THE FIRST DEFECTOR: ABU SULAYMAN AL-UTAYBI, THE ISLAMIC STATE, AND AL-QA`IDA

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Media Outlet: Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy

Tensions between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida have been in the headlines since the Islamic State’s feud with its one-time Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, became public in 2013, and particularly since the Islamic State declared itself a caliphate in 2014. The Islamic State’s leaders see al-Qa`ida as irrelevant meddlers, while al-Qa`ida’s commanders believe their Islamic State counterparts to be so ideologically extreme that they cannot cobble together a coherent strategic plan. Al-Qa`ida’s concerns about the Islamic State were heightened in 2007 when a defector disclosed that the Islamic State of Iraq’s leaders had declared a state in 2006 because of apocalyptic premonitions. Nearly a decade later the defector’s accusations remain part of the war of words between the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida.

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Brian Fishman is a counterterrorism research fellow at New America, a Fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and Philanthropic Engineer with Palantir Technologies.