Reuters reports: Al Qaeda’s general command said on Monday it had no links with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL aka ISIS), in an apparent attempt to reassert its authority over fragmented Islamist fighters in Syria’s civil war.
After a month of rebel infighting, al Qaeda disavowed the increasingly independent ISIL in a move likely to bolster a rival Islamist group, the Nusra Front, as al Qaeda’s official proxy in Syria.
The switch is seen as an attempt to redirect the Islamist effort towards unseating President Bashar al-Assad rather than waste resources in fighting other rebels, and could be intended to shift the strategic balance at a time when government forces are increasingly active on the battlefield. It could also embolden Nusra in its dispute with ISIL.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg writes: Two prominent Republican senators say that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told them — along with 13 other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation — that President Barack Obama’s administration is in need of a new, more assertive, Syria policy; that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria pose a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland; that Russia is arming the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and is generally subverting chances for a peaceful settlement; that Assad is violating his promise to expeditiously part with his massive stores of chemical weapons; and that, in Kerry’s view, it may be time to consider, once again, supporting the arming of more moderate Syrian rebel factions.
At a time that al Qaeda, the organization led by Ayman Zawahri, is disavowing ISIS, it’s time that Washington and the press stop using al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates as the preferred catch-all terms for branding America’s enemies.
Know Your Enemy 101: Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Syria (ISIL or ISIS) are not interchangeable terms. The idea that all these groups pose a threat to the U.S. homeland is either an expression of the ignorance of those making the claim or a cynical attempt to exploit the ignorance of their audience.