Islamic State v al-Qaeda: the battle within jihad

Little-noticed, al-Qaeda has a new capital. While its leader languishes in an unknown hiding place – probably in the Pakistan-Afghan borderlands – his followers in Syria have seized an entire province from the hands of the Assad regime, and its main city, Idlib.

This means that the rival wings of militant jihad have two competing centres: Idlib, in north-west Syria, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant‘s (Isil) headquarters in Raqqa, north-east Syria.

The victory in Idlib on Saturday by a coalition of Islamist groups led by Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, shows that President Bashar al-Assad is a long way from winning the civil war, something many thought likely after his forces moved to retake Aleppo in June 2013.

Gee, I think we’re allied with Al Qaeda now. Well this morning at any rate.