Why aren't ISIS dead
He's dead, the self-proclaimed caliph, this time really. It has already been reported several times that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was critically injured or killed. Sometimes by bombs by Russian jets, sometimes by attacks by the USA. The news always turned out to be false. But now Baghdadi itself seems to have pulled the trigger of an explosive vest when US special forces approached - according to the words of US President Donald Trump, he died "whining, howling and screaming" at the end of an earth tunnel. His ominous presence in this world is history.
But not his legacy. Trump stressed several times how unworthy the man who had risen to be the leader of all devout Muslims died - and may have understood this as a message to those who were impressed by the ideology of the so-called Islamic State. But if Trump hopes to have finally defeated the monster by having his head cut off, he is mistaken.
Baghdadi was never a charismatic leader whose portraits were printed on posters in the farthest corners of the world, as was the case with Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. In stark contrast to the highly professionally produced propaganda of the terrorist organization, which corresponds to the viewing habits of the smartphone generation, the IS chief staged himself extremely brittle. He only appeared in public once, when he introduced himself in 2014 from the pulpit of the Nuri Mosque in Mosul as the head of a new caliphate. He only had a video made of himself once, five years later, when the caliphate was already history. In it he urged his followers to persevere.
Some ISIS members are likely to want to avenge the death of the Führer
Baghdadi may have been at the head of ISIS. But what fascinated his followers was never their leader, but the idea of a renewed caliphate itself, taking shape in the present and not in a distant future.
This idea, which the sluggish and authoritarian Muslim authorities had so little to oppose, remains in the online and offline world. It survived the collapse of the first pseudo-state of the jihadists in spring 2019, it will also survive the death of its leader Baghdadi. The black flags of IS are still waving in Afghanistan, on the Sinai, in Muslim West Africa - and soon maybe again in its heartland on the border between Iraq and Syria.
Hundreds of ISIS members have broken out of camps in eastern Syria, where the Kurdish militias are fighting for their survival after the US withdrawal. Some of them are now likely to want to avenge the death of the Fiihrer, others will try to find their way into the area where he was last suspected. The country near the Syrian border is difficult for Iraq to control, and Baghdad is currently busy with other problems. Iraq is shaken by mass protests that the government does not know how to counter. The jihadists will try to take advantage of this power vacuum on both sides of the border, especially now that they appear defeated. But ISIS has survived such crises several times. He nourishes his myth from his simultaneous constancy and versatility - not from the charisma of his leaders.
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