bu Bakr al-Baghdadi is finally dead and this time it may be believed – meeting with a brutal death as was deserved by him. His fanatic, fundamentalist causes were upheld with rare zeal by his followers. Hundreds of thousands were killed at the altar of Baghdadi’s freak religious frenzy before death came calling on him this past week in a similar manner. The elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – born in a hamlet near Baghdad in 1971 and hence the name – ends a chapter on a season of bloodletting across five continents, with its epicenter placed in the Middle East and West Asia regions.
It was a few months ago that the US-led offensives helped in dismantling the last outpost of Baghdadi’s self-styled IS caliphate seeking to turn the whole world into an Umma – a (Sunni) Moslem protectorate. His ultra-fanatic Islamic fundamentalist pursuits started from the time the US invaded Iraq and exterminated Saddam Hussein 17 years ago. It took concrete shape in 2014 when he declared his caliphate, the Islamic State, and brought within its ambit large parts of Iraq first and Syria next. The civil war against dictator Bashar al Assad provided him with the best opportunity to move out of Iraq and carry on with his ruthless activities in Syria. “God ordered us to fight His enemies,” was how he explained the context of his crusade against the US, the religious minorities in the West Asia region and beyond. A truck-laden bomb in Baghdad in 2016, for instance, killed as high as 324 mostly Shias – a sect which helped the US overthrow Saddam. Baghdadi claimed lineage from Prophet Mohammad.
Al Qaeda which terrorized the world in the first decade of this century was, 10 years later, a pale shadow of its former self. Al Baghdadi called most of the shots in the second decade, though there are other region-specific Islamic outfits like the Pak-Taliban and the Af-Taliban, among others. The revival of all these outfits is not ruled out. Fact, however, is that it is not possible for any terrorist organization to remain in circulation for long years without the support of social and religious sentiments. One remarkable aspect that all these terror organizations lack is an economic plan for creating prosperity amongst those who support them. The intolerance of today’s religion based organizations is gradually proving as their undoing. Similarly, the IS, known locally as Daesh, got itself isolated, the results of which can be observed today.
Baghdadi’s death and the dismantling of IS networks raise new challenges. The world has to keep a vigil on the transformation of Daesh and the form of terror it might want to adapt itself to. A large mass of Islamists, spread over the Middle East and the West Asia regions, are bound to look for fresh opportunities. Although extremist forces cannot be completely destroyed in the Middle East, yet the killing of Osama bin Laden followed by the hunting down of his son seems to have effectively destroyed the Al Qaeda network. Killing Baghdadi may not be the equivalent of exorcising the ghost of terrorism from West Asia. In reply to a tweet of President Trump that ‘Something big has happened’ the Iranaian Information Minister Mohammed Javad Azari-Jahromi has replied, ‘Not a big deal. You just killed your creature’. Mr Javad’s statement is indicative that both Al Baghdadi and Osama bin Laden before him were created by the US itself.
However, the Trump Administration’s top priority from the very beginning had been to contain and weaken the IS in every possible way. Although there has been criticism of Trump in mainline US media about the timing of Baghdadi’s killing just when impeachment proceedings are to commence as well as US elections being barely a year away, there is no denying the fact that the downfall of IS started after the exit of Barack Hussein Obama as PoTUS. We, in India, can very well understand the probable tricks Trump may be deploying to save himself in the near future election as we are also witnessing similar insidious and cunning methods at work here at home.
In recent times, Trump’s Republican Party was left with a season of discontent. Several of Trump’s promises remain unfulfilled. But, security is a matter of top priority for Americans – after the Al Qaeda offensive on the US at the beginning of the present century. By eliminating Baghdadi, Trump has managed to get the right credentials to seek a second term for himself. It is also likely that Baghdadi was on America’s radar for quite some time but Trump delayed his extermination till the US reached the new campaign season.
At the end, Baghdadi blew himself up along with three of his children when a few dogs sent into a tunnel in western Syria by the US Special Forces, zeroed in on him. He died, in President Trump’s words ‘whimpering and crying’ while running into a dead end of the tunnel. While a dramatic end of Al Baghdadi may be cheered by many, yet the spectre of religious fundamentalism hangs like a sword over the head of civilization in general and West Asia in particular. How the US now handles the withdrawal of troops from this part of the world will determine the future of not only the large Kurdish population which fought alongside US forces against the IS, but also whether the withdrawals will help in creating an atmosphere where newer Al Baghdadis may be born.