He dismisses al-Baghdadi as a pretender who declared himself caliph with the support of only “a few unknown people,” and established ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, “by force and with explosions and car bombs,” instead of by “the choice of the people” through “approval and consultation.”
He also faults al-Baghdadi for failing to support Muslims who are not in the Islamic State’s territory.
“When Gaza was burning beneath Israeli bombs, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not support it with one word, but his main concern was that all the mujahideen pledge allegiance to him, after he assigned himself to be the Caliph without consulting them.”
And he accuses al-Baghdadi of sedition, for encouraging al Qaeda followers to abandon their pledges, and instead promise their loyalty to ISIS.
“It’s a major broadside against the Islamic State,” says former State Department counterterrorism adviser William McCants, who is now with the Brookings Institution. “Zawahiri is clearly very angry and frustrated that the Islamic State has been attacking him, attacking his soldiers on the ground, attacking him personally.”
Georgetown University’s Nicholas Palarino says al-Baghdadi is stealing his thunder, and al-Zawahiri feels threatened. “You can compare it to two drug gangs, or two mafia mobs. One is encroaching on the other’s territory.”
The two groups have competing strategies, he says, and right now ISIS is more popular with extremists. “There is a generational split. Zawahiri and al Qaeda are more plotting, planning and patient, whereas Baghdadi is demonstrating results.”