Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, gave a speech on August 25, 2016, entitled, “Fear Allah in the Matter of Iraq” (or “Fear Allah in Iraq”). Released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media Foundation, the speech is the third installment of the “Brief Messages To A Victorious Nation” (or “Brief Messages To A Victorious Umma”) series. A translation of the speech was released by Al-Muwahideen Media, a pro-Qaeda channel, last month and is reproduced below with some editions in transliteration and important sections highlighted in bold.
The speeches themes are now familiar, and likely to have some resonance given the current reality for Sunnis in the Fertile Crescent. Al-Zawahiri presents the conquest of areas taken from the Islamic State by Iran and its proxies as a deliberate American-Iranian scheme to exterminate Sunnis, and says that only Sunnis—viewing Iraq and Syria as their own struggle, not a local fight—can resist this. Notably al-Zawahiri signals al-Qaeda’s re-focusing on Iraq, from which they have been largely excluded since the Islamic State defected from their command structure. Even after the cities fall, the Sunnis should organise for guerrilla warfare, al-Zawahiri says, and encourages Muslims to come to assist in these insurgent operations to push back Iran and its militias. Finally, al-Zawahiri encourages learning from the mistakes made by the Islamic State and the Sahwa (Awakening) episode, when the jihadists alienated locals and fell into fratricide.
In the name of Allah. All praise is due to Allah. And may prayers and peace be upon the Messenger of Allah and upon his family and his companions and whoever follows him.
Dear Muslim brothers in every place, may peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.
Cities, villages, and mosques of Ahl al-Sunna [Sunnis] in Iraq are being burned in these days, and they are being tortured and killed under the pretext of fighting Ibrahim al Badri’s group [i.e. the Islamic State]. However, the basic goal is the extermination of Ahl al-Sunna in Iraq in an organized campaign, which is led by Safavid Iran and its subservient government in Iraq, along with their militias and their mercenaries, who are carrying out the plans of the Safavid Iran in the region. And because of that, these same militias are fighting against our people in Syria.
It is the Crusader-Safavid-Nusayri alliance, which is striving to conquer the region through an American-Iranian understanding. As for the governments of the region that claim to resist the Safavid Iranian plans, they are in reality tools of America in the region, and they are in alliance with America and Israel, and they do not possess their own freedom. So how can they help others in gaining their freedom?!
No one will defend Ahl al-Sunna against the Safavid-Crusader campaign except Ahl al-Sunna themselves. So Ahl al-Sunna throughout the world must unite to expel those enemies who are collaborating to exterminate them. And they must not consider what is happening in Iraq and Syria as a local problem. Rather it is the tragedy of all the Muslims.
The Ahl al-Sunna in Iraq must not surrender merely when the cities fall into the hands of the Safavid Shi’a army. Rather, they must once again reorganize themselves for a long guerilla war in order to defeat the new Crusader-Safavid occupation of their areas just as they defeated it before.
And it is necessary for them to review their past experiences to rectify the mistakes which led them to be isolated from their Muslim umma [nation] and which pushed them into the abyss of extremism and takfir [excommunication] and into the spilling of sacred [i.e. Muslim] blood, or becoming dependent on America’s agents in the states around the region.
As for our brothers, the heroes of Islam from amongst the mujahideen in Syria, I urge them to support their brothers in Iraq to reorganize themselves, as their battle is one, and Syria is a reinforcement for Iraq, and Iraq is the innermost part of Syria.
Oh our people in Iraq, do not become weak nor grieve nor despair, but ponder upon the statement of Allah the most high:
“Those [believers] to whom the [hypocritical] people said, ‘Verily, the [pagan] people have gathered against you [a great army], therefore, fear them’. But it [only] increased them in Faith, and they said: ‘Allah [alone] is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs [for us]”. So they returned with Grace and Bounty from Allah. No harm touched them, for they followed the good Pleasure of Allah. And Allah is the owner of Great Bounty” [Ali Imran (3):173-174].
So stand firm, and have patience, and be increasingly patient, and be on guard and walk in the footsteps of the leader, the martyr, as we see him, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, may Allah have mercy upon him, who began his jihad in Iraq with just a few men and little material. And get rid of all the previous deviations, which led to the greedy ones climbing for power upon your shoulders, those who violated the sanctities of the Muslims. And rearrange your rows in a righteous jihad towards a righteous caliphate, and do not become weak, nor be sad, for you will surely be the superior ones if you are true believers.
And our final call is that all praise belongs to Allah, the lord of all that exists. And may peace and blessings of Allah be upon our master Muhammad and his family and his companions.
And may peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.