The death of ISIS spokesman Adnani may only hasten the movement’s transformation into an even greater underground threat, says Abdelbari Atwan
Abdelbari Atwan – www.raialyoum.com
(translated by Mideast International Ltd)
Until the dispute over who, in particular, is responsible for the assassination of Abu-Mohammad al-‘Adnani – ISIS’ official spokesman and the first to announce the establishment of the Caliphate State in Iraq and Syria in June 2014 – we can unhesitatingly assert that his death represents a major and harsh blow to that organization.
This is because of the man’s qualifications in both the military and media fields, and his long experience in ‘jihadi action’ that stretched for more than twenty years. The competition between the U.S. Defense Department and its Russian counterpart over the ‘honor’ of assassinating al-‘Adnani confirms the man’s importance, standing and threat. It also confirms the coordination between the two superpowers at the highest intelligence and military level in eradicating this organization and targeting its leaders in succession.
No matter who is responsible and may have been behind it, ‘Adnani’s assassination was due to a security breach in ISIS ranks. This is hardly surprising if we consider the number of international and regional intelligence agencies and their vast capabilities that may be behind this breach, beginning with U.S. intelligence and the CIA, moving on to the British MI-6, and ending with Russian military intelligence, not to mention a long list of regional intelligence agencies whether Iranian, Jordanian, Syrian, Iraqi or others.
‘Adnani’s demise represents a major loss for ISIS because he was much more than a mere spokesman. He was also the military brain who led ISIS’ military wing after the killing of Abu-‘Omar ash-Shishani in July . He joined al-Qa’ida before the year 2000, and he pledged allegiance to Abu-Mus’ab az-Zarqawi as the head of its branch in Iraq. He fought the U.S. occupation fiercely, and was one of the first Syrian fighters to join the ranks of the Iraqi resistance.
What many do not know and what we in raialyoum can now reveal based on reliable sources, is that the late ‘Adnani was detained by U.S. forces between 2005 and 2010. He was also one of a small group with a handful of members that sowed the first seeds of ISIS in Camp Bucca Prison near Basra. He was also a close friend of his leader, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, and lived with him in a single cell, together with other detained officers from the Iraqi Republican Guard and Army that were disbanded by Paul Bremer, the first U.S. military ruler of Iraq. And ‘Adnani was chosen as a member of the Shura Council that was formed after the assassination of Abu-Mus’ab az-Zarqawi, from which ISIS later emerged.
It would be no exaggeration to say that the two superpowers, and especially the U.S., will be relieved by the assassination of ‘Adnani, who was ISIS’s sole known face on TV and videotapes. This is because ‘Adnani was the architect of the recent attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando and the coastal city of Nice, and because he had powerful recruitment and mobilization capabilities among Muslim communities in the West.
The last audio message from ‘Adnani appeared in May, when he urged ISIS supporters and sleeper cells to carry out bloody attacks against the Americans and French, using all available methods and means: Bullets, bombs, knives, vehicular attacks, fire, even spitting, which in his view is the least that can be done. And some ‘lone wolves’ responded to his call, in particular the person who carried out the terrorist attack in Nice who rented a huge truck and began running down everyone on the coastal promenade.
In a move that departed from its usual custom, ISIS hastened to announce ‘Adnani’s death on the very same day he was killed. Via its official Amaq News Agency it confirmed that he was supervising the fighting in al-Bab in Aleppo Province when he was assassinated. It is also worth noting that the statement referred to him as ‘al-Hassani al-Qureishi,’ which suggests he was a member of al-Ashraf [the nobility of the Prophet Mohammad’s Quraysh tribe] like ISIS leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi. That came as news to us at least; and it also confirms that his death is certain to be avenged.
The truth that has become difficult to ignore is that ISIS is no longer just losing important areas and cities such as Manbij, Jarablus, Fallujah, Tadmur [Palmyra] and Ramadi; it is also losing many of its first- and second-rank leaders in the war of attrition that is being waged against it at every level. This has led some experts to speculate that the victim of the next blow will be ISIS leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi himself.
Like all similar organizations, ISIS is certain to find a replacement for the late ‘Adnani. This is because it is not a ‘one-man show.’ Its leadership is primarily collective, and it stays clear of the limelight. But replacing ‘Adnani with someone of the same caliber will not be easy given his influence and prestige in ISIS ranks and among its supporters, and in light of his skills and numerous oratorical and managerial capabilities.
ISIS has undoubtedly suffered a heavy blow with the loss of its spokesman, at a time when blows against it are growing, its geographical base is shrinking, and it is losing thousands of its men. But ISIS will not simply disappear or totally collapse. It has the option of going underground and moving on to Plan-B – namely, to intensify its terrorist attacks and expand into other parts of the Islamic world, abandoning Plan-A, which called for direct territorial control. Its threat would be much greater if it pursues this course.
Celebrating the end of this most dangerous terrorist organization may be premature, even if its leader al-Baghdadi himself is assassinated because this is an ideological organization before being a political or a military one. And the bloody anarchy and military interventions underway in the region provide it and its ilk with the embracing ‘sectarian’ environment they require. But that is a different issue.