Is ISIS Dead?
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, October 30
Is the Islamic State terrorist organization nearing its end with the death of its leader and caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Baghdadi had been wanted by American authorities for a long time. The media already reported in the past about his supposed injury, poisoning and even death. The United States government even allocated a $25 million reward for anyone providing information about his whereabouts. We now know, based on evidence collected from interrogations and the field, that Baghdadi was worried for his safety and refrained from using technology at any time. He was traveling with only five people he trusted, and spending millions of dollars on his personal security. One of his companions, arrested by the Iraqi intelligence services two months ago, revealed that the ISIS leader moved between Syria and Iraq, and lived in a secure underground compound that he rarely left. How ironic that the man who spread terrorism around the world, who once controlled the fate of seven million people across Syria’s vast territory (and nearly a third of Iraq), lived in a constant state of fear and hiding. He was a paranoid man pretending to a ruthless leader. Now, following Baghdadi’s death, we must ask ourselves what the future of his organization holds. Will it continue to exist? Indeed, the survival of the organization depends on far more than the fate of its leader. Islamic State has long been a decentralized organization with different branches and offshoots around the world. The hope within its leadership ranks is now to incite as many sympathizers around the world as possible to target and kill Westerners, especially in countries belonging to the anti-ISIS coalition. Spontaneous, lone-wolf attacks would have a tremendous impact on the ISIS propaganda machine. It is therefore likely for such attacks to continue unfolding, even in Baghdadi’s absence. Sadly, the organization will remain alive so long as its funding and well-oiled media machine continue to operate. According to several experts, ISIS is the richest terrorist organization in the world, with a fortune estimated at over a trillion dollars. It continues to bring in millions of dollars a year in revenue, mostly through the sale of oil and gas, as well as from proceeds of taxes and fees imposed by the organizations on areas it occupied in Syria and Iraq. The smuggling of antiques, alongside ransom money received in exchange for hostages, is yet another source of income enjoyed by the group. The biggest fear at the moment is that these sleeper cells, which have been dormant for months, will suddenly waken from their slumbers and carry out attacks. Baghdadi may have been eliminated, but his legacy will certainly endure among his followers. – Sahar Al-Jaeara (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)