No bright line separates ISIS and al Qaeda

A source from deep within the intelligence world has commented on my post about Walter Russell Mead’s article concerning ISIS. Mead’s thesis is that ISIS is more radical, better organized, and better financed than al-Qaeda. And now that it controls some of the most strategic territory at the heart of the Middle East, ISIS poses a greater threat to the United States than any of its jihadist predecessors.

My source comments as follows:

The only disagreement I have with this is the separation [Mead] sees between al Qaeda and ISIL [Note: another name for ISIS]. ISIL sees itself as the more-loyal and more-pure follower of bin laden; sees itself as able to defeat the West and thus America faster and better than Zawahiri after it establishes a caliphate in the Middle East.

Within the Sunni terrorist struggle for power, it is a tactical fight in many ways more than an ideological one. To separate them too much is to give al Qaeda too much credibility, too much [credit] for moderation, and give ISIL too much legal room to grow. They both must go down, together, and fast.

This is a valid and important point. I have complained about the Obama administration’s crabbed definition of al Qaeda, which enables it to claim success against that organization and thus to argue for winding down the war on terror. Indeed, I consider this Obama’s most dangerous lie.

Obama’s effort to define al Qaeda away has impeded our response to the Benghazi attack, and contributed to our inaction in Syria and our blindness to the jihadi blitzkrieg in Iraq until very, very late. So I thank my source for the comment.

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