Wars are never simple. With the incredible success of the terrorist group ISIS, now called the Islamic State, and the recent news that Egypt and UAE have engaged in air strikes against the jihadists in Syria, Breitbart News has decided to cut away some of the fog of war and explain who stands where in this latest Holy War for the future of the Middle East and North Africa.
Image: John Sexton
Afghanistan: Continually deteriorating alliance with the United States. Taliban insurgency continues to usurp power and territory from the vacuum left behind by US forces’ departure from Kabul. Multi-ethnic society under one impossible-to-maintain central administration has created the conditions for constant clashes between tribes. Home to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in the ’80s and ’90s.
Algeria: Home to Africa’s third-biggest oil reserves and 10th in the world in natural gas reserves. Dealing with widespread poverty and Islamist radicals infiltrating the government. 99% Sunni Muslim.
Al Qaeda: Salafist Sunni terror group now run by the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, with various offshoots spread all over the region. The Islamic State – formerly ISIS – is a break-off of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Bahrain: Tiny country primarily populated by Shiite Muslims but ruled by Sunnis, which has often led to political unrest and anti-regime protests.
Egypt: Run by the government of President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the former Commander of the Armed Forces. The government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and is fighting jihadi elements in major cities, especially the Sinai.
Hamas: Palestinian terror organization at war with Israel. The Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, its charter commits its members to “dying in the way of Jihad.”
Hezbollah: Iran-backed Lebanon-based terrorist group. Engaged in “holy war” with Sunni terrorist group The Islamic State in Syria, and according to latest reports, now in Iraq also. Led by Hassan Nasrallah.
Iran: Leader of the Shiite Islamic world. Ruled by theocratic dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Known financier of Hezbollah and Hamas terror groups and ally of Syria’s Assad. Committed to exporting its theocratic revolution.
Iraq: At war with the Islamic State (IS). The new government has lost control of several major cities to IS. Weakened by crumbling defense forces and lack of US forces in the country.
The Islamic State: Formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Lead by the newly announced “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Controls a large swath of territory that spans much of Iraq and Syria. In terms of numbers of fighters, weapons, and available funds, far outstrips the capabilities of Al Qaeda (even at its most powerful on 9/11).
Israel: Only liberal democracy in the Middle East. At war with Iran-sponsored Hamas, an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. De facto alliance with Egypt. Closest formal ally to the US in the region
Jordan: Monarchy ruled by King Abdullah II, part of the Hashemite dynasty said to be descended from Mohammad. A moderate Islamic country compared to its Arab neighbors and a close ally of the United States. Threatened as a potential prime target for the Islamic State for both of these reasons. Inherently unstable due to a very large Palestinian population and enormous influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq. Has a small but very capable military and intelligence service.
Kuwait: Home to US military bases. Top officials recently suspected of financing terror. Ruling party dealing with allegations of massive corruption. Emir controls all political power. Recent reports say that Kuwait may be turning against the jihadi movement.
Lebanon: Although its governmental system is technically equally divided between Shiite, Sunni, and Maronite Christians, in reality, both domestic and foreign policy is dominated by the Shiite terror group and Iran-proxy Hezbollah.
Libya: Ruling party at war with anti-Islamist general Haftar. Country in a state of lawlessness. The Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda-offshoot that was responsible for 9/11/2012 attack on US consulate, is still at large.
Pakistan: Home to the Haqqani network and the country where Osama bin Laden was hiding. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is known to have been infiltrated by and supportive of radical fundamentalist interests. Fundamentally dysfunctional, Pakistan has never come to terms with its Islamic identity or its paranoia for India.
Qatar: Oil-rich gulf state that controls the Al Jazeera Media Network, which is known as an informal propaganda arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatari officials have been accused by international leaders of financing terrorism, particularly The Islamic State terror group. Along with Turkey suspected of being the largest supporter of jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
Syria: In the midst of a civil war between President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Army and Islamist factions of varying radicalism. Current death toll estimates around 200,000. A client state of Iran.
Turkey: Previously a stable, secular Muslim state whose democracy was vouched safe by the military. Now ruled by Muslim Brotherhood-friendly leadership. Strongly aligned with Hamas despite being a member of NATO. Along with Qatar suspected of being supporter of jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
Tunisia: Recognized as the catalyst of the “Arab Spring” revolts that changed the map of the Middle East. Recently removed from power Muslim-Brotherhood government.
Saudi Arabia: Ruled as a theocratic absolute monarchy. Preaches Wahhabism, a salafist fundamentalist branch of Islam. Known for Mecca and Medina, the two holiest Islamic sites. Top officials have been accused of aiding and abetting of Al Qaeda and its offshoots. Recently reassessing the threat of extremists to its own system, it has moved closer to Israel.
United Arab Emirates: Carried out airstrikes on Libya last week against Islamist militants. Federation of seven emirates, each governed by an emir who come together to form the Federal Supreme Council, which makes executive decisions on behalf of the UAE. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are two emirates known for being commercial hubs. Interested in defeating the jihadi threat.
Yemen: Home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, arguably the fiercest branch of AQ. Large US drone presence to combat radical entities. Fragile government threatened by jihadists as well as tribal Houthi insurgents.