AQIM & AQAP adress Jihadists in Syria & Iraq

September 16th, 2014 - The al-Qaida branches on the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) and in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have published a joint statement addressing their "brothers" in Iraq and Syria. Here are a few quick thoughts about this document. (Includes a correction at the end.)

1.- It's a first: AQAP and AQIM have never published a statement together before, a fact that is emphasized by the fact that the document is labelled "Communiqué No. 1". That's not exactly a sensation, but interesting nonetheless.

2.- There are two main messages in the communiqué: A call for unity among the Jihadists in Iraq & Syria. And a call to their own sympathizers "in the Peninsula and those countries that are part of the evil alliance" to fight back against this alliance that has decided to fight the Islamic State to fight back.

3.- It is noteworthy however, that the document doesn't mention either Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State by name. That's no coincidence. The AQ branches are not taking sides and they are clearly trying to avoid re-kindling or rather intensifying the strife between those two groups, even though Jabhat al-Nusra is, in theory, part of their team, while IS isn't. (Please not the correction at the end of this post.) 

4.- Which leads us to this: The very fact that AQIM and AQAP do not in any way at all criticize the Islamic State is indicative of two things: There is likely a degree of sympathy towards the "Caliphate" within the ranks of these two branches; and they are independent enough of AQ central's Amir Aiman al-Sawahiri to take their own decisions in how to address the issue.

5.- The call to unity, however, was received by internet Jihadis without much enthusiasm, as far as I can see. It seems like the crowd wasn't exactly waiting to be lectured about this issue by AQAP and AQIM (the latter of which is not very good at maintaining unity itself).

6.- In terms of reactions or consequences, I think that the call to their own sympathizers to react to Western led and Arab backed efforts to reign in the Islamic State is most important. In the worst case it may lead to actions like embassy attacks etc. in the larger region.

But be that as it may, this communiqué isn't much of an event in and of itself. It is much rather part of a development the outcome of which nobody knows yet - but it will be one of these three options: AQ and IS are either going to merge in one way or the other; or they will keep fighting each other; or they will find some kind of modus vivandi and exist alongside each other.

The statement in questions leaves all of these options open and contains no hints other than a general preference for unity. But attempts at unity can of course fail (and have failed) for many reasons, large or petty. material or personal, ideological or profane.

CORRECTION: The Islamic State is mentioned by name in the document, I have overlooked that at first, and Aymen al-Tamimi pointed me to it. However, I don't believe that changes much of my argument in this post, but that's up to you to decide. I would still maintain the notion that AQAP and AQIM have written nothing that would intensify the strife between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. 

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