Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, to whom Islamic terrorist groups around the world had sworn fealty to, is dead after US forces raided his family compound. In a seeming echo of Osama bin Laden’s death, Baghdadi exposed family members to risk by taking shelter among them, while ‘hiding out’ in an unlikely place, but likely, once again, under the protection of Sunni Islamist allies.
Idlib was really the last Sunni Islamist stronghold in Syria. Considering Turkey’s influence in Idlib and the longstanding rumors about ties between ISIS and Turkey, it’s not implausible that Erdogan’s Islamic terror state had been shielding the ISIS leader. If so, that would be a close repetition of the relationship between Pakistan and Osama bin Laden. It’s also less than impossible that recent US actions in Syria were part of a trade with Erdogan giving up the Caliph’s location, before the Russians and Syrians were likely to nail him anyway with their offensive, in exchange for getting the Kurds. But all that is just speculation.
The Caliph of ISIS is dead and that’s significant. He appears to have blown himself up with a suicide vest, but unlike Obama, President Trump was unlikely to have wanted him alive anyway. Obama had wanted to capture Osama and put him through a civilian trial.
No such agenda here.
Assuming al-Baghdadi is indeed dead, and if ISIS confirms as much (if they don’t, their allies will probably assume that he isn’t), this will affect the various pledges that Islamic terrorist groups around the world have made to ISIS. And the status of the Islamic State.
While Osama bin Laden was an important symbolic figure, the leader of ISIS had actually declared himself the Caliph. That significantly raised the theological stakes and convinced many Muslims that a new age was here. His death will bury that age for some terrorists.
The Islamic State was supposed to usher in a new era in history. That era is now dead. The endless war against the Jihad however goes on.