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Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has disappeared, but ISIS is not dead yet

ISIS established a horrific standard of brutality, restored slavery, practiced genocide against the Yazidis, mass-executed and beheaded – all in front of the camera – and destroyed religious sites and antiquities.

The United States, with the help of its coalition allies, Iraq and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has destroyed the Islamic State and killed Baghdadi.

ISIS is far from finished yet. It operates in West Africa, Libya, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan and the Philippines and has followers in Europe and elsewhere. There is no reason to conclude that the threat posed by ISIS is remote, in addition to up to 18,000 remaining free-run fighters between Syria and Iraq, according to a report by the August Inspector General of the Pentagon

Sympathizers disappeared with the death of Bagdadi. He may have excelled in his evil mission, but he was at the head of a power pyramid, and others will come forward to claim his mantle of leadership and perhaps learn from his death.

Unlike Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who led al-Qaida in Iraq, Baghdadi remained inconspicuous.
He appeared only once in public when, in July 201
4, he delivered a sermon in the Mosul Grand Mosque.
al-Furqan Media Wing and Social Media Accounts published sporadic audio messages allegedly from the ISIS leader. Earlier this year another video surfaced, in which Baghdadi apparently sat in casual clothes on the floor. He declared the "Battle for Baghouz is over."
Among the dozens of ISIS fighters and their wives and children interviewed by CNN at the Battle of Baghouz, the group's last stronghold in eastern Syria, few mentioned the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The Diehards, who had remained faithful to the ideology of the IS, emphasized their attachment to the Islamic State of ad-Dawla al-Islamiya and not to its leader.

Baghdadi never had a personality cult. He emphasized that he was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad in order to burn his Islamic creeds, but never rose to the level of Al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden, who was known worldwide.

Bin Laden was first introduced during the 1980s when he led the so-called Arab Mujahideen in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In the 1990s, he gave interviews with Western media, including CNN, from Sudan and then Afghanistan, and also made statements and published videos after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

As the Khalifa or Caliph of the Islamic State, Baghdadi did not give anyone an interview. But in the end, the Americans found him and killed him, according to US President Donald Trump "whimpering, screaming and crying".

ISIS will not disappear. It could turn into something else, just as Osama bin Laden's Arab Mujahideen turned into al-Qaida, which led to Al Qaeda in Iraq, which turned into ISIS. The Middle East remains fertile. Authoritarian regimes have developed a predictable template here. They crush the political center by silencing it, detaining anyone who calls for change, kills or tortures opponents by co-opting others and exiling the rest.

What remains of the real opposition is dominated by the most extreme and violent elements. Their ranks are often replenished by those who are able to quit the prisons and torture chambers in places like Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, and Riyadh.

As a result, the population faces a difficult choice: subdued, silent acceptance of the authoritarian state and its inherent corruption or demarcation against the extremists. After all, the former usually happens.

The West, and especially the United States, is still in favor of democracy and human rights, but it too has fallen into the same trap for decades. As obnoxious as some of their allies in the Middle East may be, they are preferable to extremists.

And as long as the dictator's submission is not broken, new Abu Bakr al-Baghdadis will emerge.

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