Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a new message late on Sunday that called for a united jihadist front against "the satanic alliance that attacks Islam."
The 16-minute recording accompanies old footage of Osama bin Laden and touches on a wide range of topics, including the necessity of repeated attacks against al Qaeda's enemies, the perils of infighting among jihadists, and renewed violence in Israel and Palestine.
"The message is most likely part of al Qaeda's effort to communicate more broadly its strategic thinking," said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and senior editor of The Long War. "The target audience is probably jihadists in its own ranks and fighters in the Islamic State as well." Al Qaeda's Syria branch, the Nusra Front, has been engaged in a turf war with the Islamic State since Zawahri formally rebuffed the group last year.
The al Qaeda chief released a series of recordings earlier this year in which he debunked the Islamic State's theology and criticized the group's conduct in Syria and Iraq.
His new message strikes a more conciliatory note. Zawahri says that establishing an Islamic state in Egypt and the Levant is necessary in order to "liberate Palestine," and that such an endeavor "requires unity." The recording also includes Zawahiri's commentary on the recent violence in Israel and Palestine. "Muslims everywhere" are angry about Israel's encouragement on the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, he says. Zawahiri praises "a new epic of jihad... [where people] defend Palestine… with knives, cars, stones, and everything they own."
"Those who support Israel should pay in their blood and economy the price for supporting the crimes of Israel against Islam and Muslims," he adds.
After speaking about the situation in Israel, Zawahiri offers a general overview of the state of jihadism and a survey of its enemies, which he at one point conveniently mashes into an overarching statement on "American-European-Russian-Shiite-Alawite aggression."
"They think they are fighting against a big conspiracy that includes Russia, the US, Europe, Bashar al-Assad, and Iran," Joscelyn said.
In order to take on these formidable foes, he says jihadists must "hone our conduct in order to convince our Muslim people that we want to be ruled over by Sharia," adding that it's important that jihadists of all stripes "do not seek to oppress Muslims."
According to Jocelyn, this is a not-so-subtle message to the Islamic State to lay off of al Qaeda's Syria affiliate so that they can successfully combat their common enemies.