by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 5, Ramadan, 1435)
The world has a new poster boy in al-Baghdadi. Some naive Muslims will be taken in by his brandishing a kalishnakov instead of the sword but it is important to look deeper. Emotional outbursts are no substitute for clear analysis and understanding.
America’s newest poster boy Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may not be as photogenic as the late Osama bin Laden but what he lacks in looks, he more than makes up in ruthlessness, guile and cruelty. Born Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai in 1971 in Samarrah (Iraq)—hence his last name al-Samarrai—he is also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Du‘a (the “Father of Du‘a”). This is common practice in the Middle East.
Al-Baghdadi burst on the global scene with spectacular speed last month when his rebels captured Mosul in central Iraq. Despite their ruthlessness, the speed with which Baghdadi’s thugs took over Iraq’s second largest city, surprised even his staunchest admirers. The fall of Mosul was followed by the capture of Tikrit, home town of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Husain where he is buried following his hanging in December 2006 (It has been reported that the judge, Raouf Abdul Rahman who sentenced Saddam to death was captured by ISIS rebels on June 16 and executed).
The latest thug on the block heads the terror group that carries the inappropriate name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (or al-Sham), hence it is called either ISIL or ISIS depending on which last name is used. There is nothing Islamic about the group or its leader; it is a bunch of bloodthirsty mass murderers that have no regard for human life whatsoever. The group has indulged in gruesome killings of civilians as well as members of other groups that may be a little less violent than this bunch of AK-47 clutching hoodlums.
In its latest rampage through Mosul, the ISIS admitted to having shot and killed more than 1700 people, all of them after they had surrendered to the marauders. Killing prisoners of war and civilians is forbidden in Islam. In many instances, people had their hands tied behind the back and shot in the head. Such conduct is worse than primitive savagery that Islam confronted and defeated during the time of the noble Messenger (saws). What the ISIS barbarians are doing would make the primitive savages of Arabia, referred to as jahils in the noble Qur’an, look benign by comparison.
Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and how has he been successful when other figures have fallen by the way side, especially in Syria where his group has had its most ruthless phase?
The question, however, is: Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and how has he been successful when other figures have fallen by the way side, especially in Syria where his group has had its most ruthless phase? While the Western corporate media claims that Washington is “worried” about the rise of another radical “Sunni” leader, facts seem to point in a different direction. How deeply is the US involved in the rise of the ISIS and promotion of al-Baghdadi are not rhetorical questions or conspiracy theories. Rand Paul, the Republican Senator from Kentucky told NBC’s Meet the Press program on June 22 that Washington was financing the ISIS as well as other terrorist groups linked with it. The White House has not refuted Paul’s allegations.
American officials have admitted that al-Baghdadi was captured in 2005 and was held at Camp Bucca until 2009. The new concentration camp was opened after Abu Ghraib gained notoriety for American sadism where Iraqi men and women—yes women as well as young girls—were not only held but brutally tortured and sexually abused. Photos of completely naked prisoners—men, women and girls—being tortured, raped and sodomised by American soldiers were widely circulated on the Internet. Most of the gruesome photos were held back from the public. Donald Rumsfeld who was George Bush’s Defence Secretary dismissed these crimes with the flourish, “stuff happens.”
In the face of mounting evidence, other US officials still claimed America “does not torture”. Facts, however, are stubborn things. So what did the US do: stop torturing and raping Iraqi men and women? Perish the thought; the focus was changed from Abu Ghraib to Camp Bucca. Many Americans and indeed the rest of the world had never heard of this concentration camp until Ibrahim al-Badri/al-Baghdadi’s eruption on the scene. The curious thing is that al-Baghdadi’s murderous operations in Syria had the full backing of the US and its Western and Arabian allies. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Turkey have been deeply involved in promoting these mass murderers/torturers and rapists. Money, guns and advisors are readily provided.
So why was al-Baghdadi who had served in the Iraqi army, released by the Americans in 2009 and what kind of a deal was struck to facilitate his release? It is not inconceivable—indeed it is more than likely—that al-Baghdadi was released with the specific aim of promoting the most virulent terrorist mastermind in order to advance US-zionist agenda in the region. After all, Osama bin Laden was also the product of American involvement in Afghanistan. The Americans not only helped him during the Afghan war against the Soviets but also trained and nurtured him and his Arabian followers.
Regrettably, some Muslims have a very simplistic view of Osama bin Laden’s role; they consider him a Muslim hero. They are impressed by his undoubted sacrifice of comfortable existence in Saudi Arabia by going to Afghanistan to join the struggle against Soviet occupation troops. This cannot be denied or begrudged but his close association with the Americans raises questions. True, Osama probably thought he was using the Americans but who was using whom is now a moot point.
Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan’s Tehrik-e Insaf party (PTI) speaking at a forum organized by the American Strategy for the New American Foundation in Washington revealed on June 17, 2009 that Osama was brought to Pakistan in a CIA plane in December 1989. Imran Khan further said that he was invited by the Americans to meet Osama at the US embassy in Islamabad. No one challenged his assertion at the Washington gathering about CIA’s close links with Osama. Even US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton admitted during the House of Representatives hearings on April 23, 2009 that people against whom the US was currently waging war were supported by Washington 20 years ago.
Given this background, it cannot be ruled out that al-Baghdadi is also the product of American policy even if there has been no formal agreement between them. Further, he has other powerful backers, especially Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime, fearing for its own survival, has historically played the sectarian card to deflect attention. Having largely failed in Syria where Bashar al-Asad has almost defeated the US-Saudi-zionist sponsored conspiracy against his rule, the Saudis have unleashed the ISIS thugs, led by al-Baghdadi in Iraq. This scenario was quite predictable since the Saudis were unlikely to give up so easily. Besides, the real struggle is for supremacy in the region. The Saudi regime and the equally unrepresentative monarchies in the region are terrified of the rise of Islamic Iran that has the backing of its people. Besides, Iran’s influence is rising throughout the region and beyond. The Saudis are loathed to concede any ground, hence their hysterical anti-Shi‘i campaign and by unleashing ISIS-type terrorists.
This is the only game they know. The real tragedy of the Ummah is how easily some Muslims succumb to such poisonous propaganda. Of course, the Saudis spend large sums of money buying people’s loyalty. This is especially true of so-called Imams of mosques in different countries that are prepared to sell their souls for a few dollars and readily indulge in spreading the Saudis’ poisonous propaganda to divide Muslims. Unfortunately, such propaganda has found fertile ground in places like Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan where there are competing constituencies for power and influence.
In Iraq, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can also not be absolved of responsibility. Instead of being the prime minister of all Iraqis, he has indulged in sectarian politics and rewarded his cronies providing an opportunity for the hate-filled ideology of the Saudis to take root. The disgruntled Ba‘thists have made common cause with the ISIS takfiris against the central government. While this marriage of convenience will not last long, each setback to the unity of Muslims is a blow to the Ummah.
Al-Baghdadi’s ruthlessness and guile have attracted disgruntled Muslim youth from all over the world. His utter disregard for the sanctity of human life has eclipsed rival terrorist groups attracting more recruits to his cause. He has proved absolutely ruthless in eliminating opponents and has shown no hesitation in turning against former allies to further his ambition of creating a supposedly “Islamic” state—the much sought after Khilafah. This is a romantic notion that many opportunists have bandied about without understanding what is required to establish one. Mass murder, public beheadings, killing prisoners of war or robbing people’s homes are certainly not acts that can be perpetrated to establish the Khilafah. It is a complete perversion of Islam and its pristine teachings.
The ISIS chief stepped into the shoes of Musab al-Zarqawi who was killed by the Americans in 2006. While al-Zarqawi was from Jordan and therefore considered an outsider in Iraq, al-Baghdadi is a local boy and has been much more readily accepted by the disgruntled “Sunnis” in the country. Interestingly, he did not establish his credentials in Iraq but in Syria where he sent an aide, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, to set up Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front which quickly rose to prominence with a series of deadly car bombings and other terrorist acts.
There is evidence that al-Baghdadi had pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Following the latter’s killing in May 2011, there was an uneasy relationship with Ayman al-Zawahiri but al-Baghdadi’s ambitions led to a break with the Egyptian doctor and Osama’s successor. Insiders say that al-Baghdadi did not pledge allegiance to al-Zawahiri, asserting his independence from the new al-Qaeda chief following Osama’s killing.
Besides, al-Zawahiri is somewhere in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan and therefore, far away from real action in the Levant while al-Baghdadi is at the forefront. With Nusra’s ruthless exploits in Syria—car bombings, public slitting of throats of perceived opponents or even ordinary people that are not part of the group—Golani split from al-Baghdadi. This led to fierce fighting between the two resulting in much blood letting. When al-Zawahiri prohibited such infighting because it alienated ordinary Muslims, al-Baghdadi refused to abide by the “edict” and declared himself independent. This signalled the end of al-Zawahiri’s leadership and al-Qaeda’s claim to being the sole leader of the terrorist front. More ruthless operatives had emerged on the scene.
Al-Baghdadi is known to be extremely secretive and does not trust anyone apart from a very select inner core group of people. He shuns publicity, unlike the late Osama bin Laden who thrived on it. He has made his supporters believe that he would establish an Islamic state and avenge the humiliation that Muslims have suffered at the hands of the enemies of Islam. This has certainly attracted admirers to his cause, many of them misguided youth alienated from society including many in the West. It is also revealing that while Western governments talk about fighting terrorism, they have turned a blind eye to the flow of these alienated youth from their own societies to go and fight in Syria and Iraq.
Nor have Western governments uttered a word against the financiers of terrorism: the Saudi, Qatari and other tribal regimes in the Middle East. They are all partners in crime and their twin aims are the protection of the illegal Zionist regime and state in Occupied Palestine and the undermining of Islamic Iran because it has stood up to the imperialist-zionist thugs. This fiendish project will ultimately fail but in the process a very large number of innocent Muslims will pay a terrible price in life and blood.
The real tragedy of the Ummah is the faulty and simplistic understanding that many Muslims have about issues affecting them.