An anniversary celebrated with performances and new spectacular military offensives. The Islamic Caliphate of the lands of Mesopotamia and the Levant is demonstrated even more well established that the addition of the “self-styled”, used by Western chancelleries, not in the least detract it of its importance in the territory. To celebrate the anniversary the Islamic state by black flags spread numerous videos of spectacular executions of traitors, enemies and even of men linked to al Qaeda and carried out attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait. To demonstrate its strength, it announced a military offensive against some cities in northern Syria including Kobanî making extensive use of suicide bombers to deny the failures and setbacks in Iraq and Syria. A year ago, surprisingly, the leader of the Isis appeared at the minbar of the Great Mosque of Mosul, a city just conquered, to proclaim the establishment of Khilafat and he, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, introduced himself as the heir of the Arab princes who since the eighth century had dominated the Middle East, North Africa, up to Spain and the Balkans.
The declaration of the Islamic State wanted to prove that Daesh, Arabic name of Isis, had achieved what al Qaeda had not. Being a terrorist group led by a charismatic leader, it had become an entity administering a territory. There were many signs and WikiLeaks had released three thousand files showing the Isis’ projects and its danger. Al Baghdadi, character surrounded by many shadows thus became the leader of a country where in the name of Sharia are perpetrating the most horrendous crimes. A leadership completely different from that of Osama bin Laden, who for decades had been leading Al Qaeda. His official biography released by ISIS, speaks of him as a Doctor of Science and important Islamic preacher at the mosque in Diyala over the years of Saddam. Certainly he comes from a religious family and his traces can be found in the University of Baghdad where he is registered with its original name: Ibrahim Awwad ibn Ali al-Badri al-Samarri, was in fact born in Samara in 1971.
Between 1996 and 2000, Al Baghdadi lived in Afghanistan. Some argue that he learned the art of war exactly in Afghanistan in the camps of Al Qaeda where he met Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the butcher of Baghdad. At school in Zarqawi, he learned how to use the web and the videos with the executions of prisoners. What is certain is that during the American presence in Iraq, Abu Du’a, the name chosen at the time of the battle, stood out in the bloodiest actions against US troops and security forces of the new Iraq. Captured and detained in Camp Bucca, the Iraqi Guantanamo, he was tortured and then released. An error of which the United States has not yet made amends. Ruthless and determined, this year he has tried to subdue the other rebel groups like Al Nusra Front, loyal to Al Qaeda, and has done so firstly calmly then with mass executions. This attitude has resulted in a serious battle between Al Baghdadi and Ayman al Zawahri, successor of bin Laden. “I chose to be commanded by God and not by those who are against him,” was the message sent by the Caliph to Osama’s successor, accused of apostasy and treason. Today, one year after the proclamation of the Islamic State, his barbs are also directed against the Taliban and their leader Mullah Omar, also accused of betrayal and deceit. The mutual accusations were realized just a few days ago in clashes in Afghanistan, in Nangarhar province, between the Taliban militias and the groups who have pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
The proclamation of the Islamic State and the propaganda through social networks allowed to recruit thousands of fighters around the world. Islamic people attracted by Jihad, who from Europe, the US and even Australia, reached the lands of the Caliphate to join the black militias.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is suspicious and haunted by the betrayal, rarely appears in public and surrounds himself only with loyalists, all Iraqis. In the West, many have tried to belittle his charismatic figure telling of unorthodox behavior according to Islamic morals and the Sharia. Alleged witnesses speak of homosexual orgies and excesses of consumption of spirits. Stories that make inroads only on the Western but not on those who see in the black Caliph of Mosul a “guide” for the rebirth. Moreover this kind of demonization follows the Western cliché, according to which “elegant dinners”, the Oval Office used as an alcove, and parties in the summer dachas are part of their political struggle. But they do not scratch the motivations of extremist of the jihadist fanaticism.
The structure of the Islamic state is the result of the strategy of a former Iraqi colonel, Haji Bakr, Isis military chief, killed in Aleppo on February 2 last year during a clash with the Free Syrian Army secular brigades. It was this dark and ruthless former military to create the basis for the birth of the Islamic State. He knew his country. He knew where to find the weapons and explosives. He unveiled the leadership all the fighting techniques he had learned in years of service in the army of Saddam. He explained what the former soldiers entered in the guerrillas did after the American invasion of Iraq, their communication, defense, interception systems.
It was always Haji Bakr to plan the fundraising: extorting merchants, Christians, Yazidis, conquering oil fields, power plants and fuel, factories and distribution centers. Planning ethnic cleansing so as during the days of Saddam. There were all the bases for a future leadership of the Caliphate, at the right moment Abu Bakr al Bagdadi proclaimed itself the supreme guide. “I am the Wali, intended to guide you, but I’m not better than you; if you believe that I’m right, then help me; if you believe that I’m wrong, then give me suggestions and show me the right way. Obey me how you obey God, who is in every one of you”. This was his exhortation at the mosque in Mosul in June. A Caliph rejected by Sunni because he was not elected by the Umma, the community of all Muslims. He was condemned by the influential Islamic scholar Al Qaradawi, the mufti of Istanbul. And then Al Baghdadi changed his name: he added Al Qurashi to show his ancestry with the khalifa of Muhammad and then, just yesterday, told the mufti of Mecca: “you are under my feet”. Now he is haunting across his Caliphate aboard an armored Hamvee. Sometimes on a gray Toyota. He never stays in one place more than a day and the desert between the Syrian and Iraqi Fallujah Raqqa is his safe haven. But he does not escape the air raids of US-led coalition. Al Baghdadi was seriously wounded in the back. Transported to Mosul, he was saved but he cannot walk anymore, at least according to the rumors. But the Islamic state can survive his first Caliph.
The charisma of Baghdadi was channeled into a state structure that controls the territory. His future death is unlikely to have an impact on the succession of the caliphate. Moreover, even when a state apparatus was lacking, the terrorist organization progenitor of the Islamic State showed he could cope with the death of its leader and ensure a relatively stable succession. The successor could be Abu Ala al Afri, nom de guerre Abu Suja, Iraq’s Tal Afar. Physics teacher, he was in Afghanistan in 1998 and was in contact with Osama bin Laden, who wanted him to lead the Iraqi arm of al Qaeda. And that might help him in rebuilding relationships with the groups loyal to al Qaeda.
The command structure of the Islamic State, however, shows a high preponderance of Iraqis in positions of leadership, including veterans of the Iraqi army during the Baathist regime. The Iraqi leadership of Daesh also has a function of silent coup d’etat of the old guard of the government of Saddam Hussein. The death of Baghdadi could be, therefore, a symbolic defeat for the “Islamic State”, but a tangible victory for former Iraqi army officers. A defeat and a nemesis for those who contributed to the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastropaolo