On April 29, the Islamic State’s “province” (wilayah) in Yemen released a lengthy video that is intended to undermine al-Qaeda’s ideological legitimacy within the jihadists’ ranks. The 50-plus minute production, titled “A Documentary Shedding Light on Al-Qaeda Organization’s Deviation Following What Is Known as the Arab Spring,” repeats many of the same doctrinal accusations the Islamic State has made for years. The would-be caliphate’s ire is directed at Ayman al-Zawahiri and his lieutenants, as well as al-Qaeda’s regional branches and their allies. The Islamic State’s central charge is that al-Qaeda betrayed its own Salafi-jihadist ideology in the wake of the Arab uprisings in 2011 and 2012.
For those who have followed the Islamic State’s messaging since its rise to power in 2014, when the group mushroomed into an international menace, the allegations will be familiar. Indeed, the group’s literature, including its Arabic weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, and its English-language magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah, have advanced the arguments discussed below on multiple occasions. Indeed, the video was highlighted in the most recent edition of Al-Naba (Issue no. 232), with an article summarizing its arguments.