Comparing And Contrasting ISIS And Alqaeda - Government - Essay

1354 words - 6 pages

ISIS vs Al-Qaeda
Since launching one of the most publicized foreign attacks in history, the multi-national
jihadist network known as Al-Qaeda has fuelled the better part of post-2001 terrorist
discourse. However, an organization that arose from its Iraqi branch has since surfaced as
al-Qaeda’s staunch competitor. Despite being initially dismissed by President Obama as a
‘J.V.’ team, the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has, in just a few years,
become one of the world’s most feared and sensationalized terrorist organizations.
Although both Al-Qaeda and ISIS defend Salafi Jihadism, their core goals differ
fundamentally. It will be argued that its calls for an Islamic state and Caliphate, as well as
its targeting of ‘near’ enemies, have honed ISIS’ success over Al-Qaeda. Moreover,
recruitment tactics that focus on social media render ISIS more relevant in today’s digital
Al-Qaeda places precedence on targeting the ‘far enemy’ of the West, while ISIS’ enemies
include Shi’a and Sunni moderates within the Middle East (Gerges, 2016, p. 6). According
to Osama bin Laden, the United States is to blame for ‘corrupt local regimes’ plaguing the
Middle East. As such, early al-Qaeda attacks were targeted almost exclusively at
Americans, such as the Yemen Hotel Bombings (1992), various U.S embassy bombings
(1998), and the September 11 attacks (2001). Resulting in the combined deaths of over
3000 civilians and costing the United States over $10 billion in infrastructural damage, Al-
Qaeda’s successful coordination of such deadly attacks has resulted in its own downfall
as the top terrorist contender. Drastic counter-terrorism efforts were enforced by the
United States following 9/11, most notably the U.S’ declaration of the War in Iraq in 2003
(Gerges, 2016). By focusing on absolute Western antagonism, Al-Qaeda limited its
potential recruits and has thus been superseded by ISIS, which prioritizes territorial gain.
ISIS’ focus on establishing a Caliphate has resulted in a collective Islamic State identity
that spans borders (Gerges, 2016, p. 46). Although the organization also decries Western
influence, it views America, Europe, and Israel as ‘secondary goal[s] that must be
deferred until a Sunni Islamic state is built in the heart of Arabia’ (Gerges, 2016, p. 6).
Whereas Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri advocated patience in the name of an
eventual Caliphate, ISIS is the only organization of its kind to have declared an Islamic
state (Gerges, 2016). Such a territorial approach in the name of a Caliphate renders ISIS a
powerful military organization. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader and proclaimed Caliph of
ISIS, had ‘the strategic foresight needed to transform a fragile organization on the brink of
collapse into a mini-professional army, one capable of waging urban and guerrilla warfare
as well as conventional warfare’ (Gerges, 2016, p. 143). It is estimated that 30% of senior
officials in ISIS’ military command are former Iraqi secur...

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