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Wed, 20 Nov 2019 12:00 GMT

Takfiri Organisations - What Happens After Their Leaders Die

Counterterrorism & Security

Mahmoud Al-Warwari

Sat, 02 Nov 2019 21:22 GMT

Sunday morning, October 27, 2019, news broadcasts by Arab and non-Arab agencies and media outlets cited reports from Pentagon officials about the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the hands of US Special Operation forces who had received intelligence information on his whereabouts. 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who adopted the strategy of long stealth and refused to appear, had surfaced only twice since the inception of the organisation in 2014. The first time was in a video released at the beginning of his tenure during prayers at Al-Nour Grand Mosque in western Mosul, and the second, also in a video, was about a month after the end of the illusionary tenure in April 2019. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was targeted many times and rumors had spread about his death several times. 

The recent confirmed report "brings us back to the old question always raised when a terrorist leader is killed: Do these organisations end with the death of their leader? 

Over time, we received the answer to this question; that none of these terrorist organisations ended with the death of their leader. 

Let’s try to deduce the situation we are in, which is the case of Isis, the seed of which was planted by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was an active member of al-Qaeda and leader of training camps in Afghanistan and who then came to Iraq after the US occupation in 2003. That year, he founded “Al-Tawheed and Jihad Group" and then pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and his group became the "Base of Jihad in Mesopotamia", which he considered an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq.  

In June 2006, the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was announced. The then president Bush announced his death and confirmed it was “a major blow to al-Qaeda not only in Iraq but in the whole region”. 

But his defense secretary at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, made an important time-tested statement: "The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, despite his importance, will not put an end to violence, but may even increase it,'' which has really happened. 

The organisation went through some pitfalls that lasted four years from 2006 to 2010, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi assumed responsibility for the group after the killing of its leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and his assistant, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in a US air strike on the Syrian-Iraqi border. This period of Isis course, under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was considered the most dangerous, specifically when it was called ‘The Islamic State in Iraq’. 

What did Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi do? 

He expanded the geographic map in which the group moved from Iraq to Syria and re-named it to become ‘The Islamic State in Iraq; the Levant abbreviated Isis.

He moved to the Syrian towns of Idlib, Deir Ezzor and Aleppo, taking advantage of the justification given to him by the Iranians after the Lebanese Hezbollah was brought into Syria following the eruption of the Syrian uprising. 

Thus, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s entry into Syria was the result of the Sunni militancy represented by Isis in the face of Iranian Shiite intelligence represented by ‘Lebanese Hezbollah and Qassem Soleimani’. 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not only change the doctrinal literature introduced by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but also developed it and made it more radical, by allowing killings, slaughters, burning and all that which is considered taboo in the Islamic faith.  

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi achieved what the Takfiri and other terrorist organisations had failed to do, and this is where the danger lies. He made a leap in the course of those terrorist organisations by shifting them from mobile disguised entities to fixed ones that have ‘land, borders, geographical surroundings, work and a capital’. This happened in Raqqa, Deir, al-Zour and other Syrian and Iraqi cities. 

The other thing is that we have all been lured into the trap of repeating the name ‘The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’ and we inadvertently gave free recognition to a terrorist organisation as a state. 

It’s at this point the media should have paid attention but did not.  

And so, we face an important variable, in the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, one of the leaders of terrorism in the past eight years. We must not deal with this as if Isis is over, or has taken a back seat. Rather, we must investigate key angles, namely the literature and material which could function as doors of opportunity to further radicalisation. 

First and foremost, I believe that the organisation can take advantage of the conflicts in the region; Syria, Iraq and Turkey, being the angles of concern. 

It is said that Turkey cannot change its handling of Isis after the killing of the leader because it is in its own interest that Isis remains in Syrian territory for two reasons: First, Isis is a Turkish card in the face of the Kurds, as manifested by the recent Turkish war on Syrian territory, let alone other scenes that manifested Isis cooperation with the Turks. Second, the existence of Isis is an important element for the Turks to make gains from the United States and the Syrian government itself.  

Similarly, Iran has been playing a game with Isis since it existed in Iraq by insulting and attacking it during the daytime and backing it at night.

Therefore, it is our duty to now anticipate Isis mutation and reformation and not wait and then react. This is to say that we used to wait for the group to evolve from within and then deal with its latest ultimate shape, often unconsciously. 

From 2010 – 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi continued to develop the group’s policies and literature and we were ultimately surprised by Isis recent image, which was not limited to Iraq but extended to the Levant, and so it was with the rest of the other organisations. 

Here, I refer to the Afghani Taliban movement. What happened to it after the death of its supreme leader and founder Mullah Akhtar Mansour who pushed it up to govern Afghanistan from 1996 – 2001? It did not die or weaken. 

In 2013, when the Taliban announced the death of Mullah Omar and then Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour took over, everyone said that the Taliban was over. 

I remember being Kabul on a press mission of Al-Arabiya TV after a while and that this was being repeated at home, and the Afghani presidency and government both began to handle Taliban as if they had been eliminated already. 

But over time, the Taliban were strengthened and changed their tactics with the Afghan government as well as with neighboring countries, especially Iran. 

We have seen conferences for dialogue between the Taliban and the government of President Ashraf Ghani, as well as meetings between the United States and the Taliban. 

As a result, we must once again take the death of leaders of terrorist operations seriously and with interest on the part of all governments, research centers and religious institutions. These entities are abnormal intellectual systems, rather than dynamic ones. So, thought must be fought with thought. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7Dnews.

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