THE NEW LEADER OF THE CALIPH - THE US HAD HIM AS A PRISONER:
“See you in New York.”
Brookings analyst Charles Lister explains more about why he thinks the caliphate announcement is so significant.
In an email briefing he writes:
The impact of this announcement will be global as al-Qaida affiliates and independent jihadist groups must now definitively choose to support and join the Islamic State or to oppose it. The Islamic State’s announcement made it clear that it would perceive any group that failed to pledge allegiance an enemy of Islam. Already, this new Islamic State has received statements of support and opposition from jihadist factions in Syria – this period of judgment is extremely important and will likely continue for some time to come.
In retrospect, one could surmise that ISI and then ISIS, has been working towards this point for years now. As an organization, ISIS has become the wealthiest militant group in the world with assets in the low $ billions and has developed an almost obsessive level of bureaucracy, account keeping, and centrally controlled but locally implemented military-political coordination. Moreover, since the seizure of territory and crucially, population, in areas of Syria in 2013, it has developed an increasingly efficient model of governance, capable of simultaneously implementing harsh medieval justice and a whole range of modern social services.
Geographically, ISIS is already fully operational in Iraq and Syria; it has a covert presence in southern Turkey, appears to be establishing a small presence in Lebanon; and has supporters in Jordan, Gaza, the Sinai, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. This could well be the birth of a totally new era of transnational jihadism.
Perhaps most significantly, this announcement poses a huge threat to al-Qaida and its long-time position of leadership of the international jihadist cause. Put simply, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [pictured] has declared war on Al-Qaida. While it is now inevitable that members and prominent supporters of al-Qaida and its affiliates will rapidly move to denounce Baghdadi and this announcement, it is the long-term implications that may prove more significant. Taken globally, the younger generation of the jihadist community is becoming more and more supportive of ISIS, largely out of fealty to its slick and proven capacity for attaining rapid results through brutality. The recent seizure of Mosul and other gains in Iraq has already dramatically boosted ISIS’ recruitment potential, but this announcement will likely make recent events seem very minor in comparison. Nonetheless, al-Qaida will retain considerable support and once the dust has settled, we will very likely find ourselves in a dualistic position of having two competing international jihadist representatives – al-Qaida, with a now more locally-focused and gradual approach to success; and the Islamic State, with a hunger for rapid results and total hostility for competition.
In Iraq, the announcement will pose a significant risk of provoking other Sunni-composed groups fighting the government to turn against ISIS, thereby potentially precipitating a new, third front within the emerging Iraqi civil conflict. On the other hand, the huge morale boost this will create within ISIS circles in Iraq could help spur on an eventual push on Baghdad. Whatever judgments are made, an increase in violence in Iraq can be expected in the immediate term ...
Intriguingly, it is only a Caliph that has the legal legitimacy to declare or order an offensive jihad. This announcement makes it all the more plausible that Baghdadi may position his forces to begin operations further afield, perhaps in Jordan or Saudi Arabia. Even before this announcement, the chance that ISIS could have chosen to expand its target set looked to be increasing, but now, that looks almost to be a certainty.