Syrian Kurds gather at Baladi Stadium to commemorate the bloody clashes between members of their community and Syrian regime forces in 2004, in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakeh on Saturday. France Media Agency
If confirmed, the Reuters report on the appointment of Juma Awad Al Badri, the founder’s brother, as head of Daesh could ensure the continuity of the central leadership of the decentralized movement and recover some measure of command and control .
As head of Daesh’s Shura Council, Badri is a logical choice. He chose “Abu Hassan Hashemi Al Qurayshi” as his nom de guerre in accordance with Daesh practice because he claims descent from Al Quresh, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad (PSL) and gives Badri the “baraka”, a spiritual charisma.
His brother Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Ali Al Badri, known as “Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi”, established the forerunner of Daesh in 2012, took control of the city of Raqqa in north-central Syria, in 2013, and named himself caliph in 2014 after his fighters swept across the border with northern Iraq and seized control of Mosul. The Caliphate was torn down by a relentless campaign by Syrian, Iraqi and Western forces between 2014 and 2019.
In October 2019, Baghdadi killed himself in order to defy capture by US special forces when they raided his hideout in Syria’s northwest Idlib province.
His successor, Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman Al Mawli Al Salbi, or Abu Ibrahim Al Hashemi Al Qurayshi, also blew himself up during a raid by an American commando in early February on their building located about fifteen kilometers from Baghdadi’s home. . Daesh spokesman Abu Hamza Al Qurayshi was killed in the ensuing firefight.
The new caliph has, according to Reuters, wisely left Idlib and crossed into Iraq, his home territory. While Idlib is ruled by Daesh rival and al-Qaeda twin Hay’at Tahrir Al Sham, who it has been suggested may have leaked information on the men’s whereabouts to Turkey or the US-sponsored Kurdish militia controlling the northeastern region of Syria. That being the case, it is hardly surprising that the newly appointed caliph would seek refuge in his homeland where he might feel safer among Sunnis alienated by the fundamentalist Shiite government in Baghdad.
Why? The history of these radical groups begins with the American war against Iraq in 2003, when the Jordanian militant Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi established the branch of Al-Qaeda in this country and launched attacks against the provisional government, the institutions State and the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.
In June 2006, Zarqawi was killed in a US airstrike and leadership was assumed by Egyptian Abu Ayyub Al Masri. This group transformed into the Islamic State in Iraq and seized territories in this country. After Masri’s death, Baghdadi took over and transformed the movement into Daesh.
In 2011, he ordered Abu Muhammad Al Golanni to create a Syrian branch, Jabhat Al Nusra, to fight the Syrian government and establish an Islamic state in Syria. Nusra has been labeled a “terrorist” group by the United States. In 2013, after Nusra became the most successful of Syria’s multiple militant groups, Baghdadi ordered it to merge with Daesh, Golani refused, and the two became bitter rivals.
Their affiliations and activities diverged, deepening the division. Daesh, which recruited thousands of foreign fighters, focused on taking territory and establishing its fake caliphate, which drew tens of thousands of alienated Muslims from Western Europe to China. However, instead of creating a state in accordance with the principles and practices of Islam, the Daesh regime was reactionary, brutal and cruel and led to the five-year campaign that led to its defeat and the dispersal of its surviving fighters. Today, 10,000 fleeing fighters roam the eastern desert of Syria and take refuge in the mountains of northeastern Iraq. Although diminished and harassed in its home territory, Daesh has exported both its ideology and its war to North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and South Asia.
Nusra/Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) took a different path. It relies mainly on Syrian and Iraqi recruits and remains committed to the fight against the Syrian government. Ironically, HTS gained real estate by taking control of Syria’s Idlib province which is home to various militant factions. HTS has merged with half a dozen such groups and dominates the Syrian Salvation Government which administers Idlib. HTS rules with an iron fist but not as harshly as Daesh. Under Turkish protection, HTS crushed more radical opponents and recruited or expelled Arab and foreign fighters based in Idlib. Always designated internationally as a “terrorist” group, HTS does not export its ideology or its fighters. It is striving for US recognition as a legitimate Syrian opposition movement and has had resounding success as Idlib and Kurdish-controlled areas in eastern Syria are to be exempt from sanctions imposed on the Syrian government, its allies and supporters.
This is a very dangerous American directive. HTS remains an offshoot of Al-Qaeda. Idlib is a breakaway province of Syria and a base for radicals in the eastern Mediterranean. Idlib, the Turkish-held enclaves in northern Syria, and the vast US-sponsored self-proclaimed Kurdish “private autonomous region” in the east deprive Syria of its territorial integrity and violate its sovereignty.
It is all too clear that Washington seeks to undermine Syria and weaken Damascus indefinitely. While HTS and the Kurds pursue separatism, Daesh maintains its presence, recruits young Iraqis, Syrians and Lebanese, continues its attacks and spreads its ideology around the world.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and other Arab states have reestablished relations with Syria in a bid to promote its reconstruction and rebirth as a central country in the eastern Arab world. Without Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan cannot prosper and grow and instability will grow in the Levant and the Arab hinterland. Instead of listening to its Arab allies, Washington continues to go its own way regardless of foreseeable or unforeseen consequences for this region – and elsewhere.
The United States has long taken its Arab allies for granted, ignored their interests and pressured them to follow its policies, even if they were detrimental to their interests. The 2003 Iraq War was the most damaging, devastating and egregious campaign the United States has waged in this region. It was an unprovoked war of choice, unlike Russia’s assault on Ukraine which was the consequence of decades of Western rejection of Russia’s persistently expressed existential concerns about the expansion of NATO to the East.
If the United States and Europe had made it clear to Ukraine years ago that it would not be admitted to NATO or the European Union, Ukraine might have been encouraged to follow the examples of Finland, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland in adopting politico-military neutrality.
All these countries are European-oriented, prosperous and capable of making independent choices. Ukraine could have looked like them. Instead, with misplaced Western support, he chose to confront Russia and precipitate a devastating war that could lead to a global economic recession.