The announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in April 2013 saw the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) claim to subsume its Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, a move rejected by al-Nusra’s leader who then swore allegiance to al-Qaeda. Both ISI and al-Nusra were believed to be branches of al-Qaeda at the time, and al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ruled that ISI should return to Iraq and al-Nusra should remain as al-Qaeda’s separate branch in Syria. ISI, keeping the ISIS name, dismissed this decision—and ISI(S)’s spokesman did so even more forcibly. After a year of turmoil, al-Zawahiri released a statement on February 3, 2014, disowning ISIS. Al-Zawahiri’s speech was translated by @IraqiWitness and is reproduced below.
Firstly, Tandheem Qaedat al-Jihad declares that it has no links to the ISIS group. We were not informed about its creation, nor counselled. Nor were we satisfied with it: rather, we ordered it to stop. ISIS is not a branch of al-Qaeda and we have no organizational relationship with it, nor is al-Qaeda responsible for its actions and behaviours. The branches of al-Qaeda are those that have been announced by the Central Command, those are the ones we acknowledge, with assurances of loyalty and love and support for every mujahid [jihadist], and our care for all our Muslim and mujahid brothers.
Secondly, al-Qaeda would like to reconfirm some of the important needs in the jihadi work. For example:
- Shura [consultation] and united work and making important decisions after consultation between the mujahideen [holy warriors] and endorsement of their leaders.
- That problems between the mujahideen are solved amongst themselves and not through the media.
- That we are a part of the umma [Islamic nation] and we don’t take [away] their right to choose who will rule them, as long as he meets Islamic requirements, and we don’t hasten to create states or emirates, without consulting the ulema [scholars], leaders, mujahideen, and then enforcing it on people.
- Making sure we mobilize the nation around main issues, which is the ideology of Usama bin Ladin, who elevated the jihadi work. Therefore we published the “Victory of Islam” document to clarify the issues that the people should be mobilized around.
- Making sure to get rid of behaviours that will harm the jihad, therefore we published the “General Instructions” document.
- Distancing from any behaviour that will result in oppressing a mujahid or a Muslim or a non-Muslim
And here we declare ourselves innocent of fitna [strife] in Syria between the mujahideen, and we declare our innocence of blood that has been shed.
We call upon everyone to fear Allah and realize the huge responsibility that has befallen upon them, and to realize the catastrophe that has happened to the jihad in Syria and the future of this umma due to the fitna that they are [engaged] in.
We call upon all those who have religion to take care of the jihad and work to extinguish this fitna by stopping this fighting, and settling the affairs by Islamic courts to judge between the mujahideen.
Thirdly, we confirm that the door of advice between us and all is open. Any Muslim mujahid will have the right of brotherhood, support and loyalty.
 Also rendered Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad or “The Base of Holy War Organization”: the full name of al-Qaeda (the Base).