Baghdadi's death: Reports may be true but ISIS is not over

Reports suggest that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) chief and caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in an air raid by the US-led coalition which hit a ten-truck -convoy of the ISIS, outside Mosul on Friday, November 7. According to reports Baghdadi was ‘critically wounded’ in the American-led air strike that targeted the western Iraqi border town of al-Qaim.

AFP had reported that US authorities confirmed that air strikes targeted ISIS leaders near their northern Iraqi hub of Mosul late Friday, without any confirmation of Baghdadi’s death.

According to some other sources, there is certain degree of confirmation that Abdur Rahman al-Athaee, aka Abu Sajar, Daesh leader in Anbar province – Adnan Latif al-Suweidi and Bashar al-Muhandi have also been killed.

It is said that the in absence of Abu Baghdadi, the all-powerful Shura Council is going to be the deciding factor. However, Al-Qaeda experience shows that factions play an important role and most often it is the powerful lobby with maximum affluence which gets to decide who will become the next chief. As they say, the post is bought for a certain sum of money. There are reports that the names which seem highly probable in the ISIS, who have a greater level of of charisma and influence, are – Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, Shaker Abu Waheeb and Umar al-Shishani.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, born in Taha Sobhi Falaha, Syria, is the official spokesman for and a senior leader of ISIS. Al-Adnani is main conduit for the dissemination of official messages of ISIS, including the declaration of the creation of an Islamic Caliphate. Al-Adnani was one of the first foreign fighters to oppose Coalition forces in Iraq before becoming its spokesman.

Shaker Wahib Al-Fahdawi aka Abu Waheebaka – At the end of the month of August 2014, a video appeared in jihadi circles of a bare faced terrorist in Anbar, Iraq, who was seen killing three truck drivers in cold blood after what appeared to be a Sunni Qur’an quiz. Abu Wahib first tested the three men on their knowledge of Sunni Islam and then, concluding that they were probably Alawite and pro-Assad militia, shot them. (You can watch the video here, but it has some gruesome images.)

“He is the only one who kills without covering his face, and is working on declaring an Islamic state,” said Colonel Yassin Dwaij, head of Anbar province’s police intelligence. “He is dangerous and cunning.”

Omar al-Shishani aka Tarkhan Batirashvili is the most senior military commander of the ISIS Military Wing in Syria. His leadership position within the group follows the death of the former commander of Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Bilawi al-Anbari, who was killed in Mosul in early June 2014. Al-Shishani is a fanatic, uncompromising in his support of the ISIS, which is complemented by experience in warfare (due to his involvement in the wars with Russia in the Caucasus region) that has added to the respect and support he has among his fellow fighters.

These names are big but it is not important who takes over. Rather what is going to be important is whether the new leader can keep the entire Shura together? As had been with the Al-Qaeda, these groups have a deeper reason that binds them together. They know that if infighting leads to separation and dissolution of the Shura, then the violence that would be inflicted upon them could be lethal. That is why survival instincts will keep them together and access to money would be the key to the duration for which they remain powerful.

Al Qaeda may have broken down into numerous groups but they have not been completely liquidated. US must learn from its Afghan experience that its stay in the region has not been able to completely dissolve the Taliban and there are enough reasons for grouping and regrouping to continue. Play the waiting game, tire out the enemy and force him to leave. That’s what the Taliban has done with them in Afghanistan. Then there are players like Pakistan who will keep the fire alight.

Iraq hasn’t been any different. Setbacks will not be enough. Middle-east geopolitical dynamics and indigenous forces that can build a relative strength to get locals fight out these groups and create an environment for the political demise of terror ideology is a long drawn process. It needs much more participation from diverse quarters, strong leadership yet zero bossing. US and its allies from the west may still need some more time before they accept this truth.

Courtesy Niti Central

 

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