on: Today at 04:27:28 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by DougMacG
WHAT “CLINTON CASH” TELLS US ABOUT HILLARY’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BILL
Liberal pundit Jonathan Chait concludes from the emerging “Clinton cash” scandal that, at a minimum, the Clintons have been “disorganized and greedy.” Of the greed, there can be no doubt. But whether the Clintons have been disorganized depends on what they were trying, primarily, to accomplish through their Foundation.
From Bill Clinton’s perspective, I gather, the Foundation was intended to raise huge amounts of money and to serve as a vehicle through which he would remain an important international player. Clinton plainly wanted an enormously lucrative and conspicuously consequential post-presidency. The Clinton Foundation would enable him to meet these aspirations.
And so it has. From Bill’s perspective, then, the Clinton Foundation is a raging success, brilliantly conceived and executed, and sufficiently well-organized to achieve its purposes.
This point appears to be lost on Chait. He says, with surprise, that “Bill Clinton seemed to see the nexus between his role and his wife’s as a positive rather than a negative.”
Well, yeah. Having Hillary running the State Department clearly maximized the Foundation’s ability to raise huge amounts of money and to project Bill into major deals all over the world.
As one Clintonista told Ryan Lizza, “Bill Clinton’s been able to continue to be the Bill Clinton we know, in large part because of his relationship with the White House and because his wife is the Secretary of State; it worked out very well for him.”
But how has it worked out for Hillary Clinton? We don’t know yet. Surely, she is delighted to see her family massively enriched through the Foundation. And while a part of her may not love seeing her husband flying so high, it’s unlikely that she begrudges him a place on the world stage.
Her primary mission, though, is to become president of the United States. It remains to be seen whether the “Clinton cash” scandal will derail her quest. But she must believe that it has created more risk of derailment than is worth the incremental income Bill’s more aggressive plays has accrued. The scandal probably seem to her, as it does to Chait, like an unforced error — one that, left to her own devices, she would have avoided.
In sum, the Foundation has operated the way Bill wanted it to, but probably not quite as Hillary, with her focus on the presidency, wished.
If so, this tells us that Bill Clinton remains the dominant force in the family. When their interests diverged, Bill’s carried the day.
Lizza’s reporting tends to confirm that this was the case. He writes:
More than anyone, [Bill] pushed Hillary to take the job of Secretary of State. “President Clinton was a big supporter of the idea,” an intimate of the Clintons told me. “He advocated very strongly for it and arguably was the tie-breaking reason she took the job.”
The husband’s pushy advocacy was the “tie-breaking” reason why the wife made the momentous decision to take an all-consuming job? In which version of feminism are things supposed to work like this?
I hope America’s first female president will be a woman who is not under the sway of her husband and who would not permit the family enterprise to be commandeered by a husband notorious for having no sense of proportion or propriety. Hillary Clinton is not that woman.http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/04/what-clinton-cash-tells-us-about-hillarys-relationship-with-bill.phphttp://dailycaller.com/2015/04/23/liberal-columnist-rips-into-the-clintons-disorganized-and-greedy-a-fiasco/
on: Today at 08:22:56 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by ccp
"The episode illustrates that the Senate’s advice and consent power offers political leverage that government shutdowns and impeachment do not. Jeb Bush is right that the Senate should in most cases defer to a President’s choices to run the executive branch. But as long as Messrs. Reid and Obama show willful disregard for Congress and the law, Republicans must use their legal powers to fight back."
I disagree. My response is names:
Meese nominated atty gen
Bork Supreme Court
I just don't get that Bush is who the Wash Repubs want.
on: April 24, 2015, 08:40:26 AM
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog
The Clinton Foundation Is the Democratic Party . . . and Arguably, the U.S. Government As Well
Jonathan Chait comes to terms with the obvious:
When you are a power couple consisting of a former president and a current secretary of State and likely presidential candidate, you have the ability to raise a lot of money for charitable purposes that can do a lot of good. But some of the potential sources of donations will be looking to get something in return for their money other than moral satisfaction or the chance to hobnob with celebrities. Some of them want preferential treatment from the State Department, and others want access to a potential future Clinton administration. To run a private operation where Bill Clinton will deliver a speech for a (huge) fee and a charity that raises money from some of the same clients is a difficult situation to navigate. To overlay that fraught situation onto Hillary’s ongoing and likely future government service makes it all much harder.
And yet the Clintons paid little to no attention to this problem . . .
The Obama administration wanted Hillary Clinton to use official government email. She didn’t. The Obama administration also demanded that the Clinton Foundation disclose all its donors while she served as Secretary of State. It didn’t comply with that request, either.
The Clintons’ charitable initiatives were a kind of quasi-government run by themselves, which was staffed by their own loyalists and made up the rules as it went along.
This explains a bit about why the 2016 cycle could turn out to be another battle between a Clinton and a Bush. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think it will shake out this way.)
The presidency dominates American political life, making every ex-president the former boss of just about every middle-management or rising star figure in his party. If you’re in politics, if you haven’t worked for a president, chances are you’re one degree of separation away from someone who worked for one.
(This was one of the things that made Barack Obama’s win over Hillary in the 2008 primary so improbable -- she had all the veteran national-campaign staffers, pollsters, strategists, etc.)
George W. Bush casts a long shadow on the 2016 Republican field, far beyond his brother. Among those who worked for George W. Bush: Ted Cruz, who worked on the Bush 2000 campaign and in the Federal Trade Commission; Bobby Jindal, who was an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2003; Chris Christie, who Bush appointed U.S. Attorney for New Jersey; Rick Perry was Bush’s lieutenant governor in 1999 and 2000; and arguably Carly Fiorina, who served on CIA and State Department advisory committees during the Bush years.
The Clintons, Inc., make up a big slice of the professional class of the Democratic party. And the Bush Family, Inc., makes up a big slice of the professional class of the Republican party.
And as we’ve seen . . . who in the party can tell a former president what he can and can’t do? Who in the Democratic party was willing to put his foot down and tell the Clintons “no”?
There were people who were trying to say “no” . . .
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., where Uranium One’s largest U.S. operation was, wrote to President Obama, saying the deal “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity.”
. . . but they were ignored.
Last night on Greta Van Susteren’s program, Barrasso said, “We tried to throw the penalty flag early on . . . We were very concerned from the standpoint of energy security for our country, and national security. Now you see Vladimir Putin owning 20 percent of American uranium, controlling that and we know Russia sends uranium to countries that are not our friends, that are our enemies, including Iran.”
He said he received a letter, three months later, from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that said the commission would keep an eye on the deal. He said that based on his discussions with “people on the ground,” American uranium has left the country and gone overseas, without the company getting the necessary special permissions and permits.
on: April 23, 2015, 09:07:55 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by DougMacG
We were addressing this phony issue here, income inequality, long before Hillary announced she is pretending to make it the centerpiece for her non-existent campaign.
Income inequality is the economic ladder, it is the freedom to climb, it is the existence of the American economic dream. A workable ladder requires a first rung, a second, third rung and so on, all in working order and all rungs going up placed within a reasonable and accessible reach from the one beneath it. All leftist economic policies, one way or another, weaken or remove steps from the ladder. Their stated goal is to destroy it altogether, and make us all equally poor.
Income inequality in a dynamic economy is a fact, not an issue. The political question is how badly do we want to hurt the people at the top in order to also hurt the people further down, wanting to climb up.
When you chop off the top of the ladder and knock people down, you also knock out economic activity (GDP and GDP growth) and make it harder for everyone else to rise up.
When you raise minimum wage law, you are sawing off or weakening the bottom rung of the ladder. Some will jump and make it up anyway, but many won't and get stuck at the bottom. Note the sudden spikes in SNAP and SSI, proof that leftist policies of making basic things free and/or subsidized do not help people to lift themselves up.
Imagine the opposite of the income inequality - income equality. Everyone makes exactly the same whether they work hard, train, grow, gain experience or improve their skills. The batboy makes the same as the greatest home run hitter, in this Utopian world. The incentive to achieve, excel or improve is gone. What a sad existence that would be. Innovation ends, startups end, GDP growth ends. Entrenched powers with the best lobbyists and lawyers might still maneuver through the myriad of taxes and regulations and prosper, but everyone else suffers. Welcome to the path of Obama's America where the chosen successor promises to do more of the same.
Income inequality, the political issue, grew out of the fact that liberals and leftists could not find any other way to attack the rapid economic growth that came out of past tax rate cuts. They came up with phony measures that completely ignore income mobility - the fact that people improve their job skills, experience and income throughout their working lives and then retire, work less and live off of savings. The politics of income inequality alarmism worked quite well around 2006 and the leftists took power in America. (Relly they won because of an unpopular war, but still they won running on this economic platform.) They took the House and the Senate, then the Presidency. Then they took a 60 seat control of the Senate. They ended tax rate cuts. They passed Obamacare and anything else that they wanted until the economic and political wheels fell off. They passed a stimulus, shovel ready government jobs, cash for clunkers, took over the auto companies, attacked energy, surrendered from wars and so on.
They ruled without a whisper of conservative constraint, and what happened?
Income inequality got worse! Income mobility got worse. Entrepreneurialism was stopped dead in its tracks. Workforce participation collapsed. Safety net program use exploded. And their answer to it all of this is to do more of the same! Go figure.
on: April 23, 2015, 06:59:08 PM
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog
April 22, 2015 7:06 p.m. ET
The importance of a presidential election depends on what’s at stake. In 1980, a lot was. The economy was stuck with double-digit inflation and interest rates, and Soviet communism was advancing in Africa, Asia and South America. Ronald Reagan was elected president.
Now, as the 2016 presidential race unfolds, the stakes are even higher than 36 years ago. Not only is the economy unsteady but threats to American power and influence around the world are more pronounced and widespread. And those problems are only part of what makes next year’s election so critical.
Like it or not, the next president must deal with the world President Obama leaves behind. It won’t be easy. A Republican president will be committed to reversing a significant chunk of Mr. Obama’s legacy, as most GOP candidates already are. That’s a gigantic undertaking. A Democratic president, presumably Hillary Clinton, will be forced to defend Mr. Obama’s policies, since they reflect the views of her party. That will leave little time for fresh Democratic initiatives.
The most immediate issues confronting the new president are strategic and military. The U.S. role in the world is in retreat. Allies such as Israel and Poland have been alienated. American leadership against Russian intervention in Ukraine and Iran’s dominance of neighboring countries in the Middle East was fleeting. Mr. Obama’s promise of a foreign-policy “pivot” toward Asia turned out to be merely rhetorical.
Ashamed of past American policies, Mr. Obama began his presidency with an apology tour. When the next president takes office a tour of reassurance may be required, along with an effort to persuade the world of America’s intention to stand up to Russia, Iran, China and Islamic terrorists.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military has shrunk to pre-World War II levels in troops and arms. “Our leaders have painted a fictional picture of the state of our military,” said former Texas governor and likely GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry in a speech in early April. “Our armed forces are depleted, our military infrastructure is aging, and our technological advantages are being severely challenged.”
Mr. Perry did not exaggerate. But a military buildup as massive as Mr. Reagan’s in the 1980s would be expensive, take years to complete, and face political opposition. The Democratic Party no longer has a hawkish, internationalist faction. “There is no Scoop Jackson wing,” former United Nations ambassador John Bolton said at a Republican gathering in New Hampshire last Friday. “There isn’t even a Joe Lieberman wing.”
Next in line of importance is the economy, which has not experienced annual economic growth of more than 3% since 2005. Like the diminished military, this has weakened America’s ability to project power and influence outside U.S. borders. Rejuvenating the economy is necessary. Without it, the country will suffer. Politically speaking, so will the president elected next year.
Entitlements—Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid—are eating up the federal budget. Reform is crucial to curbing debt and improving economic growth. Republicans are divided, though, and Democrats want to increase entitlement spending. The new president may be hogtied on this issue.
But a Republican won’t be blocked from altering the ideological balance on the Supreme Court. It’s very much at stake in the 2016 election. Four justices are 76 or older. Two, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (82) and Stephen Breyer (76), are liberals. Antonin Scalia (79) is a conservative. And Anthony Kennedy (78) is a swing vote. The next president’s nominees, assuming there are several, will be pivotal.
And that leads us to the toughest issue of all for a Republican president: rolling back or overhauling Mr. Obama’s policies from ObamaCare to student loans to executive orders protecting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation and opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. This is a high priority for the entire GOP. But “it will take some time,” says James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank. It will require patience and tenacity.
The history here is not encouraging. When President Dwight Eisenhower arrived at the White House in 1953, he was expected to begin dismantling the New Deal. But some New Deal policies were popular, and the task of uprooting programs in place for nearly two decades was daunting. The New Deal survived almost wholly intact.
That won’t happen with a Republican president and Congress. “If a Republican wins, he’ll almost certainly have both houses of Congress,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. But “GOP ranks in the Senate won’t be at or even near 60 due to the seats that are up for grabs in ’16. Still, it’s an end to extreme gridlock.”
ObamaCare will be first on the chopping block, as well it should, and Republicans have adequate plans to replace it that most Americans will likely welcome. Curbs on oil and natural gas production can be eased or eliminated. Executive orders can be promptly rescinded.
It is the rest of Mr. Obama’s legacy that will be tricky to undo. Should every overreaching initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency be axed? Should the Federal Communications Commission be packed to cancel net neutrality? What about Dodd-Frank, the stepped-up regulation of financial markets? Should it be repealed entirely or just stripped of some of its new rules?
When attacking eight years of Obama policies, Republicans would be wise not to treat Democrats the way Democrats treated them. Mr. Obama did himself no favors by shunning Republicans when ObamaCare, the economic stimulus and Dodd-Frank were passed. Democrats had large majorities in the House and Senate at the time. They spurned even a hint of bipartisanship.
This has come back to haunt Mr. Obama and Democrats. If ObamaCare had been passed with a sprinkling of Republican votes, it would not be as unpopular as it is today. The same is true for executive orders. They were used specifically to deny Republicans a role.
This touches on a tacit but important issue in the 2016 election: the possibility of a “new normal” in the way Washington works. The parties are deeply divided. They don’t like each other. Mr. Obama made things worse. With Mr. Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gone, the next president can improve relations. It won’t require an executive order.
Mr. Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, is a Fox News commentator.
Popular on WSJ
on: April 23, 2015, 06:55:10 PM
Started by captainccs - Last post by Crafty_Dog
As the debate continues over whether the United States will intervene in Syria, many observers have overlooked what Turkey and Saudi Arabia — Washington's two main regional allies — want from the Americans. Both countries want the United States to conduct a more comprehensive strike that weakens the regime, but their interests over the fate of Syria after the intervention differ greatly. Either way, Ankara's and Riyadh's behavior threatens to draw Washington into its third war in the Islamic world in 12 years.
On Thursday, Turkish media reported that the country deployed additional forces along its border with Syria ahead of expected U.S. military action. The previous day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Arab countries had offered to pay for the cost of any military action against Damascus. Kerry added that there was international consensus involving "Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qataris, the Turks and the French" on the need to take action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons against its own people.
What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman explains.
Kerry is right to place the Saudis and the Turks in the same broad category of those that support Washington's use of force against Damascus. But he ignores the fact that both Ankara and Riyadh want the United States to topple the Syrian regime. That, however, is where their agreement ends. Not only does Washington disagree with its two main allies on the scope of the mission, but all three disagree on how they want the conflict to play out.
Neither Washington nor Ankara wants to the regime to fall completely because they do not want transnational jihadists to assume power. In Turkey, the political elites have divergent views on how far they should go in pursing regime change south of the border. Certainly the Syrian civil war presents risks; the threat of Kurdish separatism is far greater if the Syrian regime collapses. But the conflict also presents the opportunity to expand Ankara's regional influence. The United States, however, wants to oust al Assad but not dismantle his regime entirely — Washington is not interested in weakening Iran to the benefit of Sunni radicals.
The Saudis have a much more hawkish position. After two years of disappointment, Riyadh is pleased to see that Washington may finally exercise the military option. Ultimately, it wants Washington to destroy the Alawite government. Regime change would enable the Saudis to defend against the influence of Iran, their biggest enemy, and to undermine Tehran and its two pre-eminent allies, Iraq and Hezbollah.
Riyadh knows that the collapse of the al Assad regime will create a vacuum that will be exploited by transnational jihadists, but that is a negligible concern. From the Saudi point of view, it is a price worth paying if Riyadh can undermine Iranian regional influence. In fact, Saudi Arabia believes that jihadists are the only effective tools that can be used against the Iranians and their Arab Shia allies.
The Saudi perspective is also informed by the assumption it will be spared any blowback from Syrian instability. Unlike Turkey, it does not share a border with Syria. Between its financial power and its being the only state to have actually defeated jihadists within its borders, Saudi Arabia is confident that it can manage whatever jihadist threat emerges in a post-al Assad Syria.
Ankara shares Riyadh's desire to weaken Iran — Tehran stands between the Turks and their regional ascendance — but it is not willing to go as far as the Saudis. Though both Saudi Arabia and Turkey will try to bolster their preferred rebel factions in pursuit of their respective goals, the decision on just how much damage to inflict on the regime still rests with the United States
on: April 23, 2015, 03:15:22 PM
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Just put Rubio, instead of Walker and it sounds pretty good to me!
This GOP presidential ticket tells liberals to go to hell
Posted on April 23, 2015 by Wayne Allyn Root
Hi, I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. The GOP keeps bringing a knife to a gun fight. The result is we’re getting killed. We’re getting defeated and humiliated even after we won the most historic landslide in modern history. It’s time to change strategy.
The media tells us to play nice, be “gentlemen” and compromise. Look where it’s gotten us: a bankrupt country with over $18 trillion in debt and income taxes at about the same level as bankrupt, socialist Greece. Worse, the labor force participation rate is at all-time lows. And for the first time in history more businesses fail each day than open.
We are facing the end of the America dream and death of the greatest middle class in world history because we have played nice, acted like gentlemen and compromised. We’re standing around acting like “gentlemen” while Barack Obama turns America into Detroit. Like in that movie “Network,” it’s time to open our window and scream: “I’m not going to take it anymore!”
It’s time for a GOP dream team of street fighters to take on the evil that is destroying America by making us all dependent on big government. It’s time to kick ass and take no prisoners. It’s time to stand up to the evildoers and tell them to go to hell.
It’s time to get behind one nominee and then name our entire team and announce what that team will do to save the U.S. economy, the middle class and the American dream.
It’s time to inspire passion and enthusiasm by showing we stand for something. That something includes smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, paying down the debt and giving more power to the citizens. Let the liberal media try to call that “extreme.” The American people will vote for that vision.
Liberals and the media told us we’d lose if we ran an “extremist” like Ronald Reagan. Instead, he won in two historic landslides. Since then, every milquetoast moderate we’ve run — George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney — lost.
The key to victory is the passion, energy, intensity and enthusiasm of your base, combined with inspiring independents and undecided voters by painting a picture of hope, prosperity and patriotism. You have to get people excited. Being “moderate” doesn’t excite anyone. Although it’s a little early for me to endorse anyone, here is a look at a potential GOP dream team.
Scott Walker as the GOP presidential nominee
Here’s a man from the Midwest, without a college degree and with a blue-collar mentality. Here’s a man who fought the money and manpower of every union in America and won — not once, not twice, but three times in blue-state Wisconsin. He didn’t do it with kindness. Despite death threats against his wife and children, Scott Walker never gave an inch. He turned a $3 billion deficit into a billion-dollar surplus, and then handed the money back to the taxpayers. That’s a fighter. That’s courage. That’s a leader with a spine, who won’t fold when the biased-liberal media tries to slander and destroy him. Walker’s a man bringing a bazooka to a gun fight.
His choices for vice president are plentiful. The GOP bench is fantastic and diverse, from Latino men like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, to women like Carly Fiorina, Gov. Susanna Martinez and Gov. Nikki Haley, to libertarian heroes like Rand Paul, to a brilliant African-American brain surgeon like Dr. Ben Carson, to a genius policy wonk like Gov. Bobby Jindal. The list is long.
We’ve been governed by inept political hacks for far too long. It is time for a dream team of experienced, committed adults who will kick ass and never fold when the going gets tough. The GOP presidential nominee needs to name his entire dream team.
Do that and we’ll put the fear of God into liberals and the media. Here is how we differentiate ourselves, paint a picture of hope and inspire our base! Here is how we win 270 electoral votes.
Name our dream team from top to bottom
Attorney General Ted Cruz: Let’s put a true defender of the Constitution in a place where he can do just that. Can you imagine the fear we’ll drive into the heads and hearts of law-breaking liberals and Marxists? No compromise, no mercy.
Treasury Secretary Rand Paul: Put a libertarian in charge of the economy, taxes and the IRS. Watch the U.S. economy enjoy the greatest expansion in history with a true, free-market libertarian in charge. Rand Paul is a fighter. No compromise, no mercy.
Defense Secretary Allen West. Here’s the man born to stand up for the honor of the military and defend the greatest nation in world history. No compromise, no mercy.
Secretary of State (you’re going to love this one) Donald Trump: Rather than weaklings afraid of their shadows, turn the world’s greatest, pit bull negotiator loose on our adversaries like China and Russia. Let him negotiate the nuclear deal with Iran. No compromise, no mercy.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ron Paul: The first father-son cabinet team will stand up to, audit and rein in the Fed before the Fed destroys our economy. Ron Paul’s entire life has been preparation for this. No compromise, no mercy.
Homeland Security Secretary Trey Gowdy: Protect our borders with a pit bull, not a pussycat. No compromise, no mercy.
ICE Director Joe Arpaio: Need I say more?
Health And Human Services Secretary Ben Carson: Here’s the guy born to dismantle Obamacare. No compromise, no mercy.
Labor Secretary Darrell Issa: Here’s a street fighter who will stand up for America’s workers, not union bosses. No compromise, no mercy.
Energy Secretary Sarah Palin. You want jobs? Take off the shackles and drill, baby, drill! No compromise, no mercy.
Commerce Secretary Herman Cain. Here’s a brilliant businessman and unabashed capitalist who will get American working again. No compromise, no mercy.
Special Economic Advisers Mitt Romney, Jack Welsh, Steve Wynn, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump (doing double duty): Put politics aside and put people who understand business in charge of the economy. No compromise, no mercy.
Education Secretary Bobby Jindal. Here’s the brightest guy in the room, bar none. Put him in charge of taking on the teachers unions with creative ideas to turn around our failing education system. No compromise, no mercy.
(Now, a personal plug) Wayne Allyn Root, in charge of the Small Business Administration: Small business is the economic engine of America. I know how to motivate, inspire and empower the millions of mom and pop businesses on Main Street, not Wall Street. I stand for giving power to small business, not the welfare state or illegal aliens. No compromise, no mercy.
This is how you win an election — by exciting and inspiring Americans with an experienced, all-star GOP dream team that actually stands for something: America first!
And this is how you tell liberals to go to hell.http://personalliberty.com/this-gop-presidential-ticket-tells-liberals-to-go-to-hell/
on: April 23, 2015, 12:06:03 PM
Started by HUSS - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Could the Islamic State and al Qaeda Reconcile?
April 23, 2015 | 08:00 GMT
By Scott Stewart
Over the course of the past couple weeks I have talked to several people who have asked my opinion on the possibility of a reconciliation between al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The question is being brought about by a number of factors.
First is the fact that the Islamic State is losing ground in Iraq and in parts of Syria and has suffered significant losses in men, materiel and in its financial apparatus. This is taken to mean the group has been humbled a bit, and now that it is under heavy pressure, its leaders might be tempted to join forces with al Qaeda. Second, al Qaeda has lost some sub-groups to the Islamic State, and it is commonly perceived to be losing ground to the Islamic State in the propaganda war. Furthermore, in parts of Syria, such as in Qalamoun, some local Islamic State commanders have periodically cooperated with the local al Qaeda franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra, to fight regime forces and Hezbollah. Finally, some unconfirmed rumors are floating around the Internet jihadisphere saying al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is going to dissolve al Qaeda and give the regional franchise groups their independence.
Many fear that if the groups joined forces, their combined capabilities and resources would pose a major threat to the rest of the world. This fear is certainly not unfounded. A united jihadist movement would pose a more substantial threat than does the currently divided movement. However, because of a number of factors, it does not appear that either the Islamic State or al Qaeda could accept such a merger.
Several important factors keep the Islamic State and al Qaeda divided. Perhaps the most superficial of these factors is the clash between the personalities of the groups. A great deal of personal animosity appears to exist between the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani. This personal enmity has manifested itself in Islamic State propaganda that makes direct, personal attacks against al-Zawahiri and al-Golani. For example, the group’s English-language magazine, Dabiq, has depicted al-Zawahiri as a manipulative and dishonest man. In the seventh edition, the Islamic State essentially labeled al-Zawahiri a deviant by charging that he had "abandoned the pure heritage" that Osama bin Laden left and had turned al Qaeda to a mistaken ideology. For his part, al-Zawahiri has called Islamic State militants "Kharijites," or radical, rebellious extremists. Al-Golani and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have also been quite critical of al-Baghdadi.
But the conflict goes beyond personal attacks. The Islamic State takes issue with several tenets of al Qaeda’s approach to jihadism as codified in al-Zawahiri’s September 2013 General Guidelines for Jihad. The Islamic State is particularly incensed with al-Zawahiri’s guidance to avoid targeting Shiites. Al-Zawahiri directed al Qaeda franchise groups and individual militants to focus primarily on fighting the United States and the "Crusader Alliance" and only to attack "deviant sects" such as Shiites, Ismailis, Qadianis and Sufis defensively. He also ordered his followers not to attack the homes, places of worship, religious festivals or social gatherings of other Muslim sects. The Islamic State, on the other hand, believes these so-called deviant groups are heretics and, therefore, should be eliminated.
The disparity in whether to attack Shiite and other Muslim sects originates in differing approaches to the takfir doctrine, which deals with labeling Muslims apostates and therefore justified targets for attack. The Islamic State believes it can declare entire sects apostates, for example the Shiites, whereas al Qaeda believes that takfir should be declared in a much more limited manner.
Al Qaeda’s General Guidelines for Jihad also states that jihadists should avoid targeting Christian, Sikh and Hindu communities living in Muslim lands, unless they transgress, which would be grounds for a proportional response. On the other hand, massacres of such communities and attacks against their homes, places of worship and festivals have been a hallmark of the Islamic State since its inception. This difference in targeting philosophy led al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to sharply criticize Islamic State sympathizers for the March 20 suicide bombings of two mosques in Sanaa that killed 142 Houthis and wounded hundreds of others.
The Islamic State also takes exception to the al Qaeda guidelines that call for jihadists to support and participate in popular uprisings against oppressive regimes. Al Qaeda made the guidelines to take advantage of Arab Spring-type demonstrations, and jihadists participated in violent demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia. But the Islamic State charges that by taking this approach, al Qaeda is changing jihadism from fighting to holding peaceful demonstrations and pursuing popular support, or even supporting democracy — a deadly sin in the eyes of most jihadists.
But these differences in the approach to jihadism are not surprising, nor are they new. Though the Islamic State did not formally split from al Qaeda until February 2014, tension and friction between the two organizations over topics such as targeting Shiites and Christians had existed since Abu Musab al-Zarqawi merged his Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad group with al Qaeda in 2004. Indeed, Stratfor published a three-part series analyzing the tension between the groups.
Different Origins, Different Philosophies
These longstanding differences exist because, unlike al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the jihadist leadership in Iraq did not come from the al Qaeda core. While the jihadist leaders in Iraq, including al-Zarqawi, saw the benefit to adopting the al Qaeda brand name to help with recruitment and fundraising, they never fully embraced al Qaeda's philosophy and vision and frequently ignored the core's guidance. Before joining al Qaeda, al-Zarqawi's group had its own identity and philosophy, which were greatly influenced by Jordanian jihadist ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Many former members of Iraq's Baathist military also joined the group and influenced the Islamic State's philosophy.
Considering an Islamic State and al Qaeda Reconciliation
Click to Enlarge
When the Islamic State merged with al Qaeda, it attempted to place a veneer of al Qaeda over its initial Tawhid and Jihad foundation, but the different schools were never fully reconcilable ideologically: The Islamic State was always radically more sectarian than the al Qaeda core and immediately more regionally, rather than transnationally, focused. Though the Islamic State did target Americans in Iraq and in Jordan, it never attempted to conduct attacks against the U.S. homeland.
Al Qaeda has always seen itself as the vanguard organization focused on attacking the United States and its allies in the Crusader Alliance to weaken them and to awaken the masses, inciting them to revolt against their rulers. The organization sees itself fighting a long-term battle not unlike the Maoist concept of the long war. The Islamic State, on the other hand, is much more audacious. It is focused on the local struggle and believes it can follow the example of the Prophet Mohammed to create an ideal caliphate that is the basis for global conquest. Though both al Qaeda and the Islamic State are dualistic and millenarian in their theology — they believe they are engaging in a cosmic battle of good versus evil to replace a corrupt society with an ideal one — the Islamic State is quite a bit more apocalyptic. Its members believe their activities in Syria and Iraq will draw the armies of the Earth to oppose them. After initially suffering heavy losses, the Prophet Isa, which is Arabic for Jesus, will return to lead them in a final battle at Dabiq in Syria, where they will finally defeat the "crusader forces" led by the Antichrist. After the victory at Dabiq, they will be able to extend their Islamic State to conquer the Earth.
Overcoming differences might be easier if personal animosity were the only obstacle separating al Qaeda and the Islamic State, especially if one or more of the warring personalities were killed. Even if Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State were not fighting each other in Syria and al Qaeda and Islamic State franchises were not fighting elsewhere, the groups' conflicting ideologies would make broad reconciliation difficult. This is especially clear because the two groups have gone to such lengths to outline their differences. Explaining a merger with a group previously labeled as apostates or kharijites would be an awkward and difficult task for the leaders of both groups.
Ideology is just too important for al Qaeda and for the Islamic State. Indeed, members of both groups are willing to die for their beliefs. While some claim that jihadist leaders cynically use religion to manipulate others, their actions keep with their extremist beliefs, indicating their sincerity. Because both groups claim to have exclusive understanding of the correct interpretation of Islam regarding jihad, they are unlikely to merge. Additionally, after proclaiming itself to be the global leader of all Muslims, allowing itself to become subordinate to another group would be insupportable for the Islamic State.
While al Qaeda is down, it is clearly not out, and the group's Yemen franchise has made tremendous gains since the Saudi-led air campaign began degrading its most dangerous enemies there. Additionally, taking Idlib, alongside ally Ahrar al-Sham, highlighted Jabhat al-Nusra's strength in Syria.
At a local level, some al Qaeda and Islamic State groups may continue to cooperate, especially if they have not actively combated one another. At the present time, this cooperation is most apparent in battlefronts on the periphery of the Syrian civil war, such as in Yarmouk camp, where Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State units are far from the core areas of their respective leadership. But even then, cooperation — especially in very localized and specific cases — is much different than a merger.
Individual members of the groups, or even subunits, may defect to the other side, especially if one of the groups becomes weakened beyond repair. However, because of their irreconcilable differences, imagining a mass merger of the two organizations into one global jihadist front is difficult.
Before any such formal reconciliation could become even a remote possibility, a very noticeable change in how the Islamic State and al Qaeda publicly portray each other would have to take place to dampen the animosity between the two sides and to begin mending fences between the two camps. Until this unlikely development occurs, a merger between the two groups is impossible.