Thursday, July 7, 2016
What if we understood al Qaeda and the Islamic State as protégées of Iran, rather than merely its rivals? At first glance, this might seem outlandish, given that al Qaeda and the Islamic State are Sunni militant groups while Iran is a Shiite theocracy, and each nominally regards the others as theological apostates. Because the suggestion of a familial lineage between these groups and Iran flies in the face of conventional wisdom, it is necessary to test the claim by looking for indications of mutual influence, shared values, and shared goals. For example, on June 10, 2016, Tallha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, , “Iran is what the Islamic State will look like if it succeeds.” He pointed to similarities in behavior between Iran and its supposed protégée: Each had committed horrendous terrorist actions and human rights violations at home and abroad in the name of Islamist militancy. Similarities in behavior, however, may not be sufficient to demonstrate family ties.
The roots of these potential links go back to 1979. “The threat of violent Sunni Islamism was essentially nonexistent until 1979,” when Iran’s revolution became a symbol of the potential power of political Islam, Andrew Peek, an expert on terrorism in the Middle East, in . Not coincidentally, Sunni extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca that same year. While their theological differences are real, Sunni and Shia militants both made their modern debut on the global stage that year, as violent Islamism became a new global presence.
* Raymond Tanter was a former member of the National Security Council staff and Representative of the Secretary of Defense to arms control talks during the Reagan-Bush Administration.
* This article was published first by Foreign Policy on 06/07/2016