As I noted in a post last week, al-Qaeda’s failure to respond to the declaration of the Caliphate by the Islamic State (IS)—formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS)—has been rather puzzling. Given the seriousness of the dispute between the two organizations and the challenge that the new state poses to al-Qaeda’s dominance of the global jihad, it would seem incumbent upon the more established group to answer the declaration in some convincing way. This week, at long last, al-Qaeda has issued a short newsletter that contains at least the beginning of a response to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s announcement.It also allows us to see that al-Qaeda might have been setting up this response over the past few weeks.
Since the declaration of the Caliphate by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS)—now named the Islamic State (IS)—many jihadist groups have taken a position either for or against the new entity. Online and through public statements, there has also been a great deal of debate among influential members of the jihadist community over the entire issue. One organization has, however, been noticeable for its absence in the debate: al-Qaeda’s (AQ) high command.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) in the territory it claims to control. The leader of the group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has taken the title “Caliph Ibrahim” and, henceforth, ISIS will be known simply as the “Islamic State.” This is a momentous occasion for the jihadi-salafist movement, since the creation of a Caliphate is one of the stated goals of extremist groups around the Muslim-majority world.
In my first on the quarrel between al-Qaeda and ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham), I laid out the depth of the problem facing al-Qaeda. In this post, I’ll take a brief look back at the origins and root causes of the disagreement between the two groups as well as the appeals that are being made by ISIS and al-Qaeda in their attempts to convince other jihadist groups to support them.
Recent advances in Iraq by the al-Qaeda clone known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) have raised fears that the entire country could fall to extremists. Although the collapse of security throughout much of Iraq seems sudden, it did not spring from a void, but rather is the result of a return of sectarianism to Iraq and of the steady growth of ISIS over the past two and a half years.