Islamic State (ISIS) VS Al Qaeda

A very nice article by the Business Insider, titled “We’re getting to know just how different ISIS is from al Qaeda”, March 2015, about the differences between ISIS and Al Qaeda. In the third paragraph the article says that Al Qaeda did not care much about the creation of an Islamic Chaliphate, while this is one of ISIS’s main concerns.

That makes sense, if we take into account that the major influence in Al Qaeda is the Arabs of the Persian Gulf, who do not want a Chaliphate, because a Chaliphate would mean that they would have to share their oil and natural gas with other countries. On the contrary, the main influence in ISIS is Turkey, and Erdogan would love to be some kind of Sultan in a Chaliphate i.e. some form of union with the Persian Gulf, which would also imply many economic benefits for Turkey. Turkey wants to somehow regain the influence it had in the Middle East until the First World War (1914-1918). The Turkish soldiers that were sent to Qatar in 2015, one hundred years after their withdrawal from the region, was a step towards this end.

In the 9th paragraph the article says that the great enemy of Al Qaeda is the United States, while the great enemy of ISIS is the Shites of Syria and Iraq, and the Assad regime of Syria. That makes sense too, because Al Qaeda wanted to fight the Americans who wanted to bring the oil of Kazakhstan and the natural gas of Turkmenistan to India and the Indian Ocean i.e. TAPI pipeline etc. After all the base of Osama bin Laden was for many years in Afghanistan.

Map 1

Map of TAPI pipeline

Moreover some parts of the Saudi elites might have been angry with the US, due to the American pressures for larger oil production and lower oil prices. Finally some Arabs might believe that the alliance between US and Saudi Arabia was a constraint towards closer economic relations with China, which is now the big customer in the Middle East. The Americans have reduced their imports from the Gulf. China has much closer relations with Iran due to the Saudi alliance with the US. But Al Qaeda should not be seen as the same thing with the Saudi leadership, because Al Qaeda was the first one to call the Saudi King an apostate, and asked for a jihad against him.

As far as Turkey is concerned, the US and the TAPI pipeline is not a problem. The problems for ISIS are the Arabs of Syria and Iraq, who refused the construction of the Arab-Turkish Pipelines i.e. Qatar-Turkey pipeline, and agreed with the Russian state-owned Gazprom to the construction of the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. It is true of course that some problems arose between Turkey and the US too, because the US supports the Syrian Kurds in Northern Syria, which is a big problem for Turkey. Moreover the Americans have also improved significantly their relations with Iran, which is another problem for Turkey and ISIS. But it is unlikely that the US will become the main target of ISIS, because Turkey and the US need each other a lot, no matter what problems they encounter in their relationship. However there is always the possibility of regional clashes between the US and ISIS, something that has already happened in Syria.

Another interesting article for the clash between Al Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS’s dominance over Al Qaeda, is the Guardian’s “How Isis crippled al-Qaida”, June 2015. I must say that the main reason that ISIS became stronger than Al Qaeda, which was the leader of all terrorist organizations, is the support from Turkey. The Turkish military machine is much stronger than the Saudi one. In addition the Americans were not putting many restrictions on the supply of arms to Turkey and Israel, which was not the case with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was not seen by the Americans as reliable as Turkey and Israel, not only because of China, but also because at some point an anti-American leadership could come to power. Moreover Al Qaeda does not have the support of all the Saudi elite, because it is an enemy of the Saudi King.

Another reason that Al Qaeda is weaker than ISIS is that the United States attacks Al Qaeda wherever they can, because Al Qaeda is for the US a deadly enemy. On the contrary attacking ISIS creates problems in the relationship between the US and Turkey, and therefore the Americans have to show a lot more restraint when they attack ISIS.

For the Business Insider article see

“We’re getting to know just how different ISIS is from al Qaeda”, March 2015

3rd Paragraph

Unlike the self-proclaimed Islamic State, al Qaeda — led by bin Laden until his death in 2011 — was never overly concerned with the immediate formation of an Islamic caliphate.

9th Paragraph

Whereas al Qaeda’s primary enemy has always been the United States, ISIS targets are much closer to home: Namely, apostate Shi’ite regimes such as Bashar Assad’s government in Syria and Haider al-Abadi’s in Iraq that impede the creation of a “pure”, radically sectarian Islamic state.

 For the Guardian article see

“How Isis crippled al-Qaida”, June 2015

Map 2

Map of the Middle East

Map 3

Oil Fields (black) and Natural Gas Fields (red) of the Middle East and the Caspian Sea

Χάρτης Πετρελαίου και Φυσικού Αερίου της Μέσης Ανατολής

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