The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
On May 8, 2016, Al-Qaeda issued a new audio message from its leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, after several month of silence. In the message, Al-Zawahiri calls on the jihad groups in Syria to unite because this is a matter of life and death for them. He urges the Muslims of Syria to reject the initiatives of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region, and assures them that the jihadis will defeat "the Eastern and Western Crusaders war machine" - i.e., both Russia and America - as well as their allies, the Syrian regime and Iran. Addressing the relationship between Al-Qaeda and its affiliate in Syria, Jabhat Al-Nusra (JN), he hints that the ties between them are strong and that they should remain so, for the world will not accept JN as legitimate in any case, unless it completely changes its nature to suit the superpowers.
The following are excerpts from the message:
"Syria today is the hope of the Islamic nation, for [its revolution] is the only Arab Spring revolution that is taking the correct path - the path of da'wa and jihad for the sake of strengthening the shar'ia and enacting [its laws], and for the sake of striving to establish a righteous caliphate, not the caliphate of Ibrahim Al-Badri [i.e., Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi]...
"This is why the world's arch-criminals [i.e., the superpowers and the international community] have come together to prevent the establishment of a jihadi state in Syria... and have hatched [various] plots and [exerted various] pressures... However, Allah willed it that there should remain one jihad-fighting group [i.e., JN and its allies], comprising the best of the ansar [local fighters] and muhajiroun [foreign fighters], which cleaves to the truth and does not stray from it. The Muslims in Syria rallied around this group, seeing the difference between its correct path and the false path of the extremist Khawarij, the new takfiris [i.e., ISIS]...
"My brothers the mujahideen everywhere, our duty today is to defend the jihad in Syria against the plots being hatched against it, plots which are directed by the pampered daughter of Britain and proxy of the U.S., the state of the Sa'ud [royal] family [namely Saudi Arabia] and its lackeys in the region. The aim of all these plots is to establish a regime in Syria that will present itself as Islamic but will be based on a false Islam that coexists in harmony with secularism and with the concept of the nation-state, with extremist nationalism and with the regime of the international arch-criminals. [This regime] will sacrifice the lives of the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets to call out the natural slogan: '[the Prophet] Muhammad is our commander and our lord forever.'
"The greatest problem facing the world order and our apostate leaders and their governments [today] is that the mujahideen in Syria are standing on the borders of Palestine and threatening what they call 'the state of Israel,' [which is actually] the 51st American state and the largest military base outside America. Therefore, these criminals are compelled to cooperate in order to fight this jihad, kill it while it is still small, and divert it from its path [towards the path] of nationalism, secularism and capitulation to the world order of [these] arch-criminals. This is why they hatch one plot after another: Geneva, Riyadh, ceasefires, resolutions by the arch-criminals' Security Council- an endless series of deceptions, lies and duplicities.
"Our duty today is to support the jihad in Syria with all our might and rally around it, all of us, [both] light and heavy. Our duty today is to call for unity among the muhajideen in Syria until it is liberated from the secularist Nusairi [i.e., Alawite] regime, its partners, the rawafid Safavis [i.e., Shi'ite Persians, referring to Iran], and their allies, the Russians and the Western Crusaders - until a righteous, jihadi Islamic entity is established in this land.
"My brothers the mujahideen in Syria, who come from all over the world, today unity is a matter of life and death for you. You can unite and live a life of honor, or you can stay divided and be devoured, one by one."
Al-Zawahiri then moves on to address the issue of the organizational ties between Al-Qaeda and JN: "There remains an open question that is dealt with extensively in an attempt to distract the Muslims in Syria from their true enemies, namely [the question of] the ties between Al-Qaeda and the dear, honorable and glorious Jabhat Al-Nusra, with whom we are proud to have relations and pray to Allah that he enhance its success and steadfastness. Let me say briefly and clearly: We have said time and again that, if and when the heroic people of Syria establish an Islamic government and choose for themselves a leader, whoever they choose will be acceptable to us. We are not power-hungry. We do not want to rule over the Muslims; we want the shari'a to rule and we want to be ruled as Muslims according to Islam. We call for unity among the mujahedeen in Syria, and urge them to agree on the establishment of a jihad-fighting and righteous Islamic government... that will wage jihad, liberate the lands, and strive to liberate Al-Aqsa and establish a caliphate in the path of prophecy. JN's organizational affiliation will never pose an obstacle to these great objectives that we, as part of the Islamic nation, hope for. [Unlike ISIS] we do not presume to be the patrons [of the Islamic nation], nor do we pounce upon it, demanding to that it swear loyalty to unknown people and to a caliph of surprises.
"Besides, would the arch-criminals accept JN if it left Al-Qaeda? Or will they obligate it to conduct negotiations with the criminal murderers, and then compel it to obey the agreements of abasement and shame and then capitulate to the governments of corruption and subordination... We in Al-Qaeda do not accept a pledge of loyalty unless it is voluntary. We do not force anyone to swear loyalty to us. We do not threaten to blow up or behead [our opponents]. We do not brand anyone fighting against us an apostate, as do the new Khawrij [ISIS], who make baseless claims.
"Al-Zawahiri concludes with an appeal to the Muslims in Syria: "We are part of you. Though we come from different countries, religion and faith unite us. We are with you, waging one war on many fronts against the Crusader arch-criminals and their apostate partners. Your victory is our victory, your dignity is our dignity, and your strength is our strength. Stand fast, oh servants of Allah, against the savage attack of the Crusaders from East and West [the Russians and Americans], who have forged an alliance with the secular Nusairis and the criminal rawafids. Stand fast and fight. Do not let the Crusader war machine intimidate you." Citing former Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, Al-Zawahiri states that "Allah promised us victory," and adds: "It was trust in Allah alone that shattered this Eastern and Western [i.e., Russian and American] Crusader war machine in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, and it is [faith in Allah] that will shatter it in Syria, Allah willing. Beware the seductions of the traitorous and subordinate apostate governments, which will not give you either freedom or dignity, because one who lacks something [himself] cannot provide it [to others]. Your deeds must justify your words when you say: 'death and not abasement.'"
 Koran 9:41: " Go forth, whether light or heavy, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah."