The Islamic State and al-Qaida are exploring the possibility of forming an alliance, Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi said Monday.
The world’s two foremost jihadi terrorist groups have engaged in discussions regarding the possibility of joining forces, Allawi told Reuters in an interview. If true, the move would end a heated three-year-long rivalry.
“The discussion has started now,” said Allawi. “There are discussions and dialogue between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Ayman al-Zawahiri are the leaders of ISIS and al-Qaida, respectively.
ISIS split from al-Qaida in 2014 after several disagreements between the leaders of the two groups. Al-Qaida was critical of the indiscriminate violence ISIS utilized since its earliest days as al-Qaida in Iraq in the mid-2000s. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida in Iraq’s leader, was particularly well-known for his brutal tactics during the Iraqi insurgency. Zarqawi was killed in 2006, but ISIS carried on his legacy of violence as it morphed into its current iteration under Baghdadi.
The two groups have engaged in fierce competition for recruits and leadership in the jihadi community ever since the split.
ISIS’s propensity for violence, slick propaganda videos and ability to recruit world-wide allowed it to overshadow al-Qaida for the last three years. Al-Qaida has typically engaged in a more covert campaign against the West, preferring large-scale, intricately planned attacks to wear down its enemies over time.
ISIS may have gained notoriety for its violence and success on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, but it has since been pushed back significantly by a U.S.-led international coalition. The resulting vacuum has allowed the al-Qaida linked Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly the Nusra Front, to take a prominent role in Syria.
ISIS’s two capitals, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, are currently under siege. The group’s continued losses may be a reason for the interest in a potential alliance with its former parent group. Regardless, Allawi believes ISIS will find a way to survive.
“I can’t see ISIS disappearing into thin air,” said Allawi. “They will remain covertly in sleeping cells, spreading their venom all over the world.”
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