LWJ \ By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The head of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, Abu Iyad al Tunisi, has released a statement calling for reconciliation between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS) and other jihadist groups. The statement was published on June 13, with the banner shown above, on the group’s Twitter feed.
Abu Iyad hails the mujahideen’s “conquests in the Land of the Two Rivers,” saying they should serve to bring together all of the “jihadist factions that fight to raise the banner of monotheism” and seek to enforce Islamic sharia law. Abu Iyad says the mujahideen should set aside their differences and “open their hearts to a new comprehensive reconciliation,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. All of the jihadists should also reconsider their “policies in the Levant based on the latest regional developments.”
There have been multiple attempts at reconciling the ISIS with other jihadist groups in Syria, including al Qaeda’s official branch, the Al Nusrah Front. The ISIS emir, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and other members of the group’s leadership have repeatedly refused these entreaties. But Abu Iyad says the jihadists should once again seek a “comprehensive reconciliation” plan.
Abu Iyad says he “defers these demands” to al Qaeda head Sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri and the emir of the Al Nusrah Front, Abu Muhammad al Julani. If the pair announce their support for the gains made by the ISIS, other jihadist factions, and the Sunni tribes in Iraq, then it “might result in orders by the lead of the disputing organization that would put an end to infighting.”
The head of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia also addresses Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Abu Iyad says the head of ISIS should “swiftly respond to the demands of the revered leaders and scholars,” who have called on him both in public and in private to reconcile. Ramadan is a good time to end the infighting, Abu Iyad argues, especially as the infidels’ “projects” are collapsing throughout the region.
This is the second time since the beginning of the year that Abu Iyad has released a statement on the jihadist infighting. In January 2014, he published a message urging the rival factions to reconcile and focus their efforts on the Syrian regime. Abu Iyad said that he considers the ISIS, the Al Nusrah Front, and all the jihadi factions to be his “brothers.” The Ansar al Sharia leader called on a number of jihadist figures, including Zawahiri (the “doctor of the Ummah” and “sheikh of the Mujahideen”) to resolve the matter.
In his January statement, Abu Iyad also named Abu Qatada as one of the jihadist leaders who could help end the ongoing dispute. Abu Qatada is imprisoned in Jordan. Despite his confinement, Abu Qatada has released a number of statements criticizing the ISIS.
Earlier this year, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia also promoted a letter that Abu Qatada wrote at the behest of Abu Iyad. In the letter, Abu Qatada covered events in Libya, Syria, and Tunisia. He praised the participation of Tunisia’s youth in the Syrian jihad as a “blessed matter.” [See LWJ report, Abu Qatada provides jihadists with ideological guidance from a Jordanian prison.]
Ansar al Sharia recruits from Tunisia (as well as Libya) have reportedly gone off to fight in Syria in droves, which is likely one reason Abu Iyad has taken a keen interest in the infighting.