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Meet the Caliph

Meet the Caliph

There is some dispute over the authenticity of the video – at the time of this writing, the Iraq government seems convinced it’s a fake, while most Western intelligence analysts are more inclined to believe it’s genuine – but here’s a look at the man who claims to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, courtesy of the UK Daily Mail.

He spends most of his time in hiding, but he popped out to lead prayers on Friday at the Great Mosque in conquered Mosul.  The UK Telegraph has a capsule summary of his remarks:

Speaking from the balcony in his new incarnation as self-anointed “Caliph Ibrahim”, Baghdadi announced himself as “the leader who presides over you”, urging Muslims to join him and “make jihad” for the sake of Allah.

Under his direction, the Islamic world would be returned to “dignity, might, rights and leadership”, he said.

“I am the wali (leader) who presides over you, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, assist me,” he said, dressed in a black turban and robe reminiscent of the last caliphs to rule from Baghdad.

“If you see that I am wrong, advise me and put me on the right track, and obey me as long as I obey God in you.”

Something tells me there won’t be a lot of malcontents rushing forward to explain how he’s on the wrong track.

Al-Baghdadi hailed the jihadi “victory” which he said had restored the caliphate after centuries.

“God gave your mujahedeen brothers victory after long years of jihad and patience… so they declared the caliphate and placed the caliph in charge,” he said.

“This is a duty on Muslims that has been lost for centuries.”

In the address – which spread rapidly across jihadi websites with translations in multiple languages – al-Baghdadi also discussed practical matters, calling for doctors, judges, engineers and experts in Islamic jurisprudence to help develop the caliphate.

Yet another attempted hijacking of the Religion of Peace!  This time the hijacker has carved out his own country from parts of Syria and Iraq, and he’s got a $500 million bankroll seized as booty from Mosul, along with both Iraqi and U.S.. hardware.  It would have been a good idea to stop this cockroach before he got dug in, but unfortunately President Obama’s ideology, and previous foreign-policy blunders, rendered him entirely blind to the threat until it was far too late.

Eli Lake at the Daily Beast has a lengthy article today about how everyone except Obama and his inner circle saw ISIS coming, and knew the Iraq military was no match for the oncoming terrorist storm:

“It’s simply not true that nobody saw a disaster like the fall of Mosul coming,” Ali Khedery, who served as a senior adviser at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, told The Daily Beast. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I literally predicted this in verbal warnings and in writing in 2010 that Iraq would fall apart.”

“I and a zillion other people said in 2014 that we needed to do more than the very slow and inadequate reaction,” added James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. “If [ISIS] could move in and seize Fallujah and they were on the offensive, and they were active in Mosul and Nineweh [province] too, the army was lethargic and not doing very well, at that point there was a possibility for us to provide air strikes and advisers.”

Instead, the Obama policy meandered through a series of half-measures. As theWall Street Journal reported last month, unmanned surveillance flights over Iraq that would provide crucial overhead intelligence on areas where ISIS operated were limited to about one mission per month until about mid-June. Now there are 50 such sorties over Iraq per day, U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. The U.S. Air Force has carte blanche to fly its drones and planes over Iraq’s skies and the 300 special operators Obama sent to Iraq are now preparing target lists for these aircraft.

Timing is everything in foreign policy, especially military policy.  We didn’t use those resources when it would have made a real difference, so now the U.S. troops are back to fill the sky with drones… but instead of halting the terrorist army as it rolled out of Syria, we’re watching them consolidate territorial gains that no one seems to think we can reverse, absent a massive military intervention.  Obama wanted to hear that the total pullout he wanted was feasible, so he listened to the “experts” who told him that… not the larger, better-informed, and more concerned analysts who said ISIS was a big problem, and the Iraqi military was in no shape to handle it.

The Daily Beast article covers the the unlovely political situation in Baghdad, where as one official puts it, things are “far more complicated than white hat / black hat” and every potential leader is “shades of gray, at best.”  That should only have served to underline the absolute necessity of preserving enough of an American military presence to keep outside actors from bringing the whole thing crashing down.

The American presence in Iraq is coming around to where it should have been in 2012, but it’s not 2012 anymore.  It’s being described as “bold” for al-Baghdadi, if that is indeed him in the video, to pronounce himself a caliph and get started recruiting “doctors, judges, engineers, and experts in Islamic jurisprudence” for his new terror state.  But the facts on the ground at the moment are more in favor of his boasts than against them.  If it’s too late to roll the caliphate back, then we have to start worrying about what sort of deadly mischief it will export.

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