Cover Story Overview
The War of Jihadists Against Jihadists in Syria
By Nelly Lahoud and Muhammad al-`Ubaydi
On February 2, 2014, al-Qa`ida released a statement declaring that “it has no connection” with the “group” called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The statement further highlighted that al-Qa`ida was not responsible for founding the ISIL and was not privy to the deliberations that led to its establishment. That is why, the statement continued, “The ISIL is not a branch of al-Qa`ida, the latter is not bound by organizational ties to it and is not responsible for the ISIL’s actions.” This article discusses the context of the statement, its significance, its impact on the jihadist landscape and concludes by assessing its potential consequences on Ayman al-Zawahiri’s leadership. It finds that al-Zawahiri’s once symbolic leadership over various jihadist groups is now undermined, and the ISIL has clearly emerged as a rival of al-Qa`ida. The article also finds that the Syrian arena, and potentially the Iraqi landscape, will serve as the war of jihadists against jihadists as a result of the public schism between the ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra.