusalem or Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis suddenly declared their Baya loyalty to Baghdadi and his caliphate.
Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis was established during the Egyptian revolution and are said to operate from cities of the River Nile including the capital Cairo. They have admitted responsibility for dozens of bombings and other attacks on Egyptian and Israeli citizens and targets in the Sinai region.
It’s said that Baghdadi knowing the importance of having an ally in the area and more importantly on Zawarhi’s home doorstep commissioned a prominent and key figure in international jihadist circles, Mohammed Haydar Zammar with the task to put the caliphates case forward and win over Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis support and for them to ultimately join the caliphate.
Mohammed Haydar Zammar hailing from Aleppo, Syria moved to Germany in the early eighties, from where he operated a bespoke but illegal “travel agency” for would-be militant jihadis. In 1996, he made his first covert journey to meet Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan at the Al Qaeda chiefs own request.
Zammar made a several more visits to the region prior September 11 2001. Its well documented that he was a key player in helping the prominent Hamburg cell travel to meet bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The Hamburg cell included Ramzi Binalshibh, a key coordinator of the plots, Mohamed Atta, Ziad Samir Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehhi, the alleged 9/11 pilots who led the attacks.
The USA having had Zammar in custody for several years mysteriously handed him over to Syria shortly after 9/11 in a secret agreement reasons and circumstances that are still to this day unknown. In Syria after a mostly covert trial he was sentence to death by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and was imprisoned in Aleppo’s central prison awaiting the outcome of appeals from his defence team and other charges against him. Several media agencies published unverified reports that in March 2014, Zammar had been exchanged once again this time in a prisoner swap for several senior Syrian army officers with the free Syria revolutionary army.
On Nov. 18 2014 a weekly German news magazine Der Spiegel’s reported in the feature, “The Caliphate’s Colonies,” that Zammar joined the Islamic State at its base in Raqqa Iraq after which Baghdadi dispatched him to enrol Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to the Islamic caliphate. Zammar’s credentials as a bin Laden protégé combined with his connections to the Hamburg cell unquestionably elevated his status and helped his argument.
Winning over the jihadist taking away his fellow Egyptians at home, without doubt, stole a huge march on Zawarhi. Zammar not only damaged al Qaeda in Egypt but delivered a big prize to Baghdadi.
Some insignificant groups have also changed their allegiances from Al Qaeda and pledged loyalty Baya to Islamic State all of them looking to benefit from being associate with such a high profile, wealthy and widely feared international organisation. Many of these groups previously joined al-Qaida for exactly the same reasons.
However the biggest blow to Al Qaeda and Zawarhi is that groups such as Abu Sayyaf in the Philipines, the Taliban in Pakistan, Boko Harem and Al Shabab have all publicly broadcast their support for Baghdadi.
Baghdadi has also won the baya from the controllers of the Libyan city of Derna in Cyrenaica on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Derna is a well-known militant stronghold which has been a major recruiting ground for militants over the years. Again Baghdadi ordered a higher-ranking aide Abu Nabil al Anbari to visit Derna to officially accept its public proclamation that it is a province of the caliphate.
The Soldiers of the Caliphate a militant group based in Algeria also joined Islamic State in September 2014 and to prove their loyalty they immediately put to death French hostage Herve Gourdel somewhere in the Kabylie mountains. This brutal group is led by the former leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Khaled Abu Suleiman. Other smaller factions of AQIM have also followed suit and joined him.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar in Algeria , who carried out the attacks on the In Amenas natural gas facility that killed 40 foreigners in January 2013 would be another huge prize for the Islamic State. However despite Baghdadi’s efforts MBM is keeping his counsel and so far has not broken his baya with Al Qaeda and Zawahri.
The Pakistan Taliban’s breakaway faction called Jundallah has also declared its loyalty to IS following which Baghdadi’s propaganda literature appeared in many of its cities. Pakistan’s most deadly and the major anti-Shia sectarian group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is said to be in talks with IS through Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s cells in Saudi Arabia. If Lashkar-e-Jhangvi joined IS, it would be a big accomplishment in Pakistan for Baghdadi in what is considered to be Zawahri’s back yard.
Emir Zawarhi has yet to personally comment on Baghdadi and his proclamation of the caliphate. Although on 25th Nov 2014 one of his spokespersons Sheikh Harith Al Nathari of Tantheem al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) published a statement titled;
A STATEMENT REGARDING THE WORDS OF SHEIKH ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI: ‘ALTHOUGH THE DISBELIEVERS DISLIKE IT’
The statement goes into detail on Al Qaeda thoughts on the Islamic State clearly nullifying their leader Baghdadi’s legitimacy and that of the Islamic State.
Whilst Tantheem Al Qaeda were busy with the above statement Zawarhi remained out of the loop and announced his new Al-Qaeda franchise for the Indian subcontinent. Emir Zawahri has an elongated and repulsive history with Baghdadi’s forerunners in Iraq, particularly with the notorious Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian national who originally crafted what is now Islamic State.
Zawarhi has a history of being very cautious and always endeavoured to keep his disagreements with the notorious Jordanian and his followers as confidential as possible. However the word is that he Zawarhi almost certainly expects that Baghdadi will not carry on for long and that his fall is imminent given the huge alliance against him led by the US Air Force, so there is no real call for him to hasten his activities or quarrel in public with a figure whose life expectancy is perhaps very low.
Zawarhi also still enjoys the loyalty and staunch allegiance of much of the most important al-Qaeda band, in particular al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Jabhat al-Nusra front in Syria. But Zawarhi is surrounded by men from his own generation he is an elderly and fatigued figure who has been a fugitive from justice and one of the world’s most wanted for decades. Therefore his own demise may come before his nemesis Baghdadi’s.
Although Zawarhi still holds immense power he should never be underestimated even though he lacks Baghdadi’s youthful modern hi tech and global winning image.
Baghdadi’s public appearances are stage managed, his organisations promotional videos are professionally produced, his organisation has its own magazine and newspaper publications exactly as one would expect from a statesman. Baghdadi for the time being looks like a winner to current and potential followers, which is always excellent for any competition.
One sure way to win an Islamic fanatic revolutionary or terrorist loyalty challenge is to be the successful draughtsman of an attack on the enemies homeland. In this case there is absolutely nothing that would bolster Baghdadi’s or Zawarhi’s credentials as the legitimate heir to Sheikh Osama bin Laden than a stunning assault creating death, carnage and mayhem somewhere in the United States of America.
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