Today we finish working through this piece by Evgeny Krutikov, analyzing the life and puported liquidation of ISIS leader Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi. (Whom I will henceforth abbreviate as ABAB not to be funny, but just for convenience.)
Where we left off: We had followed ABAB, heretofore an obscure Sunni mullah living and preaching in an impoverished neighborhood of Baghdad, through his arrest at the hands of the American Occupiers; his subsequent incarceration and his release from Camp Bucca. ABAB was already a fanatical jihadist before the Americans got their hands on him; it is believed that his political views were influenced by one of his uncles, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Krutikov does not necessarily believe that ABAB’s incarceration radicalized him; on the contrary, Camp Bucca was like Camp Cupcake, especially compared to Abu Ghraib. The most it did, was improve ABAB’s already impressive skills at street soccer.
ABAB claims to be a member of the Qureshi tribe and thus a direct physical descendant of the Prophet Muhammed. Nobody has able to fact-check this, but his gullible followers seem to believe it, and thus legitimizes his claim to be the Caliph. Note that the Caliph is supposed to be more like a spiritual leader, and not so much a military leader. ABAB was not calling the shots on the day-to-day raids nor formulating overall ISIS military strategy. No, this was the job of the more experienced military men, ex-Baath Party and ex-Iraqi army “dead-enders” (to borrow a term from Donald Rumsfeld), who put together the military wing of ISIS. But these guys needed an authoritative spiritual leader to hold things together, now that the secular, inclusive, and socialistic ideology of Baathism had been destroyed by the American occupation. Hence, their use of the Caliph motif to legitimize themselves.
[yalensis comment: By this point in history, everybody has seen the pattern: Whenever Americans mess around in an Arab country, be it Iraq, Libya or Syria, they always destroy the secular/socialist parties and bring to power violent Islamist jihadist types. This pattern makes sense if one keeps two basic rules in mind: (1) Americans hate socialism more than they hate jihadism; and (2) America enjoys a geo-strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, the Fountainhead of all Sunni jihadist movements; not to mention the very people who brought down the Twin Towers.]
On July 5, 2014 during Friday prayers ABAB delivered his first major sermon in the mosque in Mosul, Iraq, in which he announced universal jihad. The new Caliph was born!
Three years have passed since then. Many of the ISIS “Old Guard” experienced the American occupation when they had already come of age. Many of them served in the old Iraqi army or Baath Party under Saddam. But these older ones are slowly being squeezed out by the young guard, those who know nothing of the old way of life, and only know radical jihad. Prior to the Russian airstrike on Raqqa, there remained only two men in the ISIS leadership who had been there since the beginning. And after the airstrike — probably none.
Does ISIS have a future among jihadist youth, now that their Caliph has been liquidated?
Special mention should go to a young man named Suleiman al-Shavah [spelling?]. He is the Head of Security for ISIS, a youth from one of the local Bedouin tribes. As part of their “diversity” training, as an “Equal Opportunity Employer”, ISIS promoted al-Shavah within the organization specifically to recruit Bedouin youth to the Caliphate. Prior to that, ISIS stupidly entered into feuds with the Bedouins. In their religious zeal, the terrorist organization formed alliances with riff-raffs from other, anti-Bedouin, tribes who were of the opinion that the Bedouins “incorrectly” interpret Islam. This led to blood feuds between Bedouins and non-Bedouin tribal elements within the ISIS umbrella.
Whether of not al-Shavah is able to overcome this enmity is of immediate importance to the remnants of ISIS that are holed up in Raqqa. See, their only avenue of escape is through the desert. Which, as always, is owned by the Bedouins.
Krutikov is a cynical and pessimistic man. But he concludes by wishing that the Syrian army can somehow take advantage of this (temporary) stroke of luck. Namely the decimation of the ISIS leadership in Raqqa. At the very least, the terrorists should have seen their daily military operations somewhat stymied, for example, their suicide martyrs and “jihadi-mobiles” which form their major defensive line. There is a one-time opportunity here for the Syrian army to consolidate the successes they have achieved over the past year and a half.