- July 5, 2020
ISIS V AL QAEDA WHY HAS ISIS SPREAD FASTER? Student`s
ISISV AL QAEDA: WHY HAS ISIS SPREAD FASTER?
TheISIS model and influence is fast spreading since its impact is felteven in nations where the Islamic state has a weak presence. The riseof the Islamic state is hardening the populations, agitatingpartisans, worsening an already troubled region. The success that wasachieved by the Islamic state in Syria alarmed observers in theUnited States prompting the Obama administration to cease hislong-term reluctance to become more military engaged in both Syriaand Iraq. However, one individual is even more terrified by theupsurge of the ISIS, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Even though the leader of theAl Qaeda may be expected to be happy with the rapid growth andinfluence of the ISIS, he is worried that he may be overshadowed. TheISIS leader had earlier turned down the authority of the Al Qaeda andlater professed himself as a caliphate, an action that furtherincreased the division in the already fractious jihad movement.Therefore, the two jihad movements are competing for a greater coursethan the leadership of the movement, which is the soul of thejihadists. The ISIS and the Al Qaeda have diverse backgrounds, whichhas influenced the rate at which they are advancing since they wereformed in two different eras. A well-elaborated history of the twofactions will help to understand the devotion they have to theircourse in addition to the reason why their rate of spreading differs.However, the main factor that can be seen as the reason the ISIS isspreading faster as compared with Al Qaeda is their difference intactics, strategies, core enemies among other vital concerns. Thefast rate at which the ISIS is spreading is because of its near enemystrategy and its plan to control the land and to gradually expand itsinfluence.
TheAl Qaeda group was the first to emerge in the 1980s from theanti-Soviet jihadists considering that the Osama Bin Laden amongother leaders decided to take advantage of the group that defeatedthe Mighty Soviet Union by advancing to a global level. The vision ofOsama Bin Laden, who later became the leader of the Jihad movement,was to establish a front of elite warriors who could guide theworldwide Jihad project by uniting the various factions strugglingagainst their systems under one umbrella, the Al Qaeda. Osama BinLaden advanced with the movement to see the United States as the mainenemy as it was continuously funding all the other corrupt localgovernments and those who joined his course received money training,weapons and expertise in readiness to attack its perceived enemy. Thebombings that took place in 1998 in Africa on various United Statesembassies in addition to the 9/11 attack showed power, abilities, andsheer audacity of the faction 1.Even though the 9/11 attacks excited the global jihadists andincreased the profile of the Al Qaeda on the international stage, theU.S. counterterrorism reaction was overwhelming for both the Al Qaedamovement and the greater followers it purported ton lead. The yearsafter the 9/11 attacks, the United States tirelessly went after theAl Qaeda targeting its leaders, penetrating its communicationnetwork, disrupting its finances, bombing its training grounds, andeventually crippling its ability to carry out its responsibilities.
TheIslamic state emerged as an Iraqi organization, a legacy that hashelped to steer the faction into what it is today, a global force.After the 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq, jihad-aligned groups multipliedand later united under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi movement that had refusedto swear allegiance to the Al Qaeda group. The seed money to beginIslamic state was given to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by Osama, but he didnot join forces, as he wanted to remain independent by Sharing only afew ideologies with the Al Qaeda. In 2004, when the Al Qaeda movementwas on the ropes, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi agreed to pledge his loyaltyto the Osama, thus benefiting from contacts to boost his legitimacy. Bin Laden and his fellow leaders were seen to clash with al-Zarqawiconsidering that he concentrated on sectarian wars on Sunni Muslimsbranded apostates like the ones who worked together with theShi’a-led regime while Osama dwelled on U.S. targets. The brutalitywith which al-Zarqawi and his followers acted earned them fame amongfellow Jihadists, thus leading to the gradual growth of the factionbased on both numbers and territorial expansion2.The breaking up of war in Syria served as a catalyst for theformation of ISIS since the Baghdadi sent a small troop to Syria thatamassed wealth and later formed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS).
TheFast Growth of the ISIS
TheAl Qaeda and the ISIS have different threat profiles as they differbased on tactics, strategies, and enemies, which is perceived to bethe reason behind the fast growth and spread of the ISIS. Even thoughthe primary goal of the Al Qaeda movement is to remove the apostateregimes from power and to replace them with real Islamic governments,they have concentrated on fighting the United States that is seen asthe core enemy to the Middle East. By majoring attacks on the UnitedStates, the Al Qaeda believes that it will influence them to stopfunding of the Muslim state regimes and to get out of the region,thus leaving the government susceptible to attacks from within. Onthe other hand, the ISIS uses a different strategy for Al Qaeda’sfar end technique since it focuses its war on its near enemy, theapostate” governments in the Arab world3.The ISIS believes it needs to purify the Islam community first byoverpowering the Shi’a in addition to rival jihad factions. Thusits immediate success in these wars is increasing its fame among theJihad believers. Additionally, the ISIS strategy has been centeredtowards expansion and control of territory as it steadilyconsolidates and expands its position while the Al Qaeda mainly usesterrorism acts to excite the Muslim, which has become less effectivewith time. Additionally, the goal of the ISIS to establish a rulinggovernment that will allow residents to live under the Muslim law hasencouraged the growth of the movement, as Muslims tend to embrace theidea of an Islamic state. To the ISIS, terrorism should be part of arevolution as seen by its efforts to deploy artillery, massive tanks,and well-armed forces to aid in sweeping into new regions.
Reasonsfor Spread and Growth of ISIS
Thespread of ISIS can be attributed to four main reasons. First, thegroup took advantage of the marginalization of the Sunni populationliving in Iraq to advance their agenda through gaining territorialand local support. Second, the ISIS fighters have awell-choreographed strategy that they have been using to fight theIraqi army. Third, the group has been exploiting natural resourcesand using them to finance most of their operations. Lastly, ISIS hasbeen using the social media platforms as a means and strategy ofrecruiting the fighters and increase their presence globally.Notably, the main element that has made the four primary reasonspossible is the unity that exist between the anti-Americanpopulations across Iraq and Syria.This population is known to be made up of the remnants of Saddamregime, the civilians who were motivated to adopt militant behaviorwhen the US occupied the area, the transnational jihadists and thetribes who bore the largest punishment of the US forces in 2011.
Marginalizationof the Sunni
Thehatred that exists between Shia and Sunni allowed the ISIS toovertake large sections Iraq Sunni territory. The hatred arises fromthe fact that the government in Baghdad is largely made up of theShia. This gives the Sunni a feeling of being marginalized. One ofthe critical points in the story of marginalization was theparliamentary elections in 2010. The Iraqiyya group then led by AyadAllawi won the backing of the Sunni population to win a majority ofthe seats in the parliament. The political party led by Maliki wassecond after being trailing by two members. Even though Allawi won,Maliki and the Shia coalition through the assistance of the UnitedStates formed the government. Maliki was the Prime Minister.
Toconsolidate the Shia rule in Baghdad, Maliki started to target Sunnileaders months after the election. Most of the Sunni leaders hetargeted were the same individuals who were mobilized by the USforces in operation Anbar Awakening to bring to halt the era ofal-Qaida in Iraq throttleholds within the Sunni populace.
Uponthe withdrawal of the US, the assistance was left to the Malikigovernment with the anticipation that the government would allocateit in a fair way. Notably, after the withdrawal of US forces, theJudicial Council in Iraq issued arrest for Vice President, Hashimiwho was a primary Sunni leader. More arrests of leaders of Sunni andthe employees would be made. These arrests led to protests by theSunnis in Anbar province. When ISIS, extremist group of the Sunni gotinto Iraq, most people in the Sunni population would then cooperateas they saw it as the lesser evil in the pact.
ISISis growing and expanding mainly in Iraq and Syria. These two statesare known to be areas where Sunnis have suffered marginalization,mortification, and murders by the regimes supporting Shiite andAlawi. In both of these states, the citizens never felt safe.Nonetheless, the sectarian rhetoric that was practiced by thecommunity and political leaders led to the Sunni-Shia rift.
Thefailure of dialogue among the leaders of the two groups was alsocritical in contributing to the marginalization. In Iraq, theinability of the former PM Nouri al-Maliki to constructively bringthe Sunni tribes who helped fight al-Qaeda resulted in the fall ofFallujah into the hands of ISIS. Maliki was greedy and left out thetribes and never considered sharing power with them. Upon thewithdrawal of US, the tribes fought openly against one another.
Therevolt and marginalization would later be facilitated by the US talksand the unclear bargains with Tehran. In fact, Assad would bomb therebels in areas where ISIS were not in control. However, what angeredthe people was the quietness of the regime in the matter. Theirquietness did not reassure the Sunnis4.
Mostof the Sunnis saw the ISIS as the powerful defense that they woulduse against the Iran’s prosecution. The support of ISIS mainlyhappened because the Quds Forces and militias backed by the Irangovernment waged war on Sunnis in both countries. The Sunnis wereready to support any group that would fight against the Iran’s QudsForce, the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq and Hezbollah.
Thespread of the ISIS as compared to that of Al-Qaeda was aided by themilitary strategy that they had. The leader of the ISIS, Abu Bakral-Baghdadi is known to be a strategist, an excellent fundraiser, andruthless killer. Using his experience, he has led the group. Whilefighting the enemy, Islamic State has a different approach in itsmilitary. For the Al Qaeda, the strategy was far enemy while forISIS the strategy is near enemy. This then means that the primarytarget of the two groups is different. For the ISIS, the primarytarget has been the apostate regimes in the Arab world, which includethe Asad regime in Syria and the Abadi regime in Iraq different fromthe case of Al-Qaeda who primarily targeted the United States5.
InIraq, ISIS has agreed to take up the operational form that will allowits decentralized commanders to make use of the experienced fightersagainst some of the weakest points. The military officers who are atthe center retains enough operational control to help them carry outlong-term planning on the manner in which allocation of forces,logistics and reinforcements are done. Using the strategies ofhitting the enemies at their weakest areas while at the same timeavoiding the fights they are unsure of winning has made the group tobe popular and considered prestigious. Individuals would want toassociate more with this group as compared to Al-Qaeda. Most of theirsupporters and sympathizers spread the message of the group beingtactical.
ISIShas come up with a territory in which it operates in Iraq. The areathat they have taken up, the Shia and Kurdish will not fight and dieto retake. ISIS has been quite strategic and has not made an attemptto take Baghdad as they are aware they would lose. The Shia forceswill be happy to defeat ISIS in their home turf.
Inthe areas that the ISIS control, they use mass executions, beheadingsof individuals in the public, rape and display individuals they havecrucified. This strategy is meant to terrorize the population and getthem to submit. The strategy has earned the group recognition due tofear and hence the spread. The strategy is different from thatdeployed by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda uses a gentle approach and mostly donot encourage brutality as they fear that the population would turnagainst them and the Muslim community would alienate them6.This approach has not made them popular and affected their spread asonly those who are willing would join them.
Seizureof Natural Resources
ISIShas been able to take control of most of the natural resources inSyria. These resources such as the oil assets and oil fields easilyfacilitate the financing of their activities. ISIS controls nearly60% of oil assets making it be recognized as a hybrid organization ascaptured in the Hezbollah model. Having a say in the country’seconomy and affecting the oil industry globally has made the groupknown. With the wealth, the group has been able to fund itsoperations including recruitment hence making it widespread.
DesigningComplex Social Media
Differentfrom Al-Qaeda, ISIS has been using the social media as a platform forits activities. The group has been campaigning through social mediaand supporting its activities such as recruitments, radicalizationand raising of funds7.The generation gap that exists between al Qaeda and ISIS tells thedifference in the communications tactics. In fact, the tactics thatare employed by ISIS are easy, convenient and reach a large mass ofpeople. The communication tactics enable ISIS to reach many. WhileISIS has been using the social media platform, al-Qaeda relied mostlyon the conventional media, which mainly included the websites,jihadist forums and magazines. Using the social media has given ISISa notch over other groups and al-Qaeda specifically8.The message by ISIS has been widespread making it known andwidespread in different areas. ISIS has been using English languageto communicate its message. This is intended to bring on board theWestern community.
Thewidespread of ISIS has also been supported by the fact that the groupmainly targets the younger as compared to al Qaeda. The recruitmentefforts by ISIS has mainly targeted young Muslims of ages between 18and 35. The group in recruiting its members has been using the socialmedia platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Through thesocial platform, the group has been widespread, and it is establishedthat by March 2015, there were approximately 46,000 pro-ISIS Twitteraccounts.
Thegroup also has a Twitter app called “The Dawn of Glad Tidings”that it uses to disseminate information about the group. The app, forinstance, has been instrumental for the group’s communication. Onthe day that ISIS marched into Mosul, the app disseminatedapproximately 40,000 tweets. As a way of luring people into the groupand having more join them in ideologies and fights, the group hasbeen displaying a lighter side of the militants like showing childrenbreaking their Ramadhan fast with the ISIS fighters. The techniquesthat the group apply shows strength and facilitate engagement onlinewhile at the same time making the fight appealing and relevant. Allthese activities are done with the motive of attracting new recruitsfrom different sections of the world and inspire those who believe intheir ideology to carry out attacks.
Throughthe online social media sites, ISIS has continued to spread themessage and encourage other individuals, especially the young tosupport the organization, to travel to Middle East and take part infighting together with the jihadists9.Through online media, the group has been directing the sympathizersto carry out acts of violence in places they are in case they cannottravel to Middle East.
Throughthe social media, ISIS has been able to spread their propaganda.Propaganda has been a tool that they have used to advance theirmotives. The ISIS propaganda has mainly been directed to Westernersand the millennial generation10.The social media has proved to be a good tool for the terroristgroups to advance their messages and tactics. The platforms likeFacebook, YouTube and Twitter facilitate the spread of ISISpropaganda real time.
TheISIS has a propaganda department known as al-Hayat that progressivelyproduce videos mimicking the action films and music videos producedby Hollywood with an aim of reaching the Western world. The internetparticularly, social media has ensured that ISIS despite being farcan connect to thousands globally11.It is worth noting that even when citizens do not leave forSyria-Iraq border that is presently controlled by ISIS, their supportfor the extremist organization is a threat to the security of thenation as the goals of the terrorists can be executed within theborders.
Inconclusion, the fast growth of the ISIS is because of its near enemystrategy (military strategy) and its plan to control the land andgradually expand its influence into new regions and use of socialmedia platform. ISIS has also been able to take control of most ofthe natural resources in Syria. These resources such as the oilassets and oil fields easily facilitate the financing of theiractivities. Having a say in the country’s economy and affecting theoil industry globally has made the group known. With the wealth, thegroup has been able to fund its operations including recruitmenthence making it widespread. This strategy is more productive ascompared to the Al Qaeda’s technique that aims at directing acts ofterror in the United States. The negative result of these twofactions is that their efforts to garner more influence may lead toincreased anti-U.S. violence in the end.
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1 Weiner, Justus Reid. "War on American Diplomacy: ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Taliban`s Sustained Attacks on Peaceful US Missions Abroad,." Cardozo J. Conflict Resol. 17 (2015): 487.
2 Kagan, Frederick W., Kimberly Kagan, Jennifer Cafarella, Harleen Gambhir, Christopher Kozak, Hugo Spaulding, and Katherine Zimmerman. 2016. "Competing Visions For Syria And Iraq: The Myth Of An Anti-Isis Grand Coalition." AEI Paper & Studies 12, no. 1: 1-48.
3 Esfandiary, Dina, and Ariane Tabatabai. "Iran`s ISIS policy." International Affairs 91, no. 1 (2015): 1-15.
4 Richards, Victoria. “ISIS: 5 maps that show how fast the group has spread through Syria and Iraq.” Available at: Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-5-maps-that-show-how-fast-the-group-has-spread-in-syria-and-iraq-a6740331.html [Accessed 29/11/2016] (2016).
5 Glenn, Cameron. “Al Qaeda v ISIS: Ideology & Strategy. (2015). Wilson Center. Retrieved from https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/al-qaeda-v-isis-ideology-strategy [Accessed 29/11/2016].
6 Byman, Daniel L. "Comparing Al Qaeda and ISIS: Different Goals, Different Targets." Washington DC: The Brookings Institution. Available at: http://www. brookings. edu/research/testimony/2015/04/29-terrorism-in-africa-byman (Accessed: 29 November 2016) (2015).
7 Byman, Daniel L. "Comparing Al Qaeda and ISIS: Different Goals, Different Targets." Washington DC: The Brookings Institution. Available at: http://www. brookings. edu/research/testimony/2015/04/29-terrorism-in-africa-byman (Accessed: 29 November 2016) (2015).
8 Klausen, Jytte. "Tweeting the Jihad: Social media networks of Western foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq." Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 38, no. 1 (2015): 1-22.
9 Myers, Laurel. "Global Ambitions: The Rise of Islamic State Affiliates and Countering Expansion." (2016).
10 Nissen, Thomas Elkjer. "Terror. com: IS’s social media warfare in Syria and Iraq." Contemporary Conflicts: Military Studies Magazine 2, no. 2 (2014).
11 Klausen, Jytte. "Tweeting the Jihad: Social media networks of Western foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq." Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 38, no. 1 (2015): 1-22.