The leader of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is in talks with Al-Qaeda about a possible alliance, Iraq’s Vice President Ayad Allawi said, citing information from Iraqi and other regional sources.
“The discussion has started now… There are discussions and dialogue between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri,” Allawi told Reuters, adding that it is currently unclear how exactly the two groups may operate together.
Abu Bakr Baghdadi is the current leader of IS, while Ayman Zawahiri is the head of Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda disaffiliated with the previous incarnation of IS, Islamic State of Iraq, in February 2014, saying the group was no longer responsible for its actions. The two rival terrorist organizations have since been vying for recruits, funding and the laurels of global jihad.
Although IS has been pushed out of the part of Mosul that lies east of the Tigris River, it still controls the towns of Qaim, Hawija and Tal Afar in Iraq, as well as its de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa.
Even if IS loses all territory in Iraq, it won’t automatically cease to exist, Allawi noted.
“I can’t see ISIS disappearing into thin air,” Allawi said. “They will remain covertly in sleeping cells, spreading their venom all over the world.”
The initial operation to liberate Iraq’s second-largest city began six months ago, on October 16.