Dangerous Merger of Syrian and Iraqi Jihadist Groups

On Sunday 7 April 2013, just days before the creation of the new Al-Qaeda entity, “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham”, a group associated with Al-Qaeda posted an online video. The footage shows Al- Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, addressing the global Jihadist community, insisting that the unity of the “Muslim nation” and the “establishment of a Caliphate” is a religious duty.

In the video, Al-Zawahiri focuses specifically on Syria, encouraging Syrian rebels to unite with one another and warning them against international and regional conspiracy. Al-Zawahiri also insists that Syrian rebel forces must ensure that their “Jihad” brings about an “Islamic state” in the country as the first step in the establishment of this global Caliphate.

Regarding the unity of Muslims, Al-Zawahiri states in his address that “the fragmentation of Muslims is the main reason for our defeat and backwardness”. He claims that the aftermath of the Arab Uprisings is a prime opportunity for the “Muslim nation” that must not be wasted.

Yesterday, Jihadist forums associated with Al-Qaeda posted an audio declaration from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq – known as “Islamic State of Iraq” (ISI). The declaration, in which Al-Baghdadi doesn’t appear in person, officially labels Syrian rebel group, Jabhhat al-Nusra, as an official affiliate of Al-Qaeda and an extension of Al-Qaeda in Iraq – a revelation which Quilliam revealed in its strategic briefing in January 2013.

In his audio address, Al-Baghdadi refers to Jabhat al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Mohammed alJawlani, as one of ISI’s soldiers, naming the official coalition of both groups the “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham”. The ISI leader reveals that the planning, support and policies behind Jabhat al-Nusra were developed in Iraq before the creation of the group in Syria and that the ISI funds 50% of the Syrian rebel group’s monthly budget.

Quilliam has learned from reliable sources that the formation of the new “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” was planned and monitored under the supervision of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At Al-Qaeda’s global leadership, Al-Qaeda General command, AlZawahiri personally gave the order for the merging of the ISI and Jabhat al-Nusra. Quilliam’s main concern after this significant development is the potential of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” to influence the course, direction and the process of the Syrian revolution to serve Al-Qaeda’s overall objectives.

We predict that the establishment of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham” could cause the Syrian revolution to suffer a severe international crisis, resulting in:

• Iraq being drawn into Syria and the establishment of a new Iraqi front
• Aggravation of the already existing and deepening Sunni/ Shia divisions and conflict in the
region
• A new era of a regional, sectarian & religiously justified war.

Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam, said: ‘For months, Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and ISI in Iraq have been preparing themselves to respond to any political developments in Syria. They radically reject the creation of any sort of interim pro-democratic government, believing that this is a Western conspiracy to hijack the Syrian revolution. Some regional governments will now have to urgently reassess their policies and previous decisions regarding their engagement with certain rebel groups in Syria’.


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