Eyeing a former ally that has now become a rival for world-wide attention, Al Qaeda is reportedly headed to Syria to take on ISIS for supremacy in the region, reports Business Insider.
According to Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, the brutal activities of ISIS — also known as ISIL — have led the Muslim world to view Al Qaeda more favorably.
“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, adding that Al Qaeda wants use the “opportunity off of what ISIS did” to elevate itself in the eyes of those who oppose the West.
While ISIS is proudly brutal — promoting it’s ideology with well-publicized beheadings — Al Qaeda takes the longer view despite having much in common with their rivals.
“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan explained. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in. ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq.'”
Because of the incessant focus by lawmakers — particularity GOP politicians who are obsessed with the group — officials have begun to look at getting behind Al Qaeda as a weapon to destroy ISIS.
“When you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” Soufan explained.
Recent reports indicate that ISIS defections has weakened the group as the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed — giving Al Qaeda an opening.
But Soufan cautioned that ISIS still has a leg up on their rivals.
“They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term,” he said.