TEL AVIV – An Arab intelligence source warned against getting too excited about the reported retreats of the Islamic State across the Middle East, revealing that Al-Qaeda is moving in to fill the void.
IS has lost significant ground in Syria, especially near the Turkish and Jordanian border, “but sadly the divisions within the Syrian opposition and the absence of an international body managing the spoils of war have led to the rise of the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, in these areas,” he said.
“There is no indication, except in isolated cases, that the moderate opposition forces are taking over from IS,” he said. “And even when it’s not the Nusra Front, it’s other radical, Salafi-jihadi organizations. The international coalition decided at random to dub them ‘moderate,’ even though they are almost as radical as Al Qaeda and IS.”
The best examples of this, he said, are the battles near the Turkish border, around Idlib, and in the outskirts of Damascus, where Nusra Front marched in shortly after IS withdrew.
“Nusra Front cleverly collaborates with other organizations, some backed by America, and thus avoids international pressure, military intervention, and attacks against its men,” he said.
In Iraq, he added, the situation is slightly different, but there too the absence of a clear Western strategy to undermine the huge influence of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias “will lead the sizable Sunni community to look for an alternative to IS, but it is more likely to be one that looks a lot more like IS than a moderate organization.”
The fact that the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds Brigades has become the de facto ruler of Iraq gives impetus to allied Shi’ite militias, which will cause a backlash in the form of a new jihadi organization to attract disenchanted Sunnis, he added.
“Whenever IS is weakened, Al Qaeda is getting stronger,” he said. “It’s much clearer in Syria, but Iraq is likely to follow suit.”