How will the Iran debacle affect al-Qaida? This was the question raised yesterday in a short strategic study titled “The Iran Crisis and Its Effects on the Global Jihad by Abu al-Fadl Madi (أبو الفضل ماضي), a Falluja forum member with so-called “great writer” status. He briefly outlined the situation in Iran claiming that the protests mark the end of the second period in Iran’s modern history, with the first ending in 1989. He called the new period the “Termination of the Rule of the Jurisprudent Theory.” He argued that the crisis could alter regional “balances, priorities, and strategies” and the “Global Jihadi Current” cannot ignore these events.
He described four possible outcomes of the Iranian protests. The first was the possibility of the regime defeating the opposition by force. He argued that this would increase Ahmadinejad’s power, giving him more leeway to negotiate with the West, but due to the protest he will fail in obtaining Western recognition of Iran as a regional and nuclear power. Abu al-Fadl believed that the West could try to help the opposition by striking Iran, which would create a 2003 Iraq-like scenario. He stated, “This is the best scenario possible for the jihadi movement” because they could benefit from the chaos and security void.
The second possibility was the opposition bringing down the current Iranian regime, which would lead to a new period of improved relations with the West. He argued that there would be better cooperation between the West and Iran on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and nuclear issues. That is in addition to more cooperation with President Obama vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process. Finally, he fretted about the greater pressure al-Qaeda would face in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. This is ostensibly the worst-case scenario for the jihadi movement.
The third option is the possibility of a stalemate between the two sides. He believed that in such a situation, not much would change for the “global jihad” and Iran would continue to support its current foreign proxies. This is also not an ideal situation for al-Qaeda espousing terrorists.
Finally, the fourth option he mentioned is the possibility of a settlement between the two sides. In this scenario, he believed that Khamenei would weaken considerably and Rafsanjani would emerge as the “Godfather of the Regime.” He estimated that Iran’s foreign policy would be more restrained and pragmatic in this scenario. Like options two and three, this option is unlikely to make the jihadi movement happy.
If, as Abu al-Fadl suggests, the geopolitical nature in the Middle East changes because of the Iran crisis, the question will become how will the jihadi movement react to the possibility of a weakened Hezbollah, Syria, or Hamas? If the United States or Israel attacks Iran to help the protesters, handing al-Qaeda “the best scenario possible,” will the jihadi movement be strong enough to exploit that opportunity? As events continue to develop on the ground in Iran, it will be interesting to watch the jihadis’ response.