The curtain was closed lately on the period of the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi leadership on Sunday night (October 27, 2019) in a U.S. airstrike involving warplanes and surprise drones, during which a special US force killed al-Baghdadi in the northwestern province of Idlib. A number of questions have been raised: What constitutes al-Baghdadi’s death?
The killing of al-Baghdadi marks the end of a period that was marked by his rise on July 4, 2014, the pulpit of the ancient Nuri Mosque in Mosul to declare a “caliphate state.” 2016 marked his peak of influence as the Islamic State ruled a large swathe of Iraq and Syria. And many individuals have announced also that they are inspired by his thoughts in several cities around the world , led to defeat the organization in all its whereabouts, and the end of its leader chased and hiding in a small village called Barisha in the Syrian province of Idlib.
It is not possible to understand the course of al-Baghdadi’s life, without paying attention to its relationship with the US occupation of Iraq in 2003, and his influence in joining a Salafi movement to resist them, arrest him and then release him, passing through the terrible disasters that took place in Iraq after that, and the establishment of the «State» then finally to the his death last Saturday. Baghdadi, in this sense, is one of the “products” of the US invasion of Iraq. It is the monstrosity that the Americans established the conditions for its creation, and the Iraqi hybrid state provided other reasons for its release.
Among the other “outcomes” launched by the US occupation of Iraq was Iran’s control of the country, and the emergence of organization of ISIS and al-Baghdadi contributed , with famous Fatwa of Sistani to mobilize Shiite against Sunni Salafi organization after the refusal of Iran to carry out the task of fighting the organization in Iraq in response to the request of Americans , led to the emergence what is called “popular crowd ” , while the Americans have employed the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), based in the Qandil mountains of Iraq, to mobilize the Kurds to eliminate the Syrian part of the organization of the state in this context, Baghdadi’s death appears to be consistent with Trump’s decision to stop supporting Kurds in Syria and withdrawing them from Turkey’s borders. The job is over and its costs must be finished .In Iraq, militias are resisting the fact that their job ended with brutal immorality against Iraqi protesters. The question raised in this context: Is the terrorist threat of ISIS removed?
Analysts and military experts assert that the elimination of the “caliphate” does not mean that the danger of the “organization” has been eliminated; declaring the defeat of the organization implies confusion between the defeat of the political project of the organization as a “caliphate”, which controls large geographical areas and establishes its control over several million people, , and between the state of the organization operating in a different way, and thus ISIS was not defeated as an organization.
According to a report by the Institute for War Studies in Washington, “ ISIS’s Second Return: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency ” issued at the end of June 2019, ISIS is stronger today than it was during the era of the Islamic State of Iraq, which inherited Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. When America withdrew from Iraq in 2011, the organization had about 700 to 1,000 fighters in Iraq, while the number of fighters in Iraq and Syria in August 2018 – according to estimates by the Military Intelligence Agency – 30 thousand fighters.
ISIS was able to establish a large army that enabled it to recapture Fallujah, Mosul and other cities in Iraq, and control most of eastern Syria in just three years. ISIS will recover much faster than in the first return, and will reach a more dangerous level of strength in its second birth.
If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi inherited a weak and fragile organization from his predecessor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, he will inherit his successor from a structurally cohesive and geographically extended organization, noting that before he was killed , he appeared in a televised video on April 29, 2019 entitled ” in the hospitality of Amir al- Muminin ” marking an upcoming return of the organization after the completion of military, security, administrative, financial, legal and media restructuring , and the approval of the military plans to resume a “war of attrition” .
Monthly reports on the organization’s branches of 12 area have been reviewed, and the organization has officially announced its presence in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Algeria, in Khorasan (Afghanistan and Pakistan), the Caucasus and East Asia, and it is active mostly in the Philippines and Somalia, and West Africa , and it is mostly active in Nigeria.
The data compiled by the BBC’s media follow-up section show that although the organization lost much of the territory it controlled in Syria and Iraq by the end of 2017, it was behind 3,670 attacks worldwide in 2018 (about 11 attack a day), in addition to 502 attacks in the first two months of 2019 during the siege of the Pagos.
However, ISIS remains frugal in its preferred tactics of various , immersive and complex suicide operations (Inghmaseen Brigade of the ISIL), and since May 31, 2019 has relied on new tactics in the context of a “war of attrition” based on the principle of “temporarily overthrowing cities as a mode of action for the Mujahideen”. His al-Nabaa newspaper published a four-part series to explain the new tactic, calling on its fighters to avoid direct clashes with the enemy.
The question that arises in this context: What to do so as not to repeat Baghdadi version? It must be remembered that ISIS was able to give birth when states broke up and the social cohesion in societies was torn .It was born in the hatred of dominance and frustration and marginalization and attempts to monopolize and write off the other and assassinate features. Remember that ISIS was born in a fractured Iraq. And in fractured Syria, it was born amid sectarian hatred. He found its chance when the logic of pervading prevailed, and when the Turkish border doors are opened widely for roving fighters to enter Syria and enter the blood of its uprising and its people.
In order not to fall into another Baghdadi, there is no solution but to build a modern state that can accommodate all its components. There can be no solution except through methods and programs that open the windows to the world and encourage coexistence and acceptance of the right of difference. There is no solution but to restore hope for the future, stability and prosperity and protect the youth from ISIS and all intolerance aimed at eliminating those who do not share the gloomy reading of the world.
Al-Baghdadi’s death is a blow to ISIS undoubtedly, but this is not as important as the US administration is trying to conceive for voters and the world. The fall of al-Baghdadi does not mean that terrorism will be dissipated and faded, The fact is that the fight terrorism requires not only to hunt its heads but it needs to dry up the causes that feed it and strengthen its presence in the world. It is of course known that the main causes of terrorism and violence in this region are the absence of democracy and freedoms, and the spread of repressive regimes that commit daily crimes against their oppressed peoples.
Fighting terrorism really calls for stopping support for regimes of oppression, and corruption, which practice real violence and terrorism against its people, depriving them from political participation, falsifying elections and stealing the wealth of the country and people , and at the same time receiving support from the United States, while the killing of al-Baghdadi is nothing more than a mere media show by the US President for electoral purposes.
Security Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for the Research and strategic Studies