Unfortunately, that defeat did not completely destroy the ISI, as the Islamist terror group began a long slow road back to terror relevance, a road pockmarked with sporadic but deadly terrorist attacks.
Those al-Qaeda attacks included two truck bombings in August 2009 in Baghdad that killed at least 100 dead and more than 500 wounded; two car bombings in October 2009 outside Baghdad’s Justice Ministry that killed 160 and at least 540 wounded; and a series of suicide car bombings in December 2009 that killed 127.
By the beginning of 2012, however, ISI’s terrorist actions were being matched by its expanding terrorist ambitions, aspirations aided in large part by the withdrawal of the last American troops from Iraq; a weak Iraqi central government; and a raging civil war in neighboring Syria.
Specifically, in addition to upending the Iraqi government, the ISI has been equally committed to overturning the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a commitment evidenced by al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters streaming into Syria and hitching up with other al-Qaeda-linked groups.
The ISI incursion into Syria has raised fears that the al-Qaeda groups are attempting to carve out a separate Sharia-run homeland in the Sunni-dominated region which spans the border between Syria and western Iraq, something the ISI attempted to do when it once controlled Iraq’s largest province, al-Anbar, and declared it to be an Islamic caliphate.
Yet, while the ISI manages to wage a two-front jihadist war, thoughts of expanding that front to the United States is very much on the minds of the al-Qaeda killers.
Those thoughts were expressed by ISI leader Abu Bakr El-Baghdadi in his message announcing the groups’ new strategic plan, in which he warned, “You (America) will soon witness how attacks will resound in the heart of your land, because our war with you has now started.”
Unfortunately, that ship may have already sailed, given that US intelligence officials recently told a House Committee that the Islamic State of Iraq has already been trying to establish a terrorist network in the United States and Canada.
To prove that point, they cited the January 2011 arrest of Faruq Isa, a Canadian man charged with attempting to recruit fighters to launch attacks against US forces in Iraq; and the May 2011 arrest in Kentucky of Iraqi refugees Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, both charged with attempting to send sniper rifles, Stinger missiles and money to the ISI.
Still, despite it all, there are still those who remain confident that the threat posed by al-Qaeda in Iraq is limited, arguing that despite its recent attacks, the terror group commands no territory and has little popular Sunni support.
One such person is State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland who recently said that while the al-Qaeda campaign of terror was “cowardly and reprehensible” nonetheless, it was “going to fail.”
Yet, while there is no doubt that the Islamic State of Iraq’s actions have been cowardly and reprehensible, it’s still very unclear, given recent events, if the Islamist terror group will ultimately fail in its jihadist quest.
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