Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s rare statement released over the weekend, in which he threatened Israel and Jews, bears witness more to the fact that he and his organization are under pressure than it does to any real intention to act in the immediate future or even in the long-term.
The audio recording of the world’s most wanted terrorist was published on Twitter accounts tied to the organization, which it often uses to air its propaganda material.
At the opening of his remarks, Baghdadi addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The Israelis thought that we forgot Palestine and that they diverted our attention from the issue, but that is not the situation. We have not forgotten Palestine for a moment,” he stressed.
ISIS is on the defensive, and even in a state of withdrawal. The group is losing territory in Iraq and Syria.
According to US President Barack Obama, ISIS has withdrawn from some 40 percent of the vast, mostly desert territory it held.
Its capital, the city of Raqqa in northeast Syria, has absorbed a severe series of bombings, especially at the hands of the French air force in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attack.
The entry of the Russian army into fighting in Syria has also bothered ISIS, but the majority of the Russian effort has been directed at more moderate rebel groups, such as Jaysh al-Islam, whose leader, Zahran Alloush, along with his deputy and a spokesman, were killed by Russian missile fire
over the weekend.
The Iraqi Army is on the threshold of liberating the key city of Ramadi – which is a strategic crossroads – and sooner or later, it will turn its attack on the biggest city that ISIS holds – Mosul.
The leaders of ISIS, with Baghdadi foremost among them, are on the radar of Western intelligence agencies and Russia, and are forced each night to shuttle themselves from one hiding place to another. In such a situation of constant threat, it is natural that their priorities shift to personal survival instead of strategic military planning.
Regardless of this precarious position, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, as well as the group’s Sinai Province affiliate, are facing criticism and being mocked in the Arab world because they fight Arab regimes and their Muslim brothers – including those from their own Sunni group – and also have forgotten the Palestinian struggle and the Jews in Palestine.
The release of the new recording shows that, despite their brutality, Baghdadi and his helpers are listening to the criticism. The comments were more along the lines of propaganda and boasting, but they must not be taken lightly.
ISIS has a presence near Israel’s borders in Sinai and the Golan Heights and can attempt to attack from both directions by launching missiles, setting land mines, or even trying to infiltrate Israeli territory.
However, ISIS also knows that if it makes such an attempt, at least from Syria, the Israel Air Force will respond with greater force than that used in the surgical strikes carried out by the US and the other members of the coalition.
Therefore, there is no need to fear: Israel is still a low priority for the Islamic State.