Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Emir of ISIS recently released a message to his followers and sympathizers as Muslims across the globe celebrated Eid al-Adha. The 55-minute speech is the first public resurfacing of Baghdadi in over eleven months amid speculations of whether he was alive or not. Islamic State-watchers and security analysts have warned that the speech is likely to inspire a resurgence of the ostensibly defeated terrorist organization.
The speech comes amid reports of a resurgence by ISIS in Diyala, Salah ad-Din, and Kirkuk in Iraq, all areas the group lost some years ago; despite the group having lost around 98 percent of the areas it once controlled. Moreover, regardless of the groups losing the majority of its territories, the group still boast of over 30,00 fighters in Iraq and Syria with the number of fighters in other affiliated caliphates and provinces rising.
In addition to the ‘sermon’ to believers, Baghdadi seemed to give a way forward for the group calling upon lone fighters both enabled and inspired by ISIS to attack Western countries and their allies including and not limited to including bombings, car-rammings, and gun and knife attacks. Baghdadi quantified his expectations: One attack in the West equals a thousand in the Middle East as it would more attention to attack the West than back home.
Baghdadi even called upon his followers to exploit the current tensions stirred by the apparent unpredictable foreign policy of the United States Trump’s administration. He said that the tensions especially US-Turkey tensions are only working in favor of the groups and affiliated jihadis. Further, he promised more war on enemies that support the West and especially America saying that they would be destroyed as they were worse than the enemy away. Baghdadi advocated for a tactic that ISIS has turned to, with great success, numerous times: eroding Sunni factions through a combination of targeted killings and recruitment. He promised the same fate would meet the Syrian rebels. He also appealed to the rank-and-file to desert their “treacherous” leaders, who he accused of betrayal after a series of surrender deals with the Syrian regime.
Baghdadi, in his speech, is not a disgruntled caliph sorrowful about his lost caliphate. He seems to have moved on, on a quest to inspire his flock to revisit their utmost successes and to design a course to future glory. His speech distinctly asserted that ISIS recalls the lessons of the past two decades very well. The speech is a call to arms for the fighters across the globe to re-strategize and focus their energies and resources on the road ahead that will ISIS a global caliphate as initially intended. Security specialists have urged governments to be ready to deal with a more vibrant and creative global terror organization following the speech especially in countries with ISIS-affiliates and cells.