Before Obama the thought of al-Qaeda controlling this much territory in the heart of the Middle East was inconceivable.
(CNN) – From around Aleppo in western Syria to small areas of Falluja in central Iraq, al Qaeda now controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East, according to English and Arab language news accounts as well as accounts on jihadist websites.
Indeed, al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.
The focus of al Qaeda’s leaders has always been regime change in the Arab world in order to install Taliban-style regimes. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledged as much in his 2001 autobiography, “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” when he explained that the most important strategic goal of al Qaeda was to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world, explaining that, “without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.”
Now al-Zawahiri is closer to his goal than he has ever been. On Friday al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq seized controlof parts of the city of Falluja and parts of the city of Ramadi, both of which are located in Iraq’s restive Anbar Province. […]
In sum, al Qaeda affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory.
Al-Nusra is engaged in a protracted fight to maintain a foothold in the eastern city of Dayr al-Zur, where, as in Ash Shaddadi, the militants have their hands on an energy source, this time in the form of natural gas.
On Friday the group released a video on a jihadist website claiming it was grinding some 10 tons of wheat each day to provide bread for the residents of Dayr al-Zur. In the video, a bearded man who identifies himself as part of al-Nusra gives a National Geographic-esque tour of a wheat silo where bags of wheat are filled, weighed, and transported to a bread-making facility, where industrial mixers churn dough.