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
Baghdadi Had No Real Answer to the Crumbling of His Caliphate
🔊 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
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll 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 three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis and the self-declared caliph of Islamic State, will be a serious, though not terminal, blow to the ferocious jihadi movement he has headed since 2010.

The place where he was finally located – in the Barisha area north of Idlib city in northwest Syria, close to the Turkish border – came as a surprise. It was assumed that he was hiding somewhere in the desert in the Syrian-Iraq border region where the remnants of Isis still have some bases.

Isis has not had direct control in the Idlib region for several years and it is rival jihadi groups, supposedly hostile to Isis, who rule an extensive region centred on Idlib province. It is possible that Baghdadi, who has only survived for so long through rigorous security measures, chose his final hiding place there for this very reason.

Even though he was in deep hiding for so long, Baghdadi remained the symbol of his Islamic State and his survival, despite intense efforts to find him and kill him, has demonstrated hitherto that Isis still possess an organisation able to keep him safe. His death is evidence that this is no longer the case, though it will be able to continue as a guerrilla force. It will be aided in this by the increased chaos on the ground following the US partial pullout from Syria, the Turkish invasion and the Kurds being forced to shift towards some form of alliance with Damascus.

Baghdadi remains a mysterious figure in death as in life because it has never been clear to what degree the resurgence of Isis – known previously as al-Qaeda in Iraq and Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) – after 2011 was his doing.

His real name was Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai and he was born into a pious Sunni Arab family in Samarra, north of Baghdad, in 1971. Imprisoned by US forces in 2004, he was not considered a significant resistance figure and was released after ten months.

He became leader of ISI in 2010 after the death of his predecessors in a US airstrike. At the time the movement had retreated to its areas of core support in and around Mosul and to rural regions where al-Qaeda in Iraq had always been strong. It retained more strength than its many enemies realised and had plenty of military experience drawn from the 2004-9 war against the US and Iraqi government forces.

The Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, notably in Syria, presented Baghdadi and ISI with an opportunity for swift expansion as the Syrian government lost control of large parts of the country. Al-Baghdadi sent seasoned militants and fighters, money and weapons to establish Jabhat al-Nusra as the leading rebel organisation, though its dependence on ISI was at first kept secret.

The link between the two was only revealed in 2013 when al-Baghdadi tried to reassert his authority over al-Nusra, which had been highly successful in spreading its rule in Syria. When part of al-Nusra rejected this, Baghdadi deposed its leaders, fought an inter-jihadi civil war and later broke with al-Qaeda, establishing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

In Iraq, Baghdadi was fortunate in his opportunities as the Sunni Arab community was increasingly alienated by a sectarian Shia government which ignored or suppressed its protests. The Iraqi army and security forces were degraded by extreme corruption and the weeding out of competent commanders.

Even so, the world was astonished when Isis captured Mosul in June 2014 and Baghdadi named himself caliph of the newly-founded Islamic State. A hundred days of runaway victories by Isis forces in Iraq and Syria followed, its fighters advancing against little resistance to Tikrit, north of Baghdad, and to Palmyra, east of Damascus.

As Isis fighters established a state which, at its greatest extent, was the same size as Great Britain, they massacred Shia and Yazidis, publicising their atrocities by video. The propose of this savagery was extreme sectarianism combined with a determination to spread terror among its opponents and sap their will to resist.

This ferocious cruelty towards all those not supporting the Islamic State was typical of al-Baghdadi’s rule: the world was divided into light and darkness and only Isis stood in the light. This approach was effective in motivating fanatical Isis fighters but ensured that everybody outside Isis was a satanic enemy to be destroyed. Eventually, the caliph was at war with the whole world – Syrian government and Syrian opposition, Russia and America, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. He may have led Isis to great and unexpected victories, but he also ensured its defeat.

His military forces – essentially skilled light infantry supplemented with the mass use of suicide bombers – were outgunned and outnumbered. In 2014, the separatist Kurds in Iraq and Syria would have preferred to stay neutral, but Isis attacked them anyway. This brought in the US as a combatant and Isis’s military forces were relentlessly targeted by the air power of the US-led coalition. Its last victories were won in 2015, when it took Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria but after that the caliphate was battered to pieces by superior forces over the following two years.

Baghdadi is believed to have escaped from Mosul during a surprise attack on besieging forces from inside the city in early 2017, but his location was always elusive. The decisive military defeat for Isis came later the same year with the fall, after long sieges, of Mosul and Raqqa. Baghdadi made occasional recorded inspirational addresses but had no answer to the crumbling of his caliphate other than to encourage terror attacks on civilian targets abroad from Manchester to Colombo.


He was repeatedly reported to be dead or injured but would re-emerge, most recently in a video this April. Isis was reverting to a guerrilla role, hoping to repeat its extraordinary resurrection between 2011 and 2014. But the fear that Isis had inspired at the height of its success meant that governments were unlikely to be caught by surprise a second time. It also seemed inevitable, once Isis had lost its last territory earlier this year, that Baghdadi could not evade his pursuers forever.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, ISIS, Syria 
Hide 48 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Melotte22 says:

    Read a great comment yesterday about this, something like
    ‘Congratulations to US for killing the leader of the terrorist group US created’

    • Agree: byrresheim
  2. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:

    “Major Revelation” from OPCW whistleblower: Jonathan Steele speaking to the BBC

    Panel Finds Gaping Holes in OPCW Report on Alleged Syrian Chemical Attack

    The Courage Foundation, an international protection and advocacy group for whistleblowers, has published the findings of a panel it convened last week on the extremely suspicious behavior of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in its investigation of an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria, last year.
    After hearing an extensive presentation from a member of the OPCW’s Douma investigation team, the panel’s members (including a world-renowned former OPCW director general) report that they are “unanimous in expressing our alarm over unacceptable practices in the investigation of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus on 7 April 2018.”

  3. Talha says:

    Yaaay! He’s dead! Again!


    • Replies: @Hail
    , @anonymous
  4. I$I$.

    Double for emphasis and we know what the I stands for, do we not?

  5. @Melotte22

    The guy’s last words were probably:

    “The CIA guy told me I would be safe–my code name is ______!”

    • Replies: @Michael888
  6. cali says:

    Yes – Hussein was responsible for the release of Al Baghdadi in Iraq. The deep state, Hussein/HRC/CIA recruited, trained, armed ISIS together with the shiny new Toyota trucks convey riling into Iraq.
    Hussein et al supported ISIS and is responsible for all the war crimes they committed in Libya, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
    This was no secret since the Iraqi president among others openly spoke about the US owned mercenary force aka ISIS.

    Unknown to many is the fact that Al Baghdadi was a Mossad agent as were many of his fighters. Hussein never tried to defeat them and stalled ever AirForce pilot’s request to drop a bomb while having him and his gang in sight.

    The worst thing Hussein/HRC did was to deploy American soldiers to Jordan and train the ISIS jihadists which angered them ergo only giving them poor training intentionally as they protested but were reminded of their orders and mission.

    The death of Baghdadi has resulted in finding a large cache of documents he kept in his hide-out. It implicates a large number of democrats, Hussein/ HRC/CIA/MI6 and more.

    There is naturally a panic in DC that is off the charts!

  7. From ‘Al Bagdadi – Fake News – Psy Op’ and ‘The Multiple Deaths of Boogeyman al-Baghdadi’:

    Donald Trump has accomplished no less than the 6th killing of Al-Baghdadi

    Al-Baghdadi was ‘found dead in a hole in the ground inside a house’ in 2010, per Reuters

    Al-Baghdadi was ‘killed in a US airstrike’ in 2013

    Al-Baghdadi was ‘killed in a US drone strike’ in April 2015

    Al-Baghdadi was ‘killed in a US airstrike in Raqqa’ in June 2016

    Al-Baghdadi was ‘killed in a Russian air strike’. also in Raqqa, in June 2017

    If Barack Obama can kill a bin Laden who apparently died a decade earlier, why can’t Trump kill Al-Baghdadi again? – that seems fair

    Wasn’t ISIS really the US-backed ‘Israeli Special Intelligence Services’?

    Russia has raised doubts over claims of the ‘umpteenth death’ of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi…

    Islamic State head Dr Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is widely thought to have been Israeli Mossad officer, Simon Elliot – Shimon Elliot – Sham’oun Ayloot

    • Agree: the grand wazoo
  8. nsa says:

    A dastardly super villain with the cartoonish name BigDaddy residing in a tunnel somewhere in the desert (cave high in the Hindu Kush used in a previous episode) while directing a secret organization dedicated to overturning the free world………has been vanquished by reality show super hero, Trumpstein. Anyone besides Cockie believe this stuff?

  9. Paul says:

    A man such as Baghdadi was never going to be taken alive. He was not the Donald Trump draft-dodger type.

  10. HT says:

    After 9/11, Bush should have responded by killing 50,000,000 Muslims in terror stronghold cities. Then tell them if you don’t self police and get Muslim terrorism under control we will kill 50,000,000 more. Stopping groups like ISIS should be up to Muslim countries. If they don’t want to do that, wipe out the whole sick religion.

  11. anonymous[307] • Disclaimer says:

    The people of the world are not dumb and obedient like American ignorant. The title of the major news outlet in other countries is something like the following:

    Al Baghdadi was killed for the EIGHT TIMES.

    They continue to tell their people that US is the creator and owner of ALL these terror group.

    Now, CIA and Jewish mafia trump knows this truth, yet trump like other scum who call themselves ‘president’ and are responsible for millions of deaths and have committed crimes against humanity, is trying to pose as ‘a hero’ to buy some credits for himself who is about to be kicked out of the office, but knowledgeable people in the world give their middle fingers to these terrorists and mass murderers whose lies is unlimited to keep Americans as dumb as possible.

    This ‘journalist’ is a MI6 propagandist. Don’t trust these lies.

  12. Rags says:

    Reminiscent of the hocus pocus raid which reportedly killed UBL. Right down to the cabinet level gathered anxiously round. These reruns are comical. Jesus, if people are really that stupid we are surely getting the government we deserve.

    • Agree: Rabbitnexus
  13. Amon says:

    I guess the controlled opposition leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was of no further value to the empire and so had to be executed to prevent all of his knowledge about the US, UK, EU, Turkey and Israeli plan to carve up Syria from being exposed by Russian and Syrian forces post capture.

  14. Al-Baghdadi joins his good friend John McCain in hell.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  15. anon[117] • Disclaimer says:

    What’s next? That should preoccupy the minds of Iran Syria Russia and Lebanon. They are still playing a defensive game, only responding to the challenges manufactured by the rogue regime and its collaborators.

  16. Mr. Grey says:

    Trump didn’t create this terrorist group. He promised to get us out of these wars and taking Baghdadi out will help peace return to Syria.

    • Replies: @Melotte 22
  17. Mr. Grey says:

    Cockburn mentions how Isis fighters massacred Shia and Yazidis. Being a citizen of the U.K. he’s probably not allowed to mention that Christians were also massacred by this Sunni Muslim army.

  18. MEexpert says:

    Stopping groups like ISIS should be up to Muslim countries.

    If you want to eliminate organizations like ISIS, stop creating them.

    • Agree: Colin Wright
  19. @Kolya Krassotkin

    Or is he with Epstein in Israel?

    • Replies: @Rabbitnexus
  20. This whole thing is fake. Baghdadi was being protected and supplies by Israel and the US; and when he lost his use, they eliminated him.

  21. KenH says:

    I thought he was reported killed at least two times already but maybe the authorities were mistaken? If this is the third time he’s died than this Allah must be a awesome God since he grants his adherents three lives.

    Al-Baghdadi was identified using DNA but how did they get his DNA sample? I supposed they could have taken a swab when he was in a U.S. prison in Iraq shortly after the invasion but no sources have confirmed or denied this as far as I know.

    The Obama administration allegedly killed Osama Bin Laden in year three of his presidency after he was reported dead by some media outlets since 2001 and now the Trump administration kills an OBL figure in Al-Baghdadi in year three of his presidency. And almost during the same time of year. A strange cohencidence for sure.

  22. El Dato says:

    Forthcoming of him to blow himself to smithereens with a boomvest.

    No “burial at sea respecting of muslim traditions” needed.

    If only the doge could talk.

    • Replies: @A123
  23. @Justvisiting

    The Democrats (and CIA) were outraged that they were not told of this operation until Baghdadi was dead. If they had known, they could have leaked information saving this figurehead of ISIS/CIA.

    If he is truly dead; as with Osama bin Laden and Jeffrey Epstein, there is always doubt.

  24. A123 says:
    @El Dato

    If only the doge could talk.

    The dog has an agent and is negotiating a movie contract and book deal.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @anon
  25. They did not kill Gold Rolex Baghdadi! They still need him somewhere else I expect. The whole story is a cartoon.

  26. @Commentator Mike

    Epstein was last seen on video by drone, on his island actually.

  27. @HT

    If you’re such an idiot you believe the bullshit coming out of the lying media and Washed up Washington, your genocidal intentions are repulsive and just a wet dream of a psychopath. If you ever make the majority of Muslims think we are targeted, your future will be short and nasty. We outnumber you, we are everywhere and we are vastly more committed unto death to our faith.

    • Replies: @Sean
  28. Listen, I’m only going to say this 1000 times more. Baghdadi, is really Shimon Eliott. He was born in London to Jewish parents. He is a construct of MOSSAD, and whether he’s dead or not, and I think not, really doesn’t matter, as there are plenty more where he came from. Other than a few tid bits that get through the IN censors, for a few days of light, everything we see or hear is by design, and who can tell the difference. Theatre pure theatre.

  29. Sean says:

    If you ever make the majority of Muslims think we are targeted

    , I think people would be amazed at how many of these extreme ‘CIA are behind everything’ conspiracy comments are by Muslims.

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
  30. anon[268] • Disclaimer says:

    30 Grammy award . 1 went to the dog for barking
    29 went to the producer Mossad for sound and visuals . SITE will share that 1 which went to the dog.

  31. Mr. Trumpovich has secured his place in history by joining exclusive club of mUrika’s Assassins in Chief .
    As Mr. Huxley said

    Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

    Donkeys and Elephants are primarily destroying former USA.

  32. It was assumed that he was hiding somewhere in the desert in the Syrian-Iraq border region where the remnants of Isis still have some bases.

    Really! And why would THEY be permitted to stay? How are they exempt? We have plans for those scamps? Otherwise:

  33. @Sean

    Or, are the “Muslims are behind everything” comments made by the CIA? Or some of both?

    We shouldn’t trust either the CIA or Muslims as far as we can throw them.

    And they both should be thrown out of our country.

    • Replies: @Sean
    , @Johnny Rico
  34. Sean says:

    Someone said that the conspiracy comments are mainly from overseas. I very much doubt anyone here is in an official capacity. The commenters are almost all men with too much time on their hands. Muslims can’t blame us for their polygynous system that excludes a proportion of the least capable males from marriage and leaves them with nothing constructive to do than troll Westerners. and trigger white schizotypals.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  35. Anonymous[375] • Disclaimer says:

    Islam allows formal polygamy with hard limits of 4 wives.

    But in practice, polygamy is uncommon in many Muslim societies. And social prohibitions against pre- and extramarital sex, serial dating, divorce, and remarriage, mean that polygyny is also uncommon. Monogamy is the norm in most Muslim societies.

    Western countries do not legally sanction polygamy, at least not yet, but they are much more polygynous than Muslim countries are.

    • Replies: @Sean
    , @Sean
  36. @RadicalCenter

    Everybody at UNZ is a hasbara troll according to everybody at UNZ.

    • Replies: @Sean
  37. Sean says:

    Immigration into the West is mainly from polygynous countries.

  38. Sean says:

    Muslim incels are in a country where there is a youth bulge, so they join Boko Haram, Isis ect and do a bit of woman stealing. Western incels are few in number and suffering from a culture of female choice, and a tsunami of young male immigrants.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  39. Sean says:
    @Johnny Rico

    I suspect there are orders of magnitude more incels than hasbara trolls, and those calling others hasbara troll are mainly schizotypal incels.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  40. @Mr. Grey

    Do you also believe in Santa?

    • Replies: @Mr. Grey
  41. Mr. Grey says:
    @Melotte 22

    No but if that your preferred Gender I don’t mean to insult you.

  42. Anonymous[375] • Disclaimer says:

    Boko Haram is in sub-Saharan Africa, where polygyny is a pre- and non-Islamic cultural norm. If anything, Islam mitigates the polygynous tendencies there.

    In most Muslim societies, because of conservative sexual and social norms, even with a youth bulge, widespread monogamy is the norm, regardless of Islam’s allowance of polygamy with hard limits.

    By contrast, the post-Christian West maintains formal prohibitions for now against polygamy, a vestige of its religious past, but in practice polygyny is widespread via serial dating, flings, relationships, divorce and remarriage. So incels are actually a bigger problem in the West.

  43. @HT

    ‘After 9/11, Bush should have responded by killing 50,000,000 Muslims in terror stronghold cities. Then tell them if you don’t self police and get Muslim terrorism under control we will kill 50,000,000 more. Stopping groups like ISIS should be up to Muslim countries. If they don’t want to do that, wipe out the whole sick religion.’

    You ‘n old Adolf. Great minds think alike.

  44. Anonymous[375] • Disclaimer says:

    Apparently this is what Steve Bannon believes as well:

    “Steve Bannon Targeted ‘Incels’ Because They Are ‘Easy to Manipulate,’ Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Says”

    Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon targeted “incels”—supposedly involuntarily celibate men—because they were easier to manipulate with conspiratorial thinking, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie has said.

    The former Breitbart editor enlisted the services of Cambridge Analytica to drum up fringe voters from swing states such as Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    The strategy was successful and Republicans secured the White House—attaining 306 electoral college votes to Democrats’ 232—but explosive revelations from Wylie in 2018 changed the way people understood that win.

    His whistleblowing revealed that Cambridge Analytica harvested the profiles of 50 million Facebook users and how that data was used alongside publicly available voter records to identify people more likely to vote for the Trump campaign.

    Of those, Wylie said Bannon targeted the men who calls themselves “incels”—also referring to them as “unmarried straight white dudes who couldn’t get laid.”

    At a talk at the Emmanuel Centre in London on Monday, he said that Bannon viewed them as easy victims for manipulation as they were “lacking economic opportunities” and were more prone to “conspiratorial thinking.”

    • Replies: @anon
  45. anon[113] • Disclaimer says:

    TY for spotting this. Very interesting.

    BTW, Sean is hasbara. Do you think he’s also incel… CIA … or both?

  46. Only someone who the western intelligence community do not want found can stay hidden for years if they were looking for him. There is strong evidence that the US and allies provided ISIS intelligence and even targeted Syrian army positions to let ISIS advance. Like the second time when ISIS advanced on palmyra the US did not tell the Russians and even ran cover using deconfliction channels so the Russians could not monitor the area. In DZ the US directly bombed the syria army positions at least 3 times to allow ISIS to gain foothold. How does ISIS know exactly where to strike. Remember ISIS made over 260 suicide VBIED runs in DZ.. But hiding positions General Z was able to hold on but less experienced commanders did not know where the attacks would come from and thought a ground force could be stopped easily.. Not when their reserves and retreat are blocked by SAS and US..

Current Commenter

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 have been licensed to 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