Al-Qaeda Chief Calls ISIS Illegitimate, But Suggests Cooperation

Al-Qaeda Leader Says Fighting West in Middle East Remains Focus

A newly released, but undated, audiotape from al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahri suggested that the group could cooperate with ISIS in both Iraq and Syria in fighting against the Western-led coalition.

At the same time, Zawahri maintained that al-Qaeda considers ISIS “illegitimate” and does not recognize their claim to a caliphate in the Middle East. The ISIS declaration caused a lot of uproar among Islamist factions, as a real caliphate would have to be supported by everyone.

Still, al-Qaeda in Syria and ISIS have been at each others’ throats for over a year now, and Zawahri’s suggestion that cooperation is possible could be seen as a considerable concession toward the group’s legitimacy as a rival faction.

It may also reflect the growth of al-Qaeda’s Syria faction, which now has a decent amount of territory of its own, and may no longer feel like it would be playing second fiddle to ISIS in any cooperative endeavor. With the US attacking both, it may bring them into a marriage of convenience.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.