Besides the original parting of ways between al-Qa'ida and the Islamic State, arguably the most prominent fissure within the jihadist world over the past decade has been Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham's split from al-Qa'ida. To recap, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham's original core was Jabhat al-Nusra, which started out as an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and then declared a 'renewal' of a supposed allegiance to al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in April 2013 when ISI declared its expansion into Syria and became Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham.
In 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra rebranded as Jabhat Fath al-Sham, which ostensibly had no link to any 'external' entity but was intended to maintain a secret allegiance to Zawahiri until the latter should give his blessing for a larger merger with other insurgent factions that could lead to a breaking of ties out of interest for the jihad in Syria. Zawahiri however rejected the idea of secret allegiance, and once Jabhat Fath al-Sham became Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham in January 2017 (a move done without Zawahiri's consultation or approval), the breaking of ties became complete.
Abu Mariya al-Qahtani- of Iraqi origin- is a leading figure in Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and a key intellectual defender of the project (disclosure: I have corresponded with Abu Mariya and find him to be an intriguing and intelligent thinker, as we primarily discussed the situation in Iraq and its recent history). Not only does he defend the group's breaking of ties with al-Qa'ida, but he also calls on the existing branches of the organisation to break ties with it and redirect their priorities: that is, instead of considering the United States to be the primary enemy against whom efforts of a futile war of attrition should be directed, they should rather focus on combating Iran ('the Safavids') and its influence in the various countries in the Muslim world. A shift of focus towards Iran makes ties with al-Qa'ida untenable, since its purported new leader since Zawahiri's reported death in an American strike in Afghanistan last summer is Sayf al-'Adel, who is currently said to reside in Iran. Previously also, it should be noted that Abu Mariya has called for the dissolution of al-Qa'ida.
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