Middle East: Two scenarios after the assassination of al-Baghdadi

Armyvoice.gr – Dec. 09 , 2019

In a large US operation that included eight helicopters, two F-16 planes and Delta Force unit, Washington was able to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, who was the most attentive of all the former team leaders, most importantly the most scary for Washington’s Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who was assassinated in 2006.

This operation was preceded by another one a few hours before, which was carried out by special American forces in Jarablus in the Aleppo countryside, in the area of ​​the “Euphrates Shield” controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces. The target was ISIS spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, one of its most powerful members after Baghdadi. Despite jihadist groups observers’ denials that Baghdadi was killed in the operation because of its position in the outskirts of the province of Idlib, which is hostile to ISIS and because it is controlled by many international intelligence agencies led by Washington, just days after the US announcement of the outcome of the operation, the media organ of ISIS al-Furkan, confirmed the killing of Baghdadi and Muhajir and announced the placement of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi as head and Abu Hamza al-Qurashi as representative of ISIS.

Therefore, we should try to understand what exactly has happened inside ISIS, its changes and movements in the Middle East and in the world at large.

First of all, we should describe the situation of the organization before the assassination and then examine what will happen next.

During the last two years, Washington, with the support of more than 70 countries under the International Coalition to Fight Daesh, as well as Iraqi ground troops, Kurdish Peshmerga militia, the Iraqi al-Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbī militia and SDF Syrian Kurdish militias, managed to effectively reduce ISIS geographic control of Syria and Iraq. It also managed to kill, injure and imprison thousands of fighters and capture many major cities such as Mosul, Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq, Raqqa, Shadadi and Hadjin in Syria.

While Washington and its allies celebrated their victory that was built on the thousands of corpses of civilians killed by their bombardments under the cover of fighting ISIS, the organization was reorganizing both in Syria and Iraq, in preparation for the next phase. Indeed, an in-depth reading of ISIS movements over the past six months shows that there is a conscious concealment by the media of the size of the organization’s presence in Syria and Iraq, emanating from Washington.

To make it clearer, the Syrian desert is completely out of control of the Assad regime and its allies, but also of Washington and its allies. At the same time, ISIS controls a large part of the Syrian-Iraqi border and has established operation rooms in the countryside of Bukamal and Deir ez-Zor and on the periphery of the cities of Suhna and Palmyra. The Syrian-Iraqi border between the al-Tanf and Bukamal areas is almost entirely controlled by the terrorist organization.

The situation in Iraq is no better. ISIS has gradually succeeded in expanding into the province of Anbar, while the countryside of Haditha, Qaim and Ramadi continue to be the basis of the Islamic State.

Following the above, we can begin to analyze what will happen after the assassination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the spokesman of the organization Abu Hassan al-Muhajir. In my opinion, there are two scenarios that ISIS might implement.

Scenario nr. 1

The organization, which, before Baghdadi’s death, was operating under a central leadership that established its line, will be differentiated and its elements will be freer to move independently either in groups or as lone wolves, hit targets resulting in a large number of victims and will be much more violent. This is related to how weak the central leadership of the organization will be. If that happens, then splitting it into smaller groups that will move separately will be difficult to identify, predict their actions and prevent them.

After watching closely what has been going on inside ISIS in recent years, I can assure that many of its religious leaders were not satisfied with the line that the organization’s leadership, Baghdadi and Muhajir, was following. Some of them thought it was too mild and needed to become more extreme, while others thought it was tough and needed to be more open with the people in the communities around it. Thus, some of the cells that will result from a possible split in the organization will be crazier and extremer than under Baghdadi’s leadership.

Scenario nr. 2

ISIS remains in the same form and order under the leadership of Iraqi Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi without any internal divisions. In this way it maintains its organization and current strength, in my estimation of about ten thousand fighters in Iraq and Syria. An important question remains the future of the cells affiliated with the organization but are geographically remote, such as Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and Central Africa. Most likely, the future of the organization in Syria and Iraq will determine the future of the cells worldwide.

It should be noted that Trump, whose position on the inside is exacerbated by the Democrats’ move to isolate him, was able to increase his stake, albeit slightly, by killing Baghdadi. However, past experience over the last 20 years shows that the killing of leaders of such organizations always produces new, more radical ones, especially as the West continues to have the same social and political approach to Middle Eastern societies.

Dictatorship, injustice and persecution always generate explosion and revenge. What is happening in the Iraqi and Lebanese arena of the huge protests demanding freedom and democracy and a regime that will eliminate corruption, is an extension of the Arab Spring wave that began in 2010 in Tunisia and which the West, led by Washington, has sought to bend in support of dictators, such as in Egypt and Syria. The current revolutions in the Middle East can be seen as a new opportunity for the West and Washington to support the aspirations of the Arab peoples, otherwise we will see the emergence of new, more violent extremist organizations.