ISIS’s Frenemies

In a lengthy and penetrating look into the Syrian roots of the current conflict in Iraq, Rania Abouzeid discusses ISIS’s fraught relations with other militant groups:

ISIL couldn’t work with others in Syria, so how long before it turns on, or aggravates, its new Iraqi allies? ISIL’s code of conduct for Mosul’s Nineveh province, posted just two days after insurgents seized the area, provides one indication. Its repressive rules are the SYRIA-CONFLICT-NUSRAsame as those it has enforced in Raqqa: obligatory prayers five times a day in mosques; women must dress modestly (i.e., in a balloon-like black cloak and face-covering veil) and should only leave their homes in emergencies; and all shrines should be destroyed, among other edicts. Unlike Nusra, it hasn’t learned to prioritize the importance of gaining popular support.

But the fate of ISIL is far from the only question. Will Nusra and other Syrian rebel groups try to make some sort of large-scale move against ISIL positions in Syria now that the group is preoccupied in Iraq? Will Nusra lose members to a group whose Islamic state is increasingly taking shape? How will Zawahiri react? He is unlikely to capitulate to ISIL, but nor can he much criticize a group that is implementing the ultimate goals of his own organization. Could al Qaeda try to prove its relevance through new attacks? Does it still have the capability?

Will Saletan breaks down how ISIS violates all of Osama Bin Laden’s rules for Jihad:

Bin Laden was a theocratic fundamentalist, but he cautioned his allies to avoid the “alienation from harshness” that was “taking over the public opinion.” The worst offender was Somalia’s al-Shabab. In a 2011 letter, Bin Laden urged Atiyah to “send advice to the brothers in Somalia about the benefit of doubt when it comes to dealing with crimes and applying Shari’a, similar to what the prophet (PBUH) said, to use doubts to fend off the punishments.”

When ISIS captures a city, it follows this rule at first. But soon, the nice-guy act disappears. The group seizes property and humanitarian aid. It executes Christian and Muslim “apostates.” Two days after taking Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, ISIS banned booze and cigarettes, instructed women to stay home, and announced that government employees who failed to repent would be put to death. This behavior antagonizes Sunni fighters who have collaborated with ISIS. “In some areas that ISIS has taken they are killing our people, they are imposing their Islamic laws on us,” one tribal leader told the New York Times. “We do not want that.”

(Photo: A Turkish fighter of the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front, bearing the flag of Al-Qaeda on his jacket (C-back), holds position with fellow comrades on April 4, 2013 in the Syrian village of Aziza, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo. By Guillaume Briquet/AFP/Getty Images.)