As usual, Al-Bahgdadi proves that, like all other cult leaders, he is dangerously delusional but far from being an imbecile. Now that he has been “appointed” as the Caliph, he has become a public figure par excellence, and we should expect regular such addresses from him at least to commemorate important religious occasions and address critical developments. In time, that will add to his appeal in the world Jihadi circles, and his impact could rival that of Bin Ladin, if not surpass it. Al-Zawahiri and other current Jihadi leaders on the scene do not have his charisma, his stature, or the kind of resources that he has under his disposal.
A massive air campaign can demolish his “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, but that will lay to waste entire cities, and in the process, killing thousands of innocent civilians and dislocating millions. But targeted attacks without active network of informants on the ground are unlikely to fail. Moreover, should Assad, Maliki, Hezbollah and Iran emerge as the ultimate beneficiaries of any anti-ISIS, peace will not be the eventual outcome. The Jihadi mantle will be taking on more ferociously in other parts of the world, and Europe and the U.S. might emerge as likely scenes of future operations.
In other words, an American strategy that focuses mostly on ISIS without targeting other lightning-rods of instability in the region, AKA Assad, Maliki, Nasrallah and Muqtada Al-Sadr and some of their high ranking acolytes, or trying to address the root causes of the current mayhem, including curbing Iranian regional ambitions and allaying the fears of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among other regional actors, will end up facilitating what the West fears most: the resurgence of Jihadi networks whose focus is primarily on Western targets.
Some might see in such development the kind of poetic justice that best suits the moral lethargy and downright hypocrisy which Western leaders showed vis-à-vis the mass slaughter in Syria. Indeed, the situation was somebody else’s civil war, and quite containable. Such Obamaisms, I am sure, will one day feature alongside such prophetic statements as Neville Chamberlain “peace in our time” address.