As-Sahab Foundation for Islamic Media Publication, al-Qaeda’s media outlet, produced an English translation of a speech by the organization’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on 13 January 2016. The speech was entitled, “Syria Is Entrusted Upon Your Necks”. The speech does focus on the West, particularly its de facto alliance with the pro-Assad coalition—namely Russia and Iran—and calls for the Syrian rebellion to unite with al-Qaeda to resist this conspiracy. What is more noticeable, however, is the two enemies on whom Dr. al-Zawahiri really focuses: Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State. The Saudis are accused—not without reason—of having been allied closely to the West and thwarting the jihadist projects at every turn. And al-Zawahiri makes a fierce ideological assault on the Islamic State, comparing them with the Khawarij and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), whose conduct in Algeria in the 1990s and their justifications for it took Islamist extremism to new depths. The speech is reproduced below with some minor editions, to transliteration and punctuation, and some interesting and important sections highlighted in bold.
In the name of Allah, and all praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammed, his family, his companions, and his followers.
All Muslim brothers in every part of the world: Peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you. And henceforth:
This talk of mine to you is about the recent Riyadh conference. However, I will begin by thanking my brothers the mujahideen of Islam everywhere, who are striving to release the male and female Muslim prisoners.
I am here making special mention of my noble brothers, the lions of Islam in Syria of ribat [guard duty at the border of the Islamic state], and those who are close to Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] in the dear and honourable Jabhat al-Nusra, who strived to free the male and female Muslim prisoners from the hands of the Lebanese government.
May Allah reward them with good in this world and the hereafter. They have indeed healed the hearts of the believers and made them delighted. I ask Allah to place this action on their scales of goodness on the Day of Judgement.
My dear brothers: this blessed deal was a victory from Allah. You have freed the male and female prisoners and you provided the muhajireen [lit. “emigrants”; the foreign fighters] with supplies, medicine, and treatment, and you proved that you are the ones protecting your umma [global Muslim community], that you are anxious to lift suffering and oppression from it, and that you are defending its sanctities. May Allah bestow on you the best reward.
My dear brothers in the honourable and dignified Jabhat al-Nusra: indeed, you have set a noble example for the mujahideen everywhere, so continue upon this blessed path, and strive to increase in obedience, and avoid disobedience and sins. Be keen to unite the ranks of jihad around the word of tawhid [monotheism], as unity is the door to victory, and open your hearts to everyone who seeks good from amongst the ranks of the extremists and takfiris [those who excommunicate Muslims].
My Muslim brothers and mujahideen: all of us have seen the news of the recent Riyadh conference, which was followed by Saudi Arabia announcing the establishment of an alliance to fight against what they call “terrorism” to serve the American interests. These are no more than two episodes in the series of Saudi attempts and dirty examples in diverting the path of jihad everywhere and in Syria in particular, away from its straight path, and to drown it in the quagmire of a nationalist state, and to convert it into a failed uprising, completely in the same way they did with the uprisings and revolts which they called as the Arab Spring.
Therefore, I advise my mujahideen brothers in Syria of ribat and jihad to be cautious of this filthy government, and not to forget its black history in the service of the enemies of Islam.
Abdul Aziz al-Saud was the one who signed the treaty of Uqair with Britain in the year 1915 while it was fighting in the First World War against the Uthmani State [Ottoman caliphate], and they both agreed in it that Britain would protect Ibn Saud in return for him agreeing not to enter into treaties or covenants with any foreign government other than Britain. And the first target by this treaty was the Uthmani State.
When the great uprising occurred in Palestine in the year 1936, Abdul Aziz al-Saud sent his two sons to calm down those who were carrying out the uprising, and he along with King Ghazi [of Iraq] and Emir Abdullah [of Jordan], issued the famous statement which said the following:
“It has caused us a lot of pain to see the prevailing situation in Palestine, and we in agreement with our brothers the Arab kings and Emir Abdullah, call you to abide in peace in order to prevent the shedding of blood by relying on the good intention of our friend the British government, and its announced desire for justice to prevail. And be confident that we will continue to strive to help you.”
This is how the Palestinians got deceived and the revolution came to an end.
By the end of the Second World War, Abdul Aziz al-Saud met [U.S. President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt in the year 1945 to transfer his alliance from Britain to America. So he would hand over to them the wealth of the Arabian Peninsula and the right to exploit its land and atmosphere in return for America guaranteeing that the leadership of the Arabian Peninsula will remain with the children of Abdul Aziz.
Then the series of betrayals continued. When the Afghan jihad against the Russians approached victory, the Saudis joined with Pakistan to form a government of the mujahideen under the leadership of [Sibghatullah] Mojaddedi, who is America’s agent today in Kabul.
Then the Saudi government planned to kill Shaykh Usama bin Ladin in Pakistan and so he made hijra [emigration] from there to Sudan.
Then the Saudi government put pressure on Sudan for the expulsion of Shaykh Usama and his brothers from there. And when he came under the hospitality of Shaykh [Muhammad] Yunus Khalis in Jalalabad, the Saudis demanded him to expel Shaykh Usama. They continued demanding the Islamic Emirate [of the Taliban] expel Shaykh Usama and his brothers, or turn them over to America. The matter reached to the extent that Turki al-Faysal even came to Kandahar to demand from Mullah [Muhammad] Umar to surrender Usama bin Ladin, may Allah have mercy on him, and his brothers. But Mullah Umar kicked him out and made him hear harsh words.
When the civil war occurred in Sudan, the Saudis supplied [the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)] John Garang [against the theocratic government of Umar al-Bashir and Hassan al-Turabi in Khartoum] with weapons. And in the south of Yemen they supplied the Communists with weapons.
Fahd and then Abdullah put forth their two filthy initiatives, both of which revolved around granting Israel the right to takeover what it had seized before the year 1967.
It was from Saudi Arabia that the Crusader planes took off which devastated Iraq and Afghanistan, and which are today devastating Syria and Iraq.
When the revolution of the Arab people took place, the Saudi rulers gave shelter to [fallen Tunisian dictator] Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and they conspired to give the leadership [of Yemen] to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is the representative of the ousted one in place of this ousted one, and they supported [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi in his coup against the Muslim Brotherhood.
And through today the Saudis are continuing to undertake this filthy role against jihad and the mujahideen. Today the Saudis are striving in Syria to cause conflict between the mujahideen [and the mainstream rebels] and to repeat its same filthy role which was carried out in Afghanistan, with hopes that it will split the jihadi ranks, so that it can hand over Syria to the likes of Mojaddedi, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Sisi, and [the current President of Tunisia] Beji Caid Essebsi, in order to serve the interests of America and to protect the security of Israel.
O mujahid of Syria, right in front of you are the experiences which are teaching you, and history informing you. The Saudi rulers will not seek anything other than the destruction of Syria, the protection of the security of Israel, and the abortion of any attempt to establish an Islamic government in Syria. So be cautious of them, and be wary of their plots and their conferences.
No one can offer to them and to America more than what [Egypt’s first elected president, Muhammad] Morsi [of the Muslim Brotherhood] offered, and despite that they overthrew him. So take a lesson from this, O you who can see!
Indeed, the Saudi rulers will not give you freedom, dignity, or honour, because one cannot give that which he himself does not possess.
The Saudi rulers today and their likes are the instruments of the Crusader West for establishing a secularist, nationalist state that is subject to international law in our Islamic and Arab world. Therefore, it is necessary for every mujahid today to be cautious of terms like “civil state” and “pluralism” and those similar to it, by which the secularists intend a certain set of meanings that will lead to discarding the religion, making judgments based on the whims of the people, and seeking to make the standards of pleasure and profit as a reference for this contemporary world.
My mujahideen brothers in Syria and everywhere: the noble Qur’an has specified the goal of jihad by His statement, high is He:
“And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere.” (Al-Anfaal, 39)
And the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, defined it by his saying: “Whoever fights for the Word of Allah to become the highest, then he is in the path of Allah”. (Bukhari and Muslim)
So our jihad and our efforts should be for the sake of establishing the Muslim state, in which the highest authority is for the shari’a, which does not recognize the nationalist borders nor differences based upon nationality, and which believes the Islamic lands to be one single entity, and in the brotherhood of the believers.
And because of this, the muhajireen in Syria and in any jihadi front cannot be described as foreigners, rather they are brothers of faith and aqeeda [creed], who have sacrificed with their blood to give victory to the religion of Allah. Hence, the talk about expelling them from Syria or from any Islamic land is a clear, open violation of the rules of Islam. How can this be so, when the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, described Syria as “the believers’ own land”. (Narrated by Ahmed and Ibn Hibban, and authenticated by al-Arnaoot)
My mujahid brother in Syria and in every land of Islam: beware, then beware, then beware again that you sacrifice yourself, your wealth, your hijra, and you forsake your homeland and your family, and you spend several years of your life in prisons, and then the fruits of these great sacrifices get reaped by a group of secularist scum due to the bargaining of the politicians and their abandoning of the principles of aqeeda and shari’a, and the same tragedy gets repeated that we have experienced for more than a century, as if we have not learned from the tragedy and from the miserable end of what they called the “Arab Spring”.
O lions of Islam in Syria, the land of ribat and jihad from every faction of the mujahideen, from every land of Islam: indeed, Syria is a trust upon your necks, so purify it from the Nusayris [Alawis], the secularists, and the Safavid Rawafid [Iranians], and defend it against the Crusader campaigns. Do not leave it to the extremist takfiris, those who made takfir [excommunication] on the leaders of al-Qaeda, and lied and claimed that the [Iran-backed] Huthis [in Yemen] did not find any muwahid [strict monotheists] who opposed them, and who offended the armies of the [Taliban’s] Islamic Emirate and described them as agents of the [Pakistani] ISI, and made takfir on most of the mujahideen in Syria.
There are those who fled from being judged under the shari’a when most of the mujahideen in Syria accepted it, and despite their fleeing from being judged under the shari’a, they went on to criticise the beliefs of the mujahideen who have spent their lives in defence of the rule of the shari’a.
So can these people be trusted to rule by the shari’a?
Then they declared a caliphate through the bay’a [pledge of allegiance] of unknown people, in an unknown area, on an unknown date, to a man who is not worthy of being given bay’a. Rather, he [Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi)] himself is under a bay’a to the Islamic Emirate. The news was conveyed by one whose narrations cannot be accepted due to the magnitude of his lies and insults [Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani)]. So ponder how compounded are these evils that have been committed one above the other!
They claim to be upon the footsteps of their predecessors, despite their contradicting Sheikh Usama bin Ladin, may Allah have mercy upon him, he who declared that his bay’a to Emir al-Mu’mineen [Commander of the Faithful] Mullah Muhammad Umar was bay’at al-uzma [the supreme oath to a caliph], and he used to call the Muslims to also give bay’a to him. They also contradicted Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir [real name: Abdul Munim al-Badawi], may Allah have mercy upon him, who considered that anyone who abandons the bay’a to Emir al-Mu’mineen Mullah Muhammed Umar, after acknowledging it, has committed a major sin that is worse than adultery and drinking alcohol. He used to consider his bay’a to Mullah Muhammad Umar as bay’a for caliphate, as I will clarify with proofs, if Allah wills. And in his speeches that were distributed, he used to address Mullah Muhammad Umar by saying, “To our Wali al-Amr [our leader of affairs] Mullah Muhammad Umar”.
Then the madness for takfir and excessive extremism led them to slander the pure and chaste wives of the mujahideen of Jabhat al-Nusra and others, and accuse them of being fornicators. And prior to that they had insulted al-Qaeda, saying that it is like an adulteress who is claiming to be chaste. This is the level to which they have stooped, and that is the swamp from which they are scooping.
So is this the caliphate based on the prophetic model?
As I have mentioned before, the killing of Shaykh Abu Khalid al-Suri [real name: Muhammad al-Bahaya], may Allah have mercy upon him, reminds me of the killing of the two shaykhs, Muhammad al-Saeed and Aburrazak al-Rajjam and their brothers in Algeria. Just as the killing of these two shaykhs and their brothers would demonstrate the moral defeat which was followed by the physical defeat of the GIA in Algeria, similarly I consider the killing of Abu Khalid al-Suri, may Allah have mercy upon him, as demonstrating the moral defeat of his killers [the Islamic State], which is normally followed by the physical defeat. So may Allah have mercy upon you, O Abu Khalid.
Enjoy your sleep for the legions after you, Have given The Lord (their) forearms and throats
They have taken an oath that they shall not see in your Syria, Except the shari’a from which light radiates
And they have made a promise to wash with their blood, their lands and cleanse it completely
(To cleanse) Syria—the land of ribat—from the Rawafid [Shi’is] for verily they are, the ally of the invaders throughout ages and stages
And (to cleanse it) from the Ba’athists, the envoys of those shedding our blood, turning it into rivers and seas in every region
And (to cleanse it) from the guardians of the borders of Israel, indeed, she (Israel) had become pleased with their father Hafiz as her guard
And (to cleanse it) from those striving for positions of power for which, they violated the sanctities openly and in all wickedness
Their predecessors killed the third caliph, while he was reciting the book peacefully with great patience
They stabbed Abu al-Hassan, the Imam, while he was praying, with such a thrust that covered the sun and the full moon
Their grandchildren shall perish in the land of Syria, And enough is your Lord as a guide and a helper
If Allah wills.
The killing of Abu Khalid al-Suri, may Allah have mercy upon him, has exposed an aspect of the wickedness of the modern takfiri extremists, but between them and the first Khawarij there are differences:
The first Khawarij would announce and be proud of what they did. When Abdurrahman ibn Muljim struck our master, Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, with the sword, he cried: “There is no rule except for Allah, not for you Ali nor for your companions”. As for these [i.e. the Islamic State], they kill and assassinate and then they do not find within themselves the courage of the earlier Khawarij because they are cowards who are not able to declare what they do, so that their true face does not get exposed. The murderers of Abu Khalid al-Suri, may Allah have mercy upon him, are cowards! They incite other misguided people to kill, however they keep their own actions a secret.
In addition to this difference, which was exposed by the killing of Abu Khalid al-Suri, there are other differences as well:
The first Khawarij considered lying to be kufr [disbelief], but as for the modern extremist takfiris, lying is their habit. Even their leaders do not feel ashamed to lie, even if it be against themselves. One of them [i.e. al-Adnani] admits to something and then afterwards he denies it without any shame in front of the public. The first Khawarij used to consider the breaking of bay’a to be an act of kufr. But these modern extremist takfiris consider jumping from one bay’a to another bay’a to be political ingenuity in their desperate quest for power.
The first Khawarij used to make takfir for sins, but as for the modern extremist takfiris, they make takfir by fabricating lies and slander, even for (good deeds of) obedience!
The takfir of the first Khawarij was an ideological one, but as for the modern extremist takfiris, their takfir is political and an opportunistic one that seeks benefits. The one who agrees with them, or whose affiliation is seen as beneficial, they praise him. Moreover, they repeatedly ask him to mention them and praise them, in order to gain status amongst the people by that means. As for the one who disagrees with them, they lie about him, slander him, and make takfir on him, following the path of takfir for (justifying) explosions, eliminations, and tyranny.
Likewise, their magazine “Dabiq” reminds me of the book “Hidaayatu Rabbil Aalameen” (The Guidance of the Lord of the Worlds) by Abu Abdul Rahman Amin [real name: Djamel Zitouni, head of GIA between Sept. 1994 and July 1996], and this is a sign of their downfall. The bomb blast in the Ariha mosque, after its liberation, and killing the fasting Muslims in it, reminds me of the massacre by [the Libyan jihadist who led Takfir wal-Hijra] Muhammad Abdullah al-Khilaifi and his men against the worshippers in Ansar al-Sunnah mosque in Omdurman [in February 1994], and after that their attack on the guesthouse of Shaykh Usama bin Ladin, may Allah have mercy upon him, in Khartoum.
When al-Khilaifi was asked for the reason why he attacked Masjid Ansar al-Sunnah, he said it was a temple of the mushrikeen [those who commit shirk (idolatry or polytheism)]. And when he was asked why he attacked the guesthouse of Shaykh Usama bin Ladin, he replied that he was the one who was misguiding the people the most, and so he thought to begin with him. In Peshawar, the extremists made takfir on me because I did not make takfir on the Afghan mujahideen. Then they made takfir on Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi [real name: Issam al-Barqawi]—may Allah protect him—because he did not make takfir on me.
These people used to claim that they were upon the methodology of ahl al-sunna wal jama’a [the people of (Islamic) orthodoxy (i.e. Sunnism) and the (Muslim) community] and that they do not make takfir for sins, just like the claims of al-Baghdadi’s group who are claiming that they are upon the methodology of ahl al-sunna. However, they make takfir on the people by fabricating and lying and for actions which are not kufr, rather even for acts of obedience and for adherence to the Book and the Sunna. For example, they made takfir on [Jabhat al-Nusra commander [Abu Saad al-Hadrami]—may Allah have mercy upon him—because he took bay’a for jihad from the FSA. And they made takfir on me and claimed that I follow the majority and that I do not make kufr bi taghut [disbelief in unbelieving tyrants], because I supported the revolutions of the oppressed ones and I spoke gently of Muhammad Morsi, the one who is imprisoned, while I was following the guidance of the Qur’an and the sunna in giving daw’a [proselytism].
The real reason for this slander was that I stood in front of their desires, trying to protect the blood of the Muslims.
I had mingled with various types of takfiris in Egypt, until I refuted them with a hand-written treatise in the 1970’s. They exploit the enthusiasm of the youth who reject corruption and deviation in Islam so [that] many sincere ones who seek the truth join them.
This is a glad tiding and, through observation, it becomes clear that most of those who join them leave them again after a while. In fact, many of those who left [the takfiris] have become the most firm upon the methodology of ahl al-sunna, and eager to protect the sanctities of the Muslims after their previous experiences.
This pushes us to continue preaching [daw’a] to them, clarifying reality to them, and exposing falseness in their media. No matter how flashy their media becomes and how much falsehood comes from it, it will not be able to change the truth of the situation. The truth will remain the truth, and lies will remain lies; loyalty will stay loyalty, and treachery will stay treachery.
My brothers, the mujahideen of Islam in Syria, of ribat and jihad, the contemporary satanic alliance, which includes the Rafidah [Shi’is], the Safavids [Iranians], the Nusayris [Alawis], the secularists, and the Crusaders from the West and the East, are waiting for misfortunes to come to you, and they will seek to split the ranks of the mujahideen and cause them to attack each other, and then attack them all together. So, hold tight to your beliefs and have trust in your Lord and rely—after Him the Glorious—upon yourselves and your umma. Be cautious of the mediators of the West trading with gas in the Gulf, who are making you wish for crumbs, in order for you to abandon your beliefs and to disassociate from your brothers. Allah has kept you firm and granted you success and protected you from their plots. So seek help from Allah and be patient, for you are the hope of the umma in this age. And so, do not disappoint their hopes in you, for they have had enough disasters with the mad extremist takfiris, those who sacrifice the sanctities of the Muslims and their unity and their blood for satisfying the lusts of those in power.
The brokers of the West will try to confine you to the prison of patriotism and nationalism, which was imposed upon us after the fall of the caliphate. So beware of them inciting you in a gradual manner. You are the vanguards of the Muslim umma and its battalion advancing towards al-Aqsa, by the will of Allah.
Your strength, after the strength of Allah, glory be to Him, the Most High, is in your Muslim umma. So fight alongside them the battle to liberate Syria, and then the battle to conquer the holy land, by the will of Allah.
My mujahideen brothers in Syria: indeed, Syria is a trust upon your necks, so do not surrender it to the secularists or to the Safavid Rawafid or to the Nusayris or to the extremist takfiris. Do not halt your jihad until there arises an Islamic State and the shari’a dominates, and the banner of jihad rises in it, and you become the vanguard of the umma advancing towards Bayt al-Maqdis, by the will of Allah.
Our last prayer is that all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Master Muhammad, his family, and his Companions.
Peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you.
 The Uqair Treaty was signed on 2 December 1922 and defined the border between Iraq, then under a British mandate, and the Najd polity over which Ibn Saud was ruling. In 1924, Ibn Saud’s forces conquered the Hijaz and he decided to cease expansionism, which led to a conflict within his own forces as the Ikhwan did not recognize the borders being drawn by European statesmen. The Ikhwan were defeated by Ibn Saud and eventually became the National Guard, charged with preventing internal challenges to the Saudi monarchy.
 That’s not quite true: the Saudi effort, at the behest of the Americans, to arrest or kill Usama bin Ladin was thwarted by the Taliban, but they did not stoically and forthrightly refuse Riyadh’s approach. In May 1998, according to Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, the CIA director—twice—went to Saudi Arabia, trying to cut through the legal-political morass that had set in in Washington on the question of what to do about Bin Ladin. The Saudis agreed—so long as they were kept out of matters publicly—to do for the West what it could not do for itself. The long-running Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faysal, went to Taliban Afghanistan and secured an agreement “in principle” from Mullah Umar to hand over Bin Ladin. The Saudis sent four-hundred trucks and additional financial aid to the Taliban as a down-payment, which the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s 055 Brigade then used to conquer Mazar-i-Sharif. But the Saudis had been deceived and Bin Ladin was never surrendered by the Taliban, who it transpires were prepared to lose their regime rather than give up Bin Ladin to the West.
 The Egyptian coup—and the appearance of Western support for it—has greatly strengthened al-Qaeda and like-minded Islamists against the Muslim Brotherhood-type Islamists. The Brotherhood believes in engaging the current systems, partaking in elections and so on, as a means of bringing about change toward Islamism. Al-Qaeda said this was folly: the West would not allow them to achieve victory in this way and the only path to an Islamist polity was violence. Al-Qaeda can now say, “We told you so“.