Powerful al-Qaeda branches in Yemen and North Africa called Tuesday for jihadists in Iraq and Syria to unite against the common threat from a US-led coalition.
An unprecedented joint statement from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb urged their “brothers” in Iraq and Syria to “stop killing each other and unite against the American campaign and its evil coalition that threatens us all.”
AQAP and AQIM also called on the people of 10 Arab countries that have joined the coalition against the Islamic State group to prevent their governments from acting against IS.
And it promised “dark days” to the “alliance of infidelity and evil.”
Al-Qaeda’s leadership under Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egypt-born successor to group founder Osama bin Laden, has disavowed IS, which has seized swaths of Iraq and Syria. And it has its own branch, the al-Nusra Front, fighting in Syria.
It also urged Syrian rebels to keep up their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, warning them to “beware of being tricked by America… and thus being diverted from your path” and becoming its “pawns.”
Former national security adviser, Maj. Gen. (ret) Uzi Dayan, said in a phone interview that this reality — and the way it has taken shape along Israel’s northeastern border — may well require future Israeli military action on the Syrian side of the Golan. “I do not rule out the possibility that Israel, in an indirectly coordinated move, will act to restore the Syrian army to the border,” he said. “Otherwise, what happened in Gaza can happen in the Golan.” He described a gradual process of destruction that led to the rise of the rebel forces and said that once the fighting has been finished in the villages south and east of Quneitra, in al-Madeira and Ahmadiyeh, and in the last regime “pocket” on the flanks of the Hermon, in the Druze village of Khader, the rebels will use the highway linking the border city of Quneitra to Damascus, a mere 40-kilometer stretch of road, to take the fight to the capital — swiftly, he predicted — and not to march on Jerusalem, as some have suggested.
Syrian sovereignty in this border region, the closest border to the capital, is nearly as absent as the flag, he said, noting the total defeat of Syria’s regional southern brigade and the partial collapse of its northern one.
This has several implications. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has presided over the 1974 armistice agreement, is “unequivocally” in the process of collapse, he said. The observer posts along the southern half of the Golan have been abandoned and at present all of the UN peacekeepers are in Israel, on account of the violence.
The next stage, he allowed, might be Jordan or Turkey or Israel. “We are developing capabilities not for the day they take Damascus, but for the day after they take Damascus,” he said. “We’re preparing the area for a situation in which they turn what they used against the Syrian army toward us. That’s what interests us. That’s what we’re preparing for.”