Analysis: ISIS leader al-Baghdadi is living on borrowed time

Sooner or later intelligence will lead to a successful attack by an American drone or plane and the operational cycle will be closed.

June 16, 2016 10:31
2 minute read.
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Information released Wednesday on the demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder of ISIS, was premature, and not for the first time. In the past year, there have been at least three false reports that al-Baghdadi was killed during US airstrikes.

Every hour that al-Baghdadi continues to live, he is essentially part of "the walking dead." Sooner or later intelligence will lead to a successful attack by an American drone or plane and the operational cycle will be closed.

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Al-Baghdadi is living on borrowed time. He knows it, as do his senior commanders, who in the past weeks have been on the defensive, losing outposts, villages, cities and territories. The Caliphate understands that its territorial control is ending. The Iraqi army, along with Shi'a militias under the guidance of Iranian al-Quds force commander, General Qassam Sulimani, are besieging the city of Fallujah in Iraq and it's just a matter of time until it falls. The Syrian army from the West is closing in on the city of Raqqa, capital of the Caliphate, and Kurdish forces are advancing from the North.

As ISIS control lessens, the despair and urge to commit terror attacks is strengthened: to explode car bombs in Damascus and Baghdad, to enhance their influence and induction of young radical Muslims in the West. Sooner or later ISIS will go back to being what it was when it began: a terror organization that is an off-shoot of al-Qaida that operates as a murder machine more dangerous than the original ever was.

With all the differences between them, the two attacks this past week - Orlando and Paris - indicate such a direction. The terror attacks of the past few months in Brussels and Paris, along with dozens of other such attacks that defense forces in Western Europe were successful in preventing, all carry the fingerprint of ISIS. It is difficult to pinpoint a common denominator between them all.

In some of the cases, networks of Syrian and Iraqi war 'veterans' were organized and directed from Raqqa. In other cases, individuals or couples declared their allegiance to ISIS and al-Baghdadi, as in Orlando, but the real motives were from family/personal distress or religious radicalization and hate for the West.

Most of the Western terror attacks in the past few years, especially those in Orlando and Paris, exposed the weak points and loopholes of the intelligence and law enforcement communities. At least some of the terrorists were 'checked and vetted,' in other words, known to local police and authorities. Some appeared on lists of known dangerous Islamists, some were even arrested and questioned, yet eventually fell through the cracks in the system. This comes from negligence and from an absence of awareness. Even the world's best security forces cannot always cover all potential suspects, certainly not without harming important democratic western values, such as human rights, privacy, and due process of the law.

Slowly, the West is learning through a difficult path of sacrifices how to fight against murderous Islamic terrorism.

Maybe it would be possible to take short cuts if there was a higher awareness and decisiveness, however just as the West succeeded in reducing the danger of al-Qaida and its leader Osama Bin Laden, it will succeed, eventually, in the struggle against ISIS and al-Baghdadi.

However, no one should deceive themselves that the idea itself - Holy Jihad against the Christian West and all infidels - will disappear from the world.

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