Their roots return to an opposition of Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to a decision by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, to merge al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda in Syria, with the ISIS. Al-Zawahiri earlier made it clear that the ISIS\' activities must be restricted to Iraq, but this was never favored by the ISIS head. The reaction came in form of a tape message in which Al-Baghdadi announced he turned down an al-Zawahiri’s demand for dissolving ISIS and breaking up with al-Nusra Front, which is now rebranded to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
In recent days, release of a video of Al-Qaeda leader’s speech in which he continued denying al-Baghdadi\'s leadership of the so-called Islamic caliphate has made news headlines afresh. The content of the speech appears to show that its release in time with the recent developments in Iraq and Syria is not an accident, and the analysts suggest that it can be a kind of an announcement of the future road map by leaders of the terror organization.
This possible road map can be examined from three dimensions: 1. Dream of establishing a caliphate
A major part of Ayman al-Zawahiri\'s remarks in the message focuses on arguments by which he rejects Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being a caliph. Asserting that rising to the power on the strength of “sword and use of force” is an offense and religiously criminal, al-Zawahiri said that taking leadership of the caliphate was possible only through election or succession. He gave a historic example of the earlier years of Islamic era, highlighting the need for people to refuse swearing allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
Al-Zawahiri, who assesses himself as being more competent to take the leadership of the caliphate than the ISIS leader, called Al-Baghdadi\'s caliphdom “a leadership of explosion and bombing.” Al-Zawahiri said he was trying to return to the method of “Rashedun Caliphs", in a reference to the Islamic caliphs who in the earlier Islam succeeded Prophet Muhammad. He claimed that he frequently expressed to ISIS leaders his opposition to carrying out attacks against the mosques, Hussainiyas, and against the civilians.
Al-Zawahiri\'s making of these remarks in a time when ISIS has lost much of its formerly-held regions in Syria and Iraq can be expressive of Al-Qaeda leader\'s rush to offer an alternative to the ISIS allegiants in Syria and Iraq, those who are discontented with majorly heinous and violent actions of ISIS particularly in dealing with the civilians in the seized areas. In fact, the Al-Qaeda leaders, who during the whole years of their activities never managed to be as successful as ISIS in expanding controlled lands, are seeing the opportunity ripe for establishing their caliphate now that ISIS displays signs of demise.
Al-Zawahiri’s emphasis on issues such as continuation of “fight against the US and taking back the rights of the Muslims” in places like Gaza Strip, Kashmir, and the Central Asia instead of Muslims\' engagement in infightings were evaluated to be tricks he used to buy legitimacy for establishing a caliphate. Al-Qaeda leader continued:” when Gaza was being burnt by the Israeli bombs, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said no word in support of Palestinians. He mobilized his strength to attract mujahedeen to obey him all to, subsequently, appoint himself caliph without referring to and consulting them.” 2. Recruiting and refreshing strength
Without doubt, there is a tough competition between the Salafi groups on recruitment and buying financial support. In the recent years, Al-Qaeda fell way behind ISIS in terms of recruiting forces and attracting funding. Now that ISIS is weakened in Iraq and Syria, the terror group and its Syrian branch al-Nusra Front are optimistic about boosting their power as replacement for ISIS. Certainly, with obliteration of ISIS, its fighters will join other Salafi organizations. This tempts Al-Qaeda to seek as many stray fighters as possible to join its combat units. 3. Relocation to Syria
The six-year war in Syria has transformed the country into a paradise of the terror groups. Setting interests prior to battling terrorism by the Western countries and their regional allies motivated supports to the terrorists, for instance, by Qatar and Saudi Arabia which aim at toppling government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria at any costs. On the other side, as a result of the US\' and NATO\'s invasion of Afghanistan under claims of struggles to uproot terrorism in this Central Asia nation, Afghanistan and Pakistan were destabilized and so befitted free movement of Al-Qaeda leaders. Furthermore, having in mind that the Pakistani government is regularly pressed by the US and Afghanistan to curb activities of Al-Qaeda and deliver intelligence on whereabouts of the terror group’s leaders, the ISIS-held regions in Syria can present an appropriate alternative for this group to continue activity in the region.