The Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, has released a nearly 30-minute long audio speech online. In addition to the audio, the speech was released with transcripts in various languages, including English.
Some of the speech is devoted to an obligatory call for jihad on behalf of the Islamic State. Adnani also announces the Islamic State’s acceptance of a bayat (oath of allegiance) from jihadists in the Caucasus region. Recently, jihadists from the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Caucasus Emirate’s (ICE) branch in Chechnya announced their defection to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization. Their defection followed other pledges to Baghdadi from ICE commanders in Dagestan and elsewhere since last year.
Baghdadi, the “Emir of the Faithful,” has “accepted your bayat and has appointed the noble sheikh Abu Muhammad al Qadarī as Wali [or governor] over [the Caucasus],” Adnani says. The Islamic State’s spokesman continues by calling for all the mujahideen in the Caucasus “to join” al Qadari’s “caravan and to hear and obey him in everything except sin.”
The Islamic State’s so-called “province” in the Caucasus is the group’s latest. Baghdadi and Adnani claim that the group’s followers from North Africa to the Khorasan, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the surrounding countries, control “provinces” on behalf of the caliphate. In reality, the Islamic State’s “provinces” outside of Iraq and Syria control very little territory.
Adnani attempts to shake off the “tactical setbacks” the US and its allies claim the Islamic State has suffered. He claims that such reversals are insignificant and that they had “never heard of” such a thing throughout all of history.
However, Adnani is preoccupied, to a large degree, with the Islamic State’s rivals, including other jihadist organizations. Adnani calls on tribesman in western Iraq, including a clan in Haditha, and members of the security forces to “repent” and join the Islamic State. But he does not limit this call or repentance to the Islamic State’s Iraqi adversaries.
Adnani is clearly concerned about the jihadist opposition to the Islamic State’s expansion plans. He specifically mentions the Islamic State’s opponents in Derna, Libya, the Khorasan, and Syria. In Derna, a coalition of pro-al Qaeda groups called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) recently did significant damage to the Islamic State’s cause. After Baghdadi’s fighters killed two senior MSC figures, the MSC went to war against the Islamic State’s branch in the city, and claims to have vanquished Baghdadi’s followers. In Afghanistan, the Islamic State has run into opposition from the Taliban, in particular.
Adnani accuses any jihadist who opposes the Islamic State of committing a religious crime.
“O soldier afflicted by fitna [discord or strife], be careful whom you take your religion from, and repent to your Lord so that perhaps He may have mercy on you and guide you,” Adnani says. Adnani goes on to say that the Islamic State’s opposition, including the sahwat (or awakening councils in Iraq), failed to defeat it in the past. And the Islamic State’s opposition should learn from the past.
“Furthermore,” Adnani continues, “have you not taken a lesson, O factions and Sahwāt? Have you not taken a lesson from your predecessors’ fight against the Islamic State ten years ago? Where are the factions that fought the Islamic State? Where are the Sahwāt? Have you not taken a lesson, O factions of Libya? Have you not taken a lesson, O Sahwāt of Darnah? Have you not taken a lesson, O factions of Khurāsān? What will you gain from fighting the Islamic State?”
Thus, Adnani says the Islamic State’s opponents in the MSC are part of the “sahwat,” meaning they are supposedly part of the “awakenings,” which received crucial assistance from the US during the fight against the Islamic State’s predecessor organization, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Contrary to Adnani’s claims, the US-backed effort did tremendous damage to AQI and its front, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which evolved into the current Islamic State. And the MSC hardly belongs to any “sahwat” effort, as it has clear ties to al Qaeda’s international network.
“We likewise renew our call to the soldiers of the factions in Sham [Syria] and Libya,” Adnani says. “We call on them to think long before embarking to fight the Islamic State, which rules by that which Allah revealed.”
Adnani, therefore, warns that anyone who goes against the Islamic State is also fighting against the laws of Allah — a totalitarian claim on authority if there ever was one.
Like his past statements, Adnani’s speech is uncompromising. But it does offer insight into the Islamic State’s strategy, especially its efforts to spark a sectarian war throughout the Middle East.
Addressing Sunnis in Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Adnani says the Shiites “are advancing towards you” and “your war with them is undoubtedly approaching.” Adnani calls on Sunnis to “either march forth” and “drive” the Shiites “back, or remain asleep and wake up to what the people of Iraq, Sham [Syria], and Yemen awoke to of killing, imprisonment, exile, the destruction of their homes, the looting of their wealth, and the violation of their women.”