Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — the curious case of the tug of jihad ]


Bill Ardolino‘s caption at Long War Journal for the above video under the heading Takfiri tug of war reads:

Unverified video of a tug of war contest “between Jabhat al Nusra and Islamic state in Aleppo.” Al Qaeda and its rebranded offshoots have attempted to burnish their bloody, intolerant image in Syria with a series of family-friendly events.

Personally, I think it’s more likely a takbiri than a takfiri tug of war, takfir being the practice of denouncing others as outisde the pale of Islam, whereas takbir is the cry “Allahu Akbar” — Great is God — which I believe is the cry heard here. In any case, one would hardly cry takfir on someone and the engage in a friendly tug of war with them.

And perhaps “unverified” is the key word here in any case: who? wheere? when.


But let’s get real.

Here’s Cole Bunzel at Jihadica on the conflict between Jabhat and the Islamic State folk. As he says, after mentioning the tug-of-war and ice-cream parties:

While Syria’s jihadis on the ground may have achieved a modus vivendi in many areas (JN and ISIS fighters have been filmed playing tug-of-war in Aleppo), tensions in jihadi media remain pronounced.

Here’s more:

The Shumukh administrators are not the first jihadis to try to mediate the ISIS-JN dispute. To remind readers, this dispute broke out in April last year when al-Baghdadi, emir of the then-Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), declared JN to be a mere “extension” of ISI and henceforward dissolved. Simultaneously, he extended the Islamic State’s writ to Sham, or greater Syria, thus begetting the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). When JN’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, rejected al-Baghdadi’s instruction to disband, Ayman al-Zawahiri stepped into the fray to “decide the case.”

In late May he issued a written directive, leaked to al-Jazeera, pronouncing against al-Baghdadi. The AQC emir annulled the Islamic State’s incorporation of Syria, ordering ISI and JN to remain separate entities observing separate jurisdictions—Iraq and Syria respectively.

Zawahiri, however, had overestimated the weight of his authority. From the Islamic State’s perspective, it was he, and not al-Baghdadi, who had overstepped his bounds.

This all sounds closer to fitna than fun

Bunzel concludes:

The momentum, however, both material and intellectual, appears to favor the Islamic State, al-Baghdadi, and his contempt for Zawahiri’s effort to restrain him.

The sudden ascendancy of al-Baghdadi marks a signal achievement for the defiantly reborn Islamic State. Contrary to popular perceptions, this achievement is in no way a triumph for AQC but rather comes at its expense. Al-Baghdadi, the rising standard-bearer of the jihadi ideology traditionally undergirding al-Qaeda, appears for the moment the triumphant leader of something quite distinct from an “al-Qaeda group.”