With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and Jabhat al-Nusra fighting each other, the latter fighting against the regime and the former increasingly appearing to have at least some kind of tactical alliance with the government, to continue branding them both as al Qaeda affiliates is accurate and confusing. What’s the value of giving two entities the same name if the differences between them appear more significant than the similarities?
This isn’t just a semantic issue. It’s merely one example of the ways in which Western governments with the support of the media persist in their effort to treat terrorism as a cohesive phenomenon. If disparate groups with separate and sometimes conflicting aims can all be lumped together and treated as some kind of shape-changing global entity, the primary effect is to legitimize representations of terrorism as a global threat.
Imagine if the World Health Organization had successfully argued for a massive increase in its funding in order to fight a pandemic but the pandemic turned out to be no such thing. Instead, small outbreaks of different diseases none of which were particularly contagious were occurring in various regions and yet with each new occurrence there would be alarming headlines about the spreading “pandemic” along with solemn statements from government officials promising that no effort would be spared in trying to halt the widespread threat and protect humanity.
That’s what the global terrorist threat amounts to: a fictitious pandemic.
The New York Times reports: Islamist rebels and extremist groups have seized control of most of Syria’s oil and gas resources, a rare generator of cash in the country’s war-battered economy, and are now using the proceeds to underwrite their fights against one another as well as President Bashar al-Assad, American officials say.
While the oil and gas fields are in serious decline, control of them has bolstered the fortunes of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and the Nusra Front, both of which are offshoots of Al Qaeda. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is even selling fuel to the Assad government, lending weight to allegations by opposition leaders that it is secretly working with Damascus to weaken the other rebel groups and discourage international support for their cause.
Although there is no clear evidence of direct tactical coordination between the group and Mr. Assad, American officials say that his government has facilitated the group’s rise not only by purchasing its oil but by exempting some of its headquarters from the airstrikes that have tormented other rebel groups.