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Al-Qaeda 2.0A Critical Reader$
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Donald Holbrook

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190856441

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190856441.001.0001

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March Forth to Sham [Syria]!

March Forth to Sham [Syria]!

May 2016

By Ayman al-Zawahiri

Chapter:
(p.263) March Forth to Sham [Syria]!
Source:
Al-Qaeda 2.0
Author(s):
Donald Holbrook

Cerwyn Moore

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190856441.003.0020

Zawahiri has noted that he did not want Al-Qaeda’s presence on the ground in Syria to become known, as this would distract from the goal of toppling the Assad regime and serve as a propaganda victory for local Shia forces seeking to present the conflict in a more international light. This was part of his publicly articulated frustration with al-Baghdadi’s declaration of the ISIS, initially as a merger with Jabhat al-Nusra, which Zawahiri rejected. In this statement, Zawahiri insists that he does not desire material or political power, in Syria and elsewhere. This goes back to his previous conceptualizations of Al-Qaeda as a ‘mode’, message and mission, which he presented as bin Ladin’s legacy and ultimately his own legacy too. If the people of Syria and its mujahidin fighters came to an agreement regarding their Islamic leadership that would end the infighting, Zawahiri insisted, he would be happy to offer the consensus his backing. At the same time he continues to present IS and al-Baghdadi as illegitimate, praising instead the Nusra Front. The latter declared its independence from Al-Qaeda, with Zawahiri’s acquiescence, in July 2016, potentially giving it more freedom to maneuver within Syria and garner local support.

Keywords:   Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda, Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS, Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

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