After reign of terror, ISIS' Baghdadi pleads for relevance

It was a message in a bottle from the land of irrelevance. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph o...

Posted: Aug 26, 2018 9:41 AM
Updated: Aug 26, 2018 9:41 AM

It was a message in a bottle from the land of irrelevance. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), this week purportedly put out a voice recording to his dwindling flock of followers, exhorting them to carry on a fight they've already lost.

At the height of ISIS' power in 2014, the group controlled a quasi-state roughly the size of Britain, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and Raqqa, its de facto capital, in Syria. Since then it has lost more than 90% of that territory and today holds sway over pockets of remote terrain straddling the two countries. In the audio message, titled "Give Glad Tidings to the Patient," Baghdadi downplayed the loss of territory and issued the usual calls for the overthrow of hostile Arab regimes. But as much as he might dismiss ISIS' losses, it's hard to imagine it ever recovering.

Continents and regions

Iraq

ISIS

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

North America

Syria

Syria conflict

The Americas

United States

Unrest, conflicts and war

The US Defense Department and the United Nations estimate that there are still as many as 30,000 ISIS fighters still on the loose in Syria and Iraq, and although the Iraqi government has declared victory over the group, loyalists continue to conduct hit-and-run attacks and probably will do so for the foreseeable future.

Others who fight under its black banner are still present in parts of Africa, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere. So-called "lone wolves" will continue to carry out attacks wherever and whenever they can in the land of the "Crusaders," as Baghdadi urged them in his message.

The message did go some way to put to rest the persistent rumors that Baghdadi was either critically injured or dead. The United States, which places so much importance on the killing of figureheads (think Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden), would clearly like to savor another "we got him" moment. Not yet. Reacting to Baghdadi's message, Capt. William Urban of the US Central Command told CNN: "We do not know where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is at this time, but he continues to be someone that we are interested in removing from the battlefield."

News of Baghdadi's 55-minute address spread quickly late Wednesday evening here in the Middle East, but it came out in a week when the sea of scandals in the US was rising to tsunami levels, and few took notice.

The ISIS that seized Mosul in a single day in June 2014, that made it to the outskirts of Baghdad, that for a brief moment seemed unstoppable, is a thing of the past. The chapter that history will dedicate to ISIS will be a relatively slim one.

Not so the chapter that follows. A historic shift is afoot in the Middle East, not one as attention-grabbing as ISIS' brief, bloody reign, but one that is reshaping alliances in the region.

Russia's influence continues to expand, while American influence fades. Moscow intervened in Syria to save Bashar al-Assad in 2015, and since then it has filled a vacuum, charting the course for a post-war Syria (and no doubt hoping for a big slice of the reconstruction pie), serving as an intermediary between Israel and Iran, deepening its ties with key regional players, Turkey and Iran, and romancing Saudi Arabia's erratic Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Russians speak to everyone in the Middle East.

Meanwhile the United States, weary of never-ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and consumed by a hallucinatory domestic drama, is barely paying attention. Yes, the Trump administration has a Middle East policy of sorts, perhaps: continue to cozy up to Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel and dangle an elusive "Deal of the Century" in front of the Palestinians; coddle Saudi Arabia and sell its hundreds of billions of dollars in arms while ignoring the disaster that is its Yemen war; strangle Iran with sanctions -- the consequences be damned; and taunt a hyper-sensitive Turkey with tweets and a trade war. Few in the US will take notice of how all this plays out, however, given that they'll more likely be transfixed by the latest contortions in the White House.

Baghdadi's message coincided with Eid al-Adha, the holiday that follows the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Madina. While he may be fading into irrelevance, the fertile ground upon which ISIS grew is still there. Today's regimes in the region are as repressive, venal, corrupt and incompetent as they were four years ago, and the emergence of ISIS under another name is a definite possibility.

That might bring the US to focus once more on the myriad crises in the Middle East. But don't bet on it.

West Lafayette
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 68°
Kokomo
82° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 91°
Rensselaer
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 64°
Fowler
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 64°
Williamsport
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 67°
Crawfordsville
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 65°
Frankfort
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 66°
Delphi
Broken Clouds
85° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 95°
Monticello
Broken Clouds
85° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 95°
Logansport
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 66°
Active Weather Pattern for the Work Week.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 74328

Reported Deaths: 3041
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15860725
Lake7570275
Elkhart484384
Allen3902163
St. Joseph350081
Hamilton2763104
Vanderburgh196313
Hendricks1887108
Cass17959
Johnson1757118
Porter131639
Clark123347
Tippecanoe121111
Madison97965
LaPorte91130
Howard89065
Kosciusko85212
Bartholomew79347
Marshall78422
Floyd77946
Monroe75630
Delaware73052
Dubois69612
Boone67846
Noble67829
Hancock66038
Vigo65110
Jackson5865
Warrick58130
LaGrange55910
Shelby55327
Grant52630
Dearborn50828
Morgan47634
Clinton4343
Henry38320
Wayne37710
White36910
Montgomery35421
Lawrence34627
Harrison33823
Decatur33732
Putnam2888
Miami2742
Daviess27320
Scott26810
Greene25034
Jasper2432
Franklin24214
DeKalb2324
Gibson2254
Jennings22512
Steuben2103
Ripley2087
Carroll1912
Fayette1897
Perry18612
Starke1787
Orange17124
Posey1710
Wabash1693
Fulton1682
Wells1682
Jefferson1632
Knox1540
Whitley1526
Washington1401
Tipton13810
Spencer1363
Sullivan1261
Huntington1223
Randolph1224
Clay1215
Newton11810
Adams1012
Jay910
Owen901
Pulaski831
Rush804
Fountain742
Brown731
Ohio655
Blackford642
Benton610
Pike530
Switzerland520
Vermillion520
Parke511
Crawford450
Martin450
Union410
Warren221
Unassigned0206

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events