The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive
Al-Baghdadi Is Alive, But He's Always Been a Poor Strategist
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

The reappearance of the Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has the same shock effect as that of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11. It has all the greater impact because of claims that, with the elimination of the last territory held by Isis in March this year, that group was close to being out of business as a serious threat.

The slaughter of some 250 civilians in Sri Lanka had already showed that Isis retains its ability to take control of the international news agenda with suicide bombing attacks directed at civilians. “As for our brothers in Sri Lanka, I was overjoyed when I heard about the suicide attack, which overthrew the cradles of the Crusaders, and avenged them for our brethren in Baghouz,” al-Baghdadi said.

Just before the bombings in and around Colombo, the leader of the Isis cell had pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

How much is really changed by the first video in five years of the Isis leader? His re-emergence certainly has a symbolic significance, because he had been reported dead or gravely wounded so many times. It adds to the sense that, even after Isis has suffered a series of defeats, it still exists as a working organisation, even if its military strength is much depleted.

But the last time that al-Baghdadi appeared in 2014 it was in the Grand Mosque in Mosul, the city which Isis had astonished the world by capturing with limited forces fighting a large and well-equipped Iraqi army. Isis presented its victory – and many more that followed – as a sign of divine favour.

But it was Isis fighters who blew up what remained of the Grand Mosque when they were losing the nine-month long siege of Mosul in 2017. The reappearance of al-Baghdadi comes at a moment of defeat rather than victory.

Isis has made immense efforts to keep al-Baghdadi alive when so many of its other leaders are dead. He may have been secretly living inside Mosul until about halfway through the siege. Iraqi army commanders believed at the time that a sudden sortie by Isis, deploying large numbers of suicide bombers, which temporarily breached the siege lines, was a successful bid to get al-Baghdadi to safety before it was too late.

Isis fighters were uncertain last year if he was alive or dead according to local people in eastern Syria. They reported that the fighters had been told by their emirs (commanders) that the long-term fate of their movement did not depend entirely on his survival. Many wondered if he was already dead.

His reappearance raises another question: how far and in what ways had Isis prepared for the end of its territorial caliphate that in 2014-15 stretched from the outskirts of Baghdad almost to the Mediterranean? For all their fanaticism, Isis military commanders are skilled and experienced men who knew that they were bound to lose a positional war with their many enemies.

They prepared hideouts, supplies, weapons and a cadre of experienced fighters and organisers to ensure that their movement would live on after the loss of the town of Baghouz in eastern Syria, where they made a last stand.

ORDER IT NOW

There are plenty of places in which to hide in the vast deserts of western Iraq and eastern Syria where there are increasing numbers of bombings and assassinations in territories where Isis once ruled, including in Raqqa and Mosul, its de facto capitals in Syria and Iraq.

But it is important to keep a sense of proportion about the current strength of Isis. Al-Baghdadi is important as a symbolic leader, but the history of the past five years shows that he was never a very capable strategist. He attacked the Kurds in Iraq and Syria who would have liked to stay more or less neutral in 2014. His only response to any challenge was extreme violence, thus ensuring that Isis faced a vast array of enemies too numerous to defeat. This has not changed.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Abi Bakar Baghdadi, ISIS 
Hide 7 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. plantman says:

    Let me get this straight: Cockburn wants to warn us about evil Baghdadi…
    But why exactly??
    Because he is an “important symbolic leader, but….never a very capable strategist.”

    Okay. And, for that, Cockburn wastes 700 words??

    Am I missing something here, or does it seem like the only reason to write such drivel is to perpetuate the myth that why are at war with the evil terrorists who, strangely enough, only occupy areas of the planet where the US wants to extract oil or control geopolitically.

    What a coincidence, eh?

    I’m sure that Cockburn knows that al Qaida was concocted by the US to fight the Russians in Afghanistan
    Then they were supported again in Chechnya, Bosnia, Libya, Syria, and Somalia…all as agents of US intervention…
    He also knows how ISIS leaders were groomed in Camp Buca following the Iraq war and recruited from far flung locations around the world.
    He also knows that Isis never would have survived as long as they did (against conventional forces) if they weren’t getting arms and logistical support from western intelligence agencies.
    Who might that be, I wonder?

    And yet, Cockburn still wants us to believe this silly myth about the clash of civilizations??

    Righto, Paddy!

    I would say that Cockburn sounds like a “Company” man to me, if you catch my drift.

  2. plantman says:

    I’m sure that Cockburn knows that al Qaida was concocted by the US to fight the Russians in Afghanistan
    Then they were supported again in Chechnya, Bosnia, Libya, Syria, and Somalia…all as agents of US intervention…
    He also knows how ISIS leaders were groomed in Camp Buca following the Iraq war and recruited from far flung locations around the world.
    He also knows that Isis never would have survived as long as they did (against conventional forces) if they weren’t getting arms and logistical support from western intelligence agencies.
    Who might that be, I wonder?

    And yet, Cockburn still wants us to believe this silly myth about the clash of civilizations??

    Righto, Paddy!

    I would say that Cockburn sounds like a “Company” man to me, if you catch my drift

  3. Is that really al-Baghdadi with John McCain, anyone know?

    • Replies: @Brabantian
  4. NYMOM says:

    “But the last time that al-Baghdadi appeared in 2014 it was in the Grand Mosque in Mosul, the city which Isis had astonished the world by capturing with limited forces fighting a large and well-equipped Iraqi army.”

    I think maybe ISIS originally won those battles because they were fighting mostly Sunni Arabs armies who kind of sort of were rooting for them behind the scenes…

    Once the Iraqis realized this losing strategy however, they quickly switched to Shia militias which were composed of Iraqis Shia and Shia soldiers from other parts of the world…this strategy I believe is what helped them finally defeat ISIS.

    Sunni Arabs are the power behind ISIS in Iraq and Syria and everywhere else ISIS pops it’s head up…

    ISIS will revert to being a terrorist organization funded and supported by Sunni muslims and no one else. They will ultimately make life a lot worse for Sunni Arabs in other parts of the world where they are not in the majority; eventually even leading to mass deportations of communities of Sunni in countries who just get fed up with the whole thing…

    • Replies: @Talha
  5. Christo says:

    Al-Baghdadi ? Sounds like some Op-Mockingbird name concocted so the 5 attention span US public will auto- think, “terrorist”- “bad” – “Bagdad” all once once and auto-endorse Congress to send another 100 billion to Israel and troops everywhere and send another trillion to MIC for the GWOT (The War against all enemies of Israel)

  6. Talha says:
    @NYMOM

    ISIS will revert to being a terrorist organization funded and supported by Sunni muslims and no one else.

    Makes no sense, they had their back sides handed to them in Afghanistan by the Taliban:
    “The Taliban reportedly just beat ISIS so badly that more than 200 fighters surrendered to the Afghan government”
    https://www.businessinsider.com/taliban-beat-isis-so-badly-200-fighters-surrendered-afghan-government-2018-8

    Even al-Qaeda is at war with them – that is how bad these guys are:
    “The Islamic State deployed suicide bombers, including a Somali national, against al-Qaeda positions, killing and injuring more than 10 fighters, including commanders. Al-Qaeda, in retaliation, attacked Islamic State bases, claiming to wrest six of them away.”
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/with-the-once-declared-caliphate-of-isis-defeated-in-syria-an-islamist-militant-rivalry-takes-root-in-yemen/2019/04/13/d54148a6-34d3-4a67-a40a-9dc4f783338e_story.html?utm_term=.0acede5fce30

    They are literally too extreme for al-Qaeda:
    “The leader of al-Qaeda has attacked Isis for ‘madness’ and ‘exceeding the limits of extremism’ as the two terror groups continue to compete for territory and supporters around the world.”
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/al-qaeda-leader-ayman-al-zawahiri-isis-madness-lies-extremism-islamic-state-terrorist-groups-compete-a7526271.html

    Hell, they have declared war on Hamas:
    “The video exposed new levels of enmity between Hamas and the Sinai branch of the Islamic State, injecting another layer of instability into an already volatile region. …It urges attacks on Hamas’s members, courts and security positions, as well as on Shiites and Christians in Gaza, according to the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamic State propaganda.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/world/middleeast/isis-hamas-sinai.html

    These guys attack Sunnis just as much as anyone else:
    “So if these victims were Sunni Muslims, just like the ISIS fighters, why did the latter so brutally kill them? Because they refused to bow to ISIS’ nihilistic vision of Salafi-domination. Choosing freedom over tyranny, men and boys from tribes like al-Shaitat were slaughtered with a psychotic mix of means, including beheading and rocket propelled grenades. Women were enslaved and some others slaughtered in brutal ways. Children too.”
    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/isis-spends-most-of-its-time-and-energy-killing-muslims-and-its-mass-graves-tell-the-tale

    Why would any Sunnis in their right mind support them?

    Peace.

  7. @YetAnotherAnon

    Indeed, Islamic State head Dr Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is widely said to be in fact Israeli Mossad officer, Simon / Shimon Elliot – Sham’oun Ayloot, with ‘ISIS = Israel Special Intelligence Services’

Current Commenter
says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Patrick Cockburn Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr