THE merger of Al Qaeda’s Iraqi and Syrian factions shows how a state of prolonged anarchy can give rise to extremism and militancy. On Monday, Iraq’s Al Qaeda chapter, headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced over its website it had united with Jabhat al-Nusra, which emerged in 2012 as one of Syria’s major rebel factions. The Iraqi chapter, headed by Al-Baghdadi, is titled ‘The Islamic State of Iraq’. After the merger, the new entity will be known as ‘The Islamic State in Iraq and Levant’. The name itself underlines the militant leaders’ ambitions and goals.
Even before the formal merger was announced, it was known that the Al-Baghdadi faction was funding half of the Syrian rebels’ budget. Already the two factions share training bases, intelligence networks, arms and logistics. Announcing the merger, Al-Baghdadi said the Syrian people would have no separate leader, implying that he himself will be the sole commander.
Of late, Al Qaeda’s focus of attention has been shifting from the Af-Pak region because the anarchy in the heart of the Middle East provides an ideal ground for its militants to operate. Reports suggest Al Qaeda and allied groups have occupied a chunk of territory on the Iraq-Syria border and turned it into a base of operation. They have reason to be optimistic because regional and other powers continue to supply them with arms. This highlights the folly in the world’s attitude towards the ‘Arab Spring’. Where the struggle against authoritarian regimes had been totally indigenous, the dictators’ fall led to elections and the establishment of democratic governments — as in Tunisia and Egypt. But where foreigners have intervened with arms supplies or outright military intervention there has been an utter mess. Syria is a prime example.