ISIS Garners The Headlines With Brutality, But Al Qaeda Remains A Potent Threat
The sheer brutality of the Islamic State was on full display this week when the group executed three individuals accused of apostasy for working for members of the media and aid groups. Two who allegedly “leaked” information to the media were shot to death, while another who was charged with conspiring with aid groups was beheaded.
Another Islamic State militant was forced to shoot and kill his mother in front of a post office in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa after she tried to persuade him to leave the extremist group, Syrian activists there said on Friday, according to Newsweek.
Savvy social media campaigns and high-profile executions raised the profile of ISIS above that of its al-Qaeda, which led to predictions that the group once led by Osama bin Laden would fade away.
It was believed that the loss of fighters by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra would weaken the terror group and that with mounting victories, radical Islamists would move to ISIS or Boko Haram.
But the number of defections has ebbed and flowed and predictions that ISIS’ rise would result in the downfall of its rival were shown to be premature, writes Ari Heistein in The National Interest.
“Though ISIS has managed to overshadow its ideological predecessor in the media, it is becoming increasingly apparent that ISIS and Al Qaeda are complementary goods rather than substitutes, ” Heistein asserts, adding that “when looking at the bigger picture, we can actually see that both groups have become more powerful in recent years.”
The continued chaos in the Middle East and al-Qaeda’s willingness to adapt to ISIS’ emergence are the keys to the terror group’s resilience, say Barak Mendelsohn and William McCants of the Brookings Institute.
“Learning from its bitter experience in Iraq, al-Qaida opted to act with some moderation. It embedded itself among rebel movements in Syria and Yemen, thus showing it could be a constructive actor, attentive to the needs of the people and willing to cooperate with a wide array of groups,” they observe.