Leading jihadist ideologues, including several openly allied with al Qaeda, have proposed a truce between the Islamic State and its rivals. The initiative, which is being promoted on Twitter, aims to bring together the warring jihadist factions in Iraq and Syria against the West.
The proposal, titled “An Initiative and Call for a Ceasefire Between Factions in Syria,” was released online on Sept. 30. “Due to the Crusader attack on our Muslim brothers in Syria and Iraq,” the authors argue, the jihadists must set aside their violent disagreements.
They claim that the US-led bombing campaign is part of a war “against Islam and not against a specific organization.”
The Islamic State, headed by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has been warring with the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and other jihadist organizations since last year. Some of the signatories were involved in previous efforts to reconcile the Islamic State with its rivals. Those efforts failed, but the jihadist ideologues are trying once again.
“We call on all factions in Syria and Iraq to cease fighting among themselves no later than the evening of [Oct 3, 2014], for perhaps Allah most high will descend his mercies upon Syria and its people in the prayer of Muslim crowds on that great day,” the proposal reads.
The document continues: “And we request from all the factions that they announce their position regarding this initiative in their manner in three days from the date of the publication of this statement, so that it can be made known and clear who rejects this blessed initiative.”
The authors argue that “forty countries have united and gathered together to wage war against” Islam itself. They ask: “[S]o does our loyalty to Islam and its people not require of us to stop the infighting under the bombardment of this Crusader campaign at the very least if a permanent [final] end to it is not possible?”
The authors say that the territories the jihadists are currently fighting over can be transferred to an impartial body as long as the truce is in effect.
Authors’ backgrounds indicate proposal likely has al Qaeda’s approval
The proposed truce’s signatories include: Dr. Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, Abu Qatada al Filisṭini, Umar al Haddoushi, Abu al Wafaa al Tunisi, Dr. Tariq Abdul Haleem, and Hani al Sibai. The initiative has also been endorsed by Abu Muhammad al Dagestani, who is the emir of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate.
Several of the signatories are well-known critics of the Islamic State. And the authors’ backgrounds indicate that the proposal likely has the support of al Qaeda’s senior leadership.
Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini is a Saudi cleric who is closely allied with the Al Nusrah Front. He tried to reconcile the Islamic State with other jihadists late last year and into early 2014.
Muhaysini offered a reconciliation proposal in late January that received wide support, but was ultimately rejected by the Islamic State. When Muhaysini released his proposal on Jan. 23, he specifically noted that it was consistent with a call for unity made by Zawahiri just hours earlier. “In the morning, the Mujahid Sheikh Doctor [Ayman al Zawahiri] gave a speech in which he called to the same cause to which we have been intending to call,” Muhaysini said at the time. The Saudi cleric said he interpreted Zawahiri’s words as “good tidings.”
It appears that the Islamic State’s rejection of Muhaysini’s peace offering was one of the final acts that led al Qaeda’s general command to disown the group. Indeed, al Qaeda’s senior leaders disassociated themselves from the Islamic State just days after Muhaysini’s offer was declined.
Both Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi and Abu Qatada al Filisṭini have been released from prison in Jordan. Their blistering critiques of the Islamic State have been marketed by the Al Nusrah Front on at least several occasions. Maqdisi and Qatada have also backed Ayman al Zawahiri in the dispute with Baghdadi’s group.
In late May, Maqdisi released a statement calling the Islamic State a “deviant organization.” Maqdisi revealed that he had personally attempted to broker a peace deal between the jihadist factions in Syria, saying that he been in touch with both Baghdadi and Zawahiri. Maqdisi referred to Zawahiri as his “beloved brother,” “the Sheikh,” and “the Commander” in the statement. Maqdisi blasted the Islamic State for rejecting his reconciliation attempts.
Hani al Sibai is highly regarded by Zawahiri. So when Sibai and others called on the al Qaeda master to detail some of the specific problems with the Islamic State in mid-April, Zawahiri publicly responded just weeks later, in early May. Zawahiri said he decided to address the conflict with the Islamic State out of his respect for Sibai.
In a video address in late June, Abu Muhammad al Dagestani, the emir of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, described Zawahiri as “our leader” and said that his organization was following Zawahiri’s guidelines for waging jihad. In a video released on Sept. 23, Dagestani addressed the “scholars of the ummah [worldwide community of Muslims].” Zawahiri, Maqdisi, Hani Sibai, and Abu Qatada were four of the six “scholars” praised by Dagestani, who said that he had “benefited” greatly from reading their “books, research, sermons and lectures,” as well as fatwas (religious edicts).
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, two official branches of al Qaeda that remain loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri, have also urged the jihadists in Syria to fight their common enemies and not one another.