Death of Al-Baghdadi successor indicates US re-involvement in Syrian conflict via the gate of fighting terrorism
Will ISIS be eliminated by the death of its leaders?
The US-led “International Coalition” forces carried out a security operation, that is described by President Biden as a “counterterrorism operation”, in north-west Syria in Idlib province nearby the Turkish border that led to the death of “Al-Baghdadi successor,” Abdullah Al-Qurayshi, nicknamed “Abu Ibrahim.”
The operation has been globally welcomed although Al-Qurayshi was not an influential member in ISIS operations in east and west Euphrates.
Analysts see that the repercussions of Al-Qurayshi’s death would not be big when compared to the death of his predecessor, who was more famous and more influential ISIS leader at the operational level. However, Abu Ibrahim was known for his cruel behaviour and his involvement in capturing and murdering Yezidis women and he has orchestrated the operation of planting the explosives.
North-west Syria has been a gate and stronghold for several groups which are internationally-labelled as a terrorist organisations. However, the funding resources and logistics of such groups, that are active in an area adjacent to the Turkish borders have raised many questions.
Still, the fate of thousands of ISIS families and affiliates whom have been kept in camps like Al-Hawl remains an important issue after the death of Al-Qurayshi. Several local and international bodies consider the children of ISIS families as “ticking bombs”, because those kids have been growing up and saturated with ISIS extremist ideologies with no one saving them from the plague of recruitment and involvement in ISIS ranks.
Political opposition activist, Jamal Al -Shoufy, in an interview with SOHR, said “Since August 2013, ISIS presence was obviously apparent in Al-Raqqa. Although the organisation’s fighters enjoy a conservative doctrine, their leaders have served as proxies for some parties, including Iran and the US and worked as tools to achieve those sides’ narrow interests in Syria.”
The political activist considers ISIS as an “active collaborator” with several intelligence services and has become, since 2013, a pretext for International Coalition’s intervention in Syria.
Al -Shoufy sees that the US operation of getting rid of Al-Qurayshi has mirrored the willing of the US administration or the Pentagon to re-involve in the Syrian issue, citing “fighting terrorism” as an excuse.
“Growing incentives, including the recent developments in Ukraine that reached the level of confrontation, the Syrian crisis, extending the Russian gas to Europe and the unprecedented international presence of Russia have encouraged the US re-emergence in Syria after a period of coldness and indifference towards the Syrian crisis,” Al-Shoufy said.
The politician explains that Russia is a common factor among those incentives, adding that the US and the UK could not alone lead the rest of the European countries to combat with or terminate the Russian expansion.
Al-Shoufy reiterates that Germany and France have ”mediated” to settle the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, noting that Europe does not want to involve in deterrence war, like earlier wars, and wants to promote calm and reach a political settlement. However, the US and the UK consider the Russian expansion in Ukraine will pose a threat to the region, which spurred the US to re-involve in the Middle East via the gate of Syria.
Mr. Jamal adds that the ISIS attack on Ghuwayran prison and the death of ISIS leader in this time indicate to the US policy of restoring its foot in Syria in parallel with handling the Ukrainian issue to curb Russian expansion.
On the other hand, brigadier Ahmed Rahal, highlights the jihadist organisations consider themselves as having “the keys of the heaven’s doors” and they do not care about the death of the leaders. Rahal says, “after the death of Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahri continued Al-Qaeda’s operations, while Al-Qurayshi took the lead of ISIS after the death of Al-Baghdadi. Leaders of such organizations can be ‘easily’ replaced.”
The military expert points out that ISIS suffers from shortage of human resources and lack of permanent headquarters, adding that the organisation nowadays has adopted a new technique which is more akin to guerrilla attacks, with no central command. But, ISIS power is growing in some African areas, according to Rahal.
The Syrian brigadier stresses that the death of “Abu Ibrahim” would not restrain the activities of the organisation and will rather give ISIS a momentum for accelerating revenge attacks.
Commenting on the identity of Al-Qurayshi’s possible successor, Rahal says, “definitely ISIS’s Shura Council will elect a new leader, but his name will not be announced to avoid prosecution.”
Rahal refers to another dangerous issue that has never been addressed, and it is manifested itself in the collaboration of Al-Julani with US intelligence and reconnaissance services. He points out that the US drop and the flying of helicopters at night has been evidence that Al-Julani’s faction was notified of the timing of the arrival of the US forces.
In response to the cooperation and coordination between Al-Julani and the US intelligence and reconnaissance services, Rahal expects that a hidden war will erupt, including exchange of arrests between ISIS and Al-Qaeda on one hand, and Al-Julani’s faction on the other in the upcoming days in retaliation for the death of ISIS latest leader.
Rahal adds that the death of Al-Qurayshi has revealed that Al-Julani and his faction have leaked intelligence information about Al-Qurayshi hideout, expecting that Al-Qaeda group will conduct revenge operations through assassinating leading members of Al-Julani’s faction.
Meanwhile, Majed Al-Qaysi, a strategic expert, sees that the death of Al-Qurayshi will psychologically impact ISIS members, amid the organisation attempts to assure its members about their privileges and prestige via conducting successful qualitative operations.
Al-Qaysi expects ISIS members will differ on choosing new leader from outside Iraq and changing the Caliphate identity to other Arab countries, unlike Al-Baghdadi and Al-Qurayshi who were Iraqis.
On the other hand, Ibrahim Shikho, the official spokesperson of Human Rights Organisation in Afrin describes the death of Al-Baghdadi’s successor as a “fatal blow” that will impact the organisation and all countries supporting and funding terrorism.
Shikho points out that uprooting ISIS and its affiliates requires coordinated international efforts and cooperation among anti-terrorism sides to drain the sources of funding and boosting terrorism that feed the organisation and prolong its age.
Shikho calls on the Coalition countries and all concerned parties to aid and support Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) by repatriating ISIS foreign families living in Al-Hawl camp in north-east Syria and to try the perpetrators of heinous crimes committed in Syria and Iraq under the umbrella of internationally-supervised courts.