Andreas Armborst


This article points out how Jihadism in Iraq has recovered from its nearly completely shattering in 2010, and how it has developed into a serious political and military actor in Iraq and Syria since then, threatening the world in the summer of 2014 again. The text summarizes contributions of think tanks and journalists concerning this matter, thus giving the reader a brief overview on the decisive turning points in the short history of Jihadism in Iraq. The perhaps most momentous turn in this history is the spinoff of the Islamic State from the global Al Qaida movement. This manoeuvre has the potential of discerping global Jihadism, which, on the other hand, might lead to a realignment of the strategy and the alliances of its regional offsets in the Caucasus (Caucasian Emirate), Maghreb (AQIM, Ansar Dine), on the Sinai Peninsula, in Sub-Sahara Africa (al-Shabab, Boko Haram), and on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The outbreak of the Syrian civil war in March 2011 has given the development of Jihadism in Iraq new momentum. Until today Iraq’s Al Qaida (AQI) has changed the name of its organisation six times. In temporal order its name was at-Tawhid wa‘l-Jihad, Al Qaida in Mesopotamia, Mudschahedeen Shura Council (MSC), Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and, at the moment, The Islamic State (IS). As a matter of fact, in the 11 years of the development of AQI, important organisational changeovers, disagreements, or new alliances have led to changes of name. Due to the amalgamation with the Syrian Jabaa’t al-nusra on 8th April 2013 AQI has enhanced its influence in Syria considerably. In reality, ISI and Jabaa’t al-nusra are deeply disunited already. Like in the Iraq civil war, the trigger of the internal conflict is the uncompromising attitude of ISI and the divergent points of view of its allies - never mind how deeply rooted these may be in the local population - stigmatized as apostasy (turning away from Islamic faith), suppressed, and too much fought against. With the discord between Jabaa’t al-Nusra and ISI(S) looms an organisational separation between the central command of the Afghan-Pakistan Al Qaida (AQ) and ISI, which raises the question which organisation actually represents transnational Jihadism in the region today. Both Ayman az-Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claim command and control for the Jihad which acts all over the world. With the declaration of the caliphate on 30th June 2014 al-Baghdadi substantiates the claim that the “Islamic State” under his command is the territorial basis for the expansion of global Jihad. With this step he establishes ideological facts which cannot be made undone, and which poses the dilemma to all Jihadists worldwide to commit either to AQ or to IS. Although there are permanent initiatives by Jihadist jurists to lead the IS back into the organisational and command structure of AQ again, at the moment it seems that Sunni feudalism has been enlarged by another influential movement.