Kill the Caliph! The Islamic State’s evolution from an integrated to a fragmented group

In 2016, the two scholars Haroro Ingram and Craig Whiteside argued in an article on War on the Rocksthat we should not try too hard to kill the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In fact, they said, it would be better to leave him alive. Their view was that it would be wiser to leave al-Baghdadi as the caliph in charge of the demise of the group’s territorial caliphate, essentially positioning him as the authority in charge of its collapse and hopefully leaving him as an unpopular figure with little sway among group members and little ability to lead its resurgence. Well aware that this is an entirely theoretical discussion—if we obtain knowledge of al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts there is no chance that he will not be killed—I agreed with the authors at the time the article was published. But as the context has now changed I am increasingly convinced

Read More »

Why Is ISIS So Bad?

Why is ISIS bad? It’s a basic question that I encounter a lot, along with the related question, why is ISIS so evil? Good and evil are value judgments, so everyone will have a different opinion about what deserves the labels. But we can at least say that ISIS (aka the Islamic State) is out of step with mainstream morality in most Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Still, that begs the question: why is ISIS so bad relative to mainstream culture? The answer lies in ISIS’s needs and desires. ISIS wants to revive parts of Islamic scripture written in the early Middle Ages. Perhaps those parts reflected mainstream morality then but they’re out of step with today’s mainstream. ISIS wants to terrify the local population to subdue it. As you’ll see in my book, ISIS could govern and fight differently but it doesn’t think the alternatives are effective. ISIS needs to

Read More »

Lebanon in the Mouth of the Dragon: Why Aren’t the Salafis Fighting?

Ekhlaas member al-Sarim al-Shami (“the Stern Shami”) asks: Why aren’t the armed Salafi groups entering the fight in Lebanon? He is particularly critical of their religious leaders, who are sitting on their hands. Sarim acknowledges, as I wrote a few days ago, that some Ekhlaas members endorse this tactical neutrality in order to prepare for a larger battle against the state. But he retorts that there is no better time than now to begin “the holy war” (al-harb al-muqadassa) against the infidel foreign powers that are trying to shape the destiny of Lebanon. These powers know that conflict in Lebanon will only benefit “the sons of al-Qaeda,” so they are pushing their proxies to negotiate. They realize that if there is not a peaceful settlement, Lebanon “will become a second Iraq and (turn into) the Islamic State of Lebanon.” Another Ekhlaas member, abu_3ubayda, disagrees. Armed Salafi groups should not enter

Read More »
Latest Jihadica