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Notes on the leaked Ayman al-Zawahiri tape
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi • Sep 10, 2015 at 5:21 pm
A newly leaked tape from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has emerged on the Internet. Below are some of my observations on it:
- Mullah Omar is referenced as still being alive at this point, hence the 'may God protect him' calls from Zawahiri whenever he mentions his name. He places particular emphasis on Mullah Omar's status as a legitimate authority. This reinforces the point that either he was ignorant of Mullah Omar's death or was colluding in deception to hold up a supposed legitimate authority.
- Zawahiri also offers condolences to "our mujahideen brothers in the group of Ansar al-Shari'a in Libya on the martyrdom of their amir" Muhammad al-Zahawi in January 2015. He also wishes for the continuation of their jihad "until God's word should be supreme." This illustrates aptly the alignment between al-Qa'ida and Libya's Ansar al-Shari'a, even as the latter has had many pro-Islamic State elements who have since defected and cultivated the Islamic State presence in places like Sirte. A similar indication of alignment with "our brothers" in the Caucasus Emirate emerges later in the speech with reference to Islamic State attempts to delegitimize it.
- Zawahiri thanks the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leadership- including Nasir al-Wuhayshi, still referenced as being alive at this point (he died in June 2015)- for calling for an end to jihadi infighting in Syria. This accords with an AQAP statement in October 2014 calling for solidarity with the Islamic State against the international coalition campaign against the Islamic State. The tone of that statement in addressing the Islamic State echoes Zawahiri's tone here, where he focuses his lamentations on the fact that at a time the same 'Crusader-Safavid etc.' alliance and other forces are targeting the various al-Qa'ida affiliates and associates, the Islamic State is focusing on demanding allegiance and fracturing the ranks. He then emphasizes the contrast between the concern of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and its leader Mullah Omar for the causes of Muslims around the world with Baghdadi's lack of mentioning the suffering of Muslims in Gaza, Waziristan and other locations.
- Zawahiri emphasizes lack of recognition of the Islamic State's Caliphate declaration: "Dear brothers, I would like to make clear...we don't recognize this Caliphate, and we don't see it as a Caliphate on the Prophetic Methodology, but an emirate of appropriation without consultation that cannot obligate the Muslims to pledge allegiance to it, and we don't see Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as apt for the Caliphate." Yet he then adds: "But if I were in Iraq or al-Sham, I would work with them [Islamic State] in fighting the Crusaders, the secularists, the Nusayris and Safavids, despite my lack of recognizing the legitimacy of their state...because the matter is greater than I and their claim to establish the Caliphate. It is a matter for the Ummah to oppose the vicious Crusader campaign, and it is obligatory on all the mujahideen to support each other and come together to resist it."
The most important takeaway from these observations is that his line of argument that 'I don't recognize the Islamic State, but we must unite against the Crusader campaign' is in keeping with the earlier calls for al-Qaeda affiliates for an end to infighting in the face of this campaign. Ultimately though, the differences are too wide for a genuine reconciliation, as the Islamic State's demands for allegiance are inherently absolute.
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