With the Islamic State on the Run, Al-Qaida Calls For Jihad

Al-Qaida’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri has urged followers to wage war against the US for opening an embassy in Jerusalem. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. While many Middle East experts claim the move is an attempt to capitalize on the fall of its main rival, the ISIS, it is the normal operating procedure to call for jihad against the United States.

President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “was clear and explicit, and he revealed the true face of the modern Crusade,” al-Qaida leader Zawahiri said in a recording circulated on social media this week. “Standing down and appeasement does not work with them, but only resistance through the call and jihad.”

But, despite al-Zawahiri’s new appeal, “reactions thus far don’t show any sort of organized online campaign from either side,” Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, said in a tweet, referring to the social media channels of al-Qaida and the “Islamic State” (often abbreviated as IS or ISIS).

That silence may be indicative of a shift, according to Ian Oxnevad, a Middle East scholar at the University of California, Riverside. He told DW that while there wasn’t much of a backlash, “that does not mean that it is not present.”

“This is a chance for al-Qaida to reinvent itself,” Oxnevad said. “Al-Qaida can co-opt old IS networks and strategies while setting up new cells in Europe,” which provides a “base of potential recruits along with a social infrastructure removed from new realities in the Middle East.”

After the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, Al-Qaida took a blow that it has been slow to recover from. But as the US has shifted its focus in counter-terrorism from them to ISIS, they’ve recovered and have looked to expand. And they have, in Asia and other places such as Algeria and Pakistan.

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