You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

What makes the ISIS more dangerous than Al-Qaida?

News18 logo News18 16-01-2016 Sanjal Shastri
© Provided by IBNLive

In his final state of the Union address, US President, Barack Obama mentioned that the ISIS does not pose a threat to the US. This comes at a time when we have witnessed two back to back attacks, one in Istanbul and another in Jakarta. Over the past six months, we have seen a string of ISIS-led attacks in Paris and Beirut, all providing ample proof of the serious threat the group poses.

A closer study of the ISIS' capabilities will prove that it poses a bigger threat than the Al-Qaida. What enhances ISIS' global reach is the vast number of foreign fighters joining them.

A UN report tabled in March 2015 stated that there were up to 22,000 foreign troops, from around 100 nationalities fighting for the ISIS. Though the Al-Qaida had its share of international fighters, ISIS' strong propaganda program and superior capabilities means that these radicalised foreign fighters can pose a much bigger threat.

The danger increases several fold when these fighters return to their home country. Their radicalisation and training make them a significant security threat. Countries across the European Union, India, US and Australia are coming up with strategies to detain returning fighters. 

The ISIS' rapid rise has meant that several regional terror groups have sworn allegiance to it. A group like the Boko Haram was initially seen as a regional terror group, whose impact was limited to Nigeria. However, by proclaiming its allegiance to the ISIS, its drawn into the much wider network that the ISIS possesses.

As a result, a group that was initially a local threat, turned into an international threat. The Boko Haram is not an isolated case of a regional terror group pledging allegiance to the ISIS. Several groups like Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanio, Abu Sayyaf, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Ansar al-Sharia, all of which are regional terror networks, have pledged allegiance to the ISIS.

This extends its reach right from the Philippines to Libya and beyond. Though the Al-Qaida in its time had networks across the world, the support the ISIS is receiving from various regional terror groups can make their global reach more dangerous.

What sets the ISIS apart from the Al-Qaida is its control over territory. The Al-Qaida was operating from territory controlled by the Taliban. The ISIS on the other hand, is in direct control over land in Syria and Iraq. The control over land has given it access to material and economic resources that the Al-Qaida did not have access to.

The Al-Qaida got a lot of financial resources from the illegal opium trade, the ISIS today is in control of a much more lucrative commodity, oil. By controlling oil rich regions in Iraq and Syria, the oil trade gives ISIS access to significant financial resources.

Therefore, measures like freezing donors' bank accounts, a method commonly used to deal with Al-Qaida’s income cannot be effective in the ISIS’ case. The vast economic resources means that the ISIS can get access to superior military technology which makes them far more dangerous than the Al-Qaida.

Unlike the Al-Qaida, the ISIS is also a part of the much larger regional power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Being a Sunni organisation, the ISIS is viewed my many regional Sunni powers as an effective check against rising Iranian influence (especially in Iraq and Syria).

Regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been accused of funding or helping the ISIS in some way. Therefore, defeating the ISIS will also mean taking on the much larger regional tussle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Considering how crucial an ally Saudi Arabia is for the US, this is not going to be an easy task.

Looking back at what has transpired over the last few weeks, it is important to recognize that the ISIS is a much larger threat than the Al-Qaida. The presence of foreign fighters and with several regional outfits pledging allegiance, the ISIS' global outreach is far more dangerous.

The fact that it directly controls oil rich territory in Iraq and Syria means that it has access to financial resources that is far greater than the Al-Qaida.

Finally, fighting the ISIS will mean getting involved in the regional power game between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The recent escalation in tension, makes this job even more complex.

The battle against the ISIS is by all means going to be a long-term battle. Unlike fighting the Al-Qaida, this battle is going to be far more complex and will involve taking some tough decisions regarding regional alliances. 

VIDEO: Where do we stand in the war against ISIS?

More From News18

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon