Beyond Baghdadi’s Death!

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Thu 13 July / Jul 2017. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Thu 13 July / Jul 2017. 10:17 PM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

It is difficult to confirm the death of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, despite the Syrian Human Rights Observatory’s confirmation, via multiple sources.

The Russians and Iranians have also claimed he was killed.

However, if the Americans and ISIS themselves do not confirm it, there is no absolute way of knowing.

The Americans are placing more intelligence and security efforts into tracking him down, and it is usual for them to declare such a thing, when they’re sure enough of it.

Either way, how about we skip the question of whether or not he has been killed, and get to what may be even more important.

The question is; how will his death affect the future of the terrorist organisation undergoing an existential pivoting point there and now?

ISIS have already lost their de-facto state, and now their Calipha!

There are two tiers to this outcome.

First, the morale of ISIS militants will drop, surely, when they hear their leader has been killed. Especially now as they lose grounds, leaders, and fighters, be it in direct confrontation, in Mosul, Aleppo, and Raqqa, or under US bombardment.

Some months ago, during the Battle of Mosul, the organisation declared that its militants have performed over 1,200 suicide attacks.

This isn’t a small figure, mind you.

Second, this will also strike at the symbolic heart of the organisation’s appeal.

Baghdadi isn’t just a leader, in the military sense, but one of the most effective faces of ISIS media, recruitment, and propaganda.

His rhetoric of the Islamic heritage leveraged an extremely inviting discipline over other narratives.

This allowed him to instrumentalise of the Caliphate State idea and the aspirations of the Islamic Utopia, to attract dozens of thousands of Islamist Youth.

Make no mistake, his narrative appeals still to so many who aspire to establish a state with the delusional, Islamist identity that Baghdadi fed on.

His death will hurt the foundations of the organisation, on the short term.

On the long-term, however, previous experiences have shown us that such endeavours, ideologically and culturally, do not just die away.

Even militarily, the death of ranking Islamist leaders does not put an end to their project.

Quite contrarily, it elevates their aspirations to a more dangerous level.

This has happened before; from Osama bin Laden, to the vanguard leaders of Qaeda, through the establishment of ISIS itself, by the hands of Abu Musaab Zarqawi.

Why will it be any different now, with Baghdadi gone, assuming he is really dead.

Notably, the real engineers of the second ISIS resurgence in 2013, where were not members of Qaeda, are all dead now.

They were military officers in Saddam Hussein’s army; Abu Ali Anbari, Abu Muslim Turkmani, Baker Hajji, and Abdul Rahman Bilawi, are the real field leaders.

Typically, their death will not be the end of it either.

There are the second tier leaders, on top of others who may follow, who will probably learn of the terrorist group’s mistakes.

Those may resort to reprioritisation or restructuring the organisation’s strategies, as others before them have back in 2008.

It is obvious in the latest ISIS video on desert operations that the organisation has transformed from the state organisation to guerrilla warfare.

They are currently regrouping and rebuilding bases, revaluating options, now that they have acquired unrivalled expertise on how to deal with military losses.

More importantly, ISIS may turn into a theme identity, the way Qaeda did back in 2001.

If that happens, we will find ourselves in the face of a far more complex, intelligent, and adaptive organisation.

The organisation will focus its efforts on the virtual Caliphate while turning to gang wars on the field.

Mindfully, this withdrawal to the virtual world may allow the group to rebuild its propaganda, now that the illusion of the Utopian Caliphate is temporarily obliterated.

In the meantime, it is highly probably the organisation will relocate their weight to other areas, in Africa, Sinai, and perhaps the Philippines.

How then, can their threat be ended if such wars, as the ones around us do not solve their problem, but may even multiply it?

The answer is; politics.

ISIS is a by-product of the regional Sunni crisis, and the absence of justice and social integration, on top of endless structural issues.

All of this has sprung various radicalised tendencies, socially, dressed in fanatical religious, social, and political attire.

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.