Following the Arab revolutions, al-Qaeda adapted its strategy with the aim of benefiting from the popular protests. Adopting a low profile and trying to merge with local protest and opposition movements, it aimed to create safe havens from which it could prepare attacks on Western targets. In an effort not to alienate local populations, it promised to ensure security, welfare, and services in territories under its control. This new approach was challenged by the Islamic State's aggressive behaviour towards local populations and its declaration of the caliphate. This chapter compares ideological online treatises on the issue of the caliphate which were produced by major al-Qaeda affiliates in reaction to the Islamic State's declaration, and argues that al-Qaeda was forced to develop more concrete views on how and by whom a true caliph is chosen than ever before in its history. To prevent negative repercussions on the rest of the jihadist movement, these views needed to reconcile the popular protests' core demand of increased political participation with al-Qaeda's strong rejection of democracy as an ideology incompatible with Islam. In the longer term, the formulations found might increase al-Qaeda's capabilities to cooperate with movements that do not necessarily share its ideology of a global confrontation between Islam and non-Muslims.
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