For many years, ISIS and al-Qaeda have had the same goals, used the same barbaric methods of conquest and have had many of the same Gulfi benefactors; Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular.
Now, both Salifist organisations may formally unite their operations in Iraq and possibly beyond.
It is widely known that the names and loyalties of various Salifist terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya constantly change their names depending on what ‘brand image’ they seek to present to their extremist followers or inversely to their state party sponsors and sympathisers, who often call some of these groups ‘moderate rebels’.
It is also widely known, but grossly under-reported that many of the same individuals fight for ISIS one day, al-Qaeda and its offshoots (al-Nusra being an example) the next and Turkey’s jihadist proxy FSA the week after that.
However unlike the ordinary jihadist fighters, the command structures at the top of these terrorist groups are organised to varying degrees.
The news of an alliance or merger between ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq was recently brought to the world’s attention by Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi.
Allawi, who was the Iraqi Prime Minister between 2004 and 2005, has said of talks between the two infamous jihadist groups
“The discussion has started now… There are discussions and dialogue between messengers representing (ISIS leader) Baghdadi and representing (al-Qaeda leader) Zawahiri”.
“I can’t see ISIS disappearing into thin air. They will remain covertly in sleeping cells, spreading their venom all over the world”.
This statement illustrates the fact that the fundamental differences between the leadership of ISIS and al-Qaeda revolve around personal power struggles and greed in respect of the resources in the territories that the respective groups occupy.
In virtually every other sense, ISIS, al-Qaeda and the FSA operating in Syria, are interchangeable. There is nothing ‘moderate’ or legal about any of these groups.