NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Ayman al-Zawahiri, who assumed command of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network after he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALS in 2011, has issued a new audio message calling on jihadists to unify and ramp up attacks on Israel and the United States.
In the recording, reported by the Jerusalem Post, Zawahiri praises Palestinians who have conducted a spate of stabbing attacks on Israelis as retaliation against Israel's tightening of security on the Temple Mount, home to the al-Aqsa mosque – one of two Muslim shrines that sit where the Jewish Temple complex once stood.
As much as he praised those who carried out the lone wolf-style attacks, however, Zawahiri said Muslims will not see the liberation of Palestine until they engage in large scale attacks on those who support Israel in the West.
The Americans, Russians, Iranians, Alawites [Shiites], and Hezbollah are coordinating their war against us – are we not capable of stopping the fighting amongst ourselves so we can direct all our efforts against them?
"Two things are necessary for the liberation of Palestine," Zawahiri said.
"First is striking the West and especially the U.S. on its own soil, and attacking their scattered interests in every place. The supporters of Israel must pay with their blood and economy. This will be their price for supporting Israel's crimes against Muslims and Islam."
"The Americans, Russians, Iranians, Alawites [Shiites], and Hezbollah are coordinating their war against us – are we not capable of stopping the fighting amongst ourselves so we can direct all our efforts against them?" Zawahiri asked.
The terror leader then called for more attacks like those on September 11, and the train and bus bombings in Madrid and London, the newspaper reported.
Second is Zawahiri's assertion that a prerequisite to liberating Palestine is "the founding of an Islamic State in Egypt and the Levant, in order to mobilize the nation for the Liberation of Palestine. This could can only be done through the path of unity. We must reject the conflict and stop the fighting between the jihadist fighters."
Al-Qaeda and ISIS, or the Islamic State, have never seen eye-to-eye on the path to victory, a fact that has led to conflict between the two groups in Syria.
Both groups desire a global caliphate, but the controversy over where that caliphate should be headquartered and who should lead it remain in play. The Islamic State claims the global caliphate is already established by force and headquartered in Iraq and Syria with its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Zawahiri, well advanced in years, believes the global caliphate will be established through cooperation among Islamists. He then would presumably lead the caliphate from Egypt – his home country.
Known for its 7th century brutality and angry with al-Qaeda's pace at achieving its goals, ISIS has even assassinated key leaders in the al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, while continuing to fight to overthrow Syrian President Bashaar al-Assad. Al-Nusra fighters have responded by killing jihadists with the Islamic State.
In the recent audio recording, however, some of that controversy fades into the background because of the "aggression" toward Muslims from the West and the rise of Shiite Islam with Iran – which has aided Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Al-Sabireen in Gaza and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
"Today we face aggression from US, Europe, Russia, the Apostates [Shi'ite Muslims] and Christians. We have to stand together from eastern Turkistan to Morocco," a frustrated Zawahiri said.
In many ways, the video released by Zawahiri is an illustration of the marginalization of al-Qaeda in both the global jihad and media coverage. ISIS was once part of al-Qaeda, but later assumed prominence in the media when its leader proclaimed himself caliph of the new order. That led to conflict between the groups.
ISIS's "in your face" approach and its attacks on secular governments have also made it increasingly popular among radical Muslims, while al-Qaeda has plied its trade in the shadows. In September, in fact, Zawahiri issued a statement claiming ISIS was "too violent" and should cease indiscriminately killing its opponents – especially other Sunnis – and return to the original plan for bringing about the global caliphate.
ISIS also recently laid claim to "Palestine" in a series of a dozen videos encouraging Palestinians to continue their attacks on Jews, "the sons of apes and pigs." One video even offered six different ways to kill Jews. The terror group said it would focus on destroying Israel and liberating Palestine once it had fended off attacks from westerners in the remainder of the Islamic State caliphate.
For his part, Zawahiri is maintaining a low profile. No westerner has seen him face-to-face since 2002.