Unlike the earlier occasions when it was reported that the leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed, this time the story seems to be confirmed. Only Russia had told initially that it had no reliable information, when US President Donald Trump announced that in an operation by the US Special Forces in North Western Syria, al-Baghdadi died by detonating his suicide kit inside a tunnel.
The raid was hailed or at least endorsed by all governments in the world and all peace loving people, at least among themselves, signifying the degree of acceptability of the struggle by the dreaded outfit ISIS commonly called IS to form a Caliphate of Islam of its brand, first in Iraq and Syria with a view to expand its territory to other countries later. Mohammed Javad Azari-Jahromi, the information Minister of Shiite Iran, the worst adversary of the US in the Middle East, seemingly approving the killing of the dreaded Sunni terrorist leader said in a tweet that the killing of al-Baghdadi was “not a big deal. You just killed your creature”. Iran has often accused the US of creating ISIL.
The statement made by President Trump while announcing the death of Baghdadi and the reactions by some of the US politicians and officials on the raid reminds us the Sri Lankan politicians. Trump said that the terror leader was “crying” and “whimpering” shortly before his death inside a tunnel. However, The CNN quoted US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, as saying, “I don’t know what the source of that.”
Like some of Sri Lankan politicians who find holes in every act of the government some US politicians too had criticized Trump for not providing prior information about the raid. Democratic Senator Chris Coons had told CNN “There is a long tradition of the President notifying leaders in Congress of both parties when there’s a sensitive operation underway.” However, official had defended their decision not to notify even the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the raid saying that in the past such information had been leaked to outsiders.
Does the death of al-Baghdadi mean the end of the ISIS or terrorism in the Middle East? Going by the history one cannot be assured of such an optimistic situation, especially owing to the political meddling by the Western powers in the region, apart from the ideologies spread by the extremist groups after the eighties when religious extremism embedded into the politics in the Middle East. Another factor is the proliferation of culture of weapons as a means of conflict resolution in the region after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
It was the US that helped blending religion with politics in the region when they sponsored the emergence of the Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation of the country. The groups were encouraged to fight against the number one adversary of the US during the Cold War in the name of religion. The trend spread throughout the region later even turning against the Western powers as well. Thus the Al-Qaeda of Osama Bin Laden and the ISIS emerged, reportedly with the original backing of the Western powers. It was against that background that the Iranian Information Minister said “You just killed your creature”.
Hence, so long as the Western interests persist in the region one has to expect various groups being pitted against each other, sometimes using the religious sectarian and tribal differences. Also despite leaders of terrorist groups having been decimated, thousands of trained fighters of those groups along with their deadly ideologies and arsenal could be used by others. Hence, former U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk said on MSNBC after the death of al-Baghdadi “ISIS will remain; they have tens of thousands of fighters on the ground in Iraq and Syria.”
On the other hand, arms industry would not thrive unless there are conflicts in the world, as the Head of local Catholic Church, Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. It must be recalled that the United States sealed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia in May 2017 which was worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that would take effect immediately, When Saudi Arabia along with another three neighbouring countries imposed economic sanctions against Qatar in June in the same year saying the latter sponsored terrorism, Trump administration hailed the decision. Yet the US signed a $ 12bn deal to supply dozens of F-15 jets to Qatar in the same month. This is the world we live in!