Differentiating Al Qaeda and the Islamic State Through Strategies Publicized in Jihadist Magazines

As Al Qaeda and the Islamic State vie for ascendancy in the jihad movement, policymakers grapple with distinguishing the threat posed by these groups. Proceeding from the terrorists’ view of media as a critical arena of jihad, this study applies content analysis to Al Qaeda- and Islamic State-produced magazines in order to empirically differentiate the two groups through the strategies publicized therein. Findings reveal that Al Qaeda consistently employs attrition to compel changes in the West’s policy and behavior, while the Islamic State has shifted from intimidating populations to outbidding competing groups to solidify its claim to the Caliphate.

Tags: Al-Qaeda, Content Analysis, ISIS, Violent Jihadism