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Al-Qaeda has formally cut ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a radicalist group fighting against Assad's regime, following months of feuding between the two groups. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's leader, denounced ISIS after being unable to reconcile a conflict between them and the al-Nusra Front, another al-Qaeda arm in the region.

ISIS expanded from Iraq into Syria against Zawahiri's wishes. They refused his orders to withdraw from the country. In May, Zawahiri balked at a deal to merge the two groups. ISIS's leader,  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly said around that time, "I have to choose between the rule of God and the rule of al-Zawahiri, and I choose the rule of God." Between the two al-Qaeda is the more moderate group.

The disassociation has a few consequences. It leaves al-Qaeda without any official presence in Iraq and makes al-Nusra the only representative of al-Qaeda in Syria. One official told The Washington Post, however, that ISIS and its estimated 10,000 members were never particularly reliant on al-Qaeda for their core needs, and so whether the decision will significantly weaken ISIS is unclear. Regardless, both organizations are still terrorist organizations.

 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.