One recent observation is that the Islamic State has refrained from using so-called car bombs, or suicide vehicles loaded with explosives, in the last two years.
This is thought to be due to the ‘dirtiness’ of the method – too many unintended casualties, which reduces the responsiveness of fellow citizens. On the other hand, the observation of the Iraqi counter-terrorism services is that al-Mawla is currently working on establishing a new leadership structure to return to its roots, the decentralisation that once allowed the organisation to flourish.
That is to say, from the Islamic State’s point of view, it has not been defeated, but has returned to normality, away from the miraculous days of strength that could never have lasted. The new approach – and this seems very plausible – is supposedly aimed at the so-called war of attrition. If the Pentagon’s estimate that there are currently around 10 000 ISIS soldiers roaming the wilderness is correct, then there is certainly reason for concern.
[…] With the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the consolidation of Taliban, many so-called Afghan Arabs scattered to the margins, because they were not always welcomed at home. [..]
The first influx of Al Qaeda refugees was sent home rather quickly by Iranian security, but with the second, Adel [Seif al-Adel – next in line to the Al Qaeda throne] is and several other senior Al Qaeda leaders and their families arrived in Iran.
This time [after the 11 September terrorist attack], Iran allowed the refugees to stay, but kept a close eye on them to assess the situation. When the Al Qaida realised that their every move was being watched and tried to protect themselves, the Iranian authorities responded with decisive action and mass arrests in April 2003 […]. In the years that followed, the places of detention and the forms of surveillance have varied from very aggressive, intolerable to very benign.
However, imprisonment was and remained a practice that suited some members of Al-Qaida so much that they were then willing to surrender to Israel rather than live under Iranian supervision.
A major development took place in 2015 with the hostage exchange between Iran and Al-Qaida. As far as is known, five Al-Qaida leaders have left, but Masri and Adel have remained in Iran, free but forbidden to leave the country.
This situation illustrates the complex relationship between Al-Qaida and Iran. Although they are ideologically the most bitter enemies at a strategic level, at a tactical level they have little in common – first of all, the ‘Great Satan’ or the USA. From the Iranian point of view, the cooperation, i.e., keeping senior Al Qaida leaders under surveillance, was a security guarantee to deter Al Qaida from turning against Iran.
However, the future is not easily foreseeable. […] The Islamic State insists on immediate submission, while Al Qaeda calls for moderation. The Islamic State rejects the possibility of alliances, insists on Sunni supremacy and its only truth, but here is Al-Qaeda in cahoots with a communicator.
Fragment from Māris Kūlis. 2021. “Māris Kūlis: Teroristu jaunā maiņa. Kamēr vīruss vēl nav atkāpies, teroristu organizācijas pārstrukturējas = Māris Kūlis: The New Shift of Terrorists. While the Virus is Still in its Retreat, Terrorist Organisations are Restructuring,” La.lv.