Saladin out, Caliph in


The man thought to be ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, addresses Muslim at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul PHOTO/Daily Mail

Donald Rumsfeld, then special US envoy (left), shaking hands with Saddam Hussein during a visit to Iraq in December, 1983. “US intelligence helped Saddam’s Ba`ath Party seize power for the first time in 1963. Evidence suggests that Saddam was on the CIA payroll as early as 1959, when he participated in a failed assassination attempt against Iraqi strongman Abd al-Karim Qassem. In the 1980s, the US and Britain backed Saddam in the war against Iran, giving Iraq arms, money, satellite intelligence, and even chemical & bio-weapon precursors. As many as 90 US military advisors supported Iraqi forces and helped pick targets for Iraqi air and missile attacks.” PHOTO & TEXT/Global Policy Forum

In January 2009, Iraq witnessed an opening of the US embassy. At 4,700,000 sq ft, it is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world; it is almost as big as Vatican City.

United States Embassy in Baghdad. PHOTO/Political Vel Craft

The Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, while thanking the US for turning his country into a democracy, said the following during the Embassy’s opening ceremony:

“[The democratic Iraq] … will serve as a model for other peoples of the eastern world.”

It was a rubbish coming out of the mouth of a puppet. The US is never interested in promoting democracy — neither within nor without the United States.

The US embassies are spying centers, and this one must be the biggest of them all. The United States intelligence agencies are notoriously famous for not getting hold of correct intelligence in a timely fashion. One can now say the same about the US Embassy in Baghdad.

Or perhaps not. It is difficult to believe that the US embassy was unaware of ISIS’s evolution. Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told Patrick Cockburn:

“I spent three years telling them again and again that the war in Syria would inevitably destabilise Iraq, but they paid no attention.”

But France, England and the US had decided that the Syrian opposition’s war against its government should continue. The aim was to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. On the other hand, the excuse to be used to initiate the US/European war against Assad was absolutely baseless and so it was decided not to go to war. One should, however, add that President Barack Obama was not too keen to open up another front — otherwise, when the US president wants a war then no one can stop him.

In Iraq, may be, the United States intentionally let the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to mercilessly crush its opponents and expand its territory. The US aim behind this could be to regain some of the influence it was able to accumulate during its second war against that country and had subsequently lost and to put a new life into its “war on terror” — which will now be waged against the Islamic State.

The US used the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as a pretext to wage a war and to strengthen its power in the Middle East. This, it achieved through destroying Iraq’s infrastructure and its economy. Not to forget the killing of over 150,000 Iraqis through bombing of Iraqi cities, and the subsequent deaths of hundreds of thousands more due to the US economic embargo. Then in 2003, the US again went to war against Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein.

Hussein was a ruthless dictator and there was no political freedom. However, there were certain things which were good: it had one of the best healthcare systems in the Middle East; the women were allowed to work, and to dress in any manner they preferred to; and religion played no role in politics. Hussein saw himself as Saladin. (Salah-ad-Din Ayyub was a twelfth century Muslim leader of Kurdish origin from the present day Iraq and is considered a hero by many Muslims for recapturing Palestine and Jerusalem from the Crusaders, the Christian jehadis.)

The ISIS now calls itself the Islamic State. Also, on 29 June 2014, the ISIS leader was declared the Khalifa or Caliph, that is, the successor to Prophet Muhammad and the leader of the entire world Muslim community. (Muslims make up 23% of the world population, that is, 1.57 billion people.)

Last week, Baghdadi, whose full name is

the slave of Allah, Ibrahim Ibn ‘Awwad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Badrial-Hashimi al-Husayni al-Qurashi by lineage, as-Samurra’i by birth and upbringing, al-Baghdadi by residence and scholarship”

and who is now known as “Caliph Ibrahim”, appeared in a video released by ISIS. This is what he told worshippers:

“Appointing a leader is an obligation on Muslims, and one that has been neglected for decades.”

I am your leader, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, support me, and if you see that I am wrong, advise me [but never think of removing me].”

“I do not promise you, as the kings and rulers promise their followers and congregation, luxury, security and relaxation.” “Instead I promise you what Allah promised his faithful followers.


The Islamic State has under its control some territory of Iraq and Syria and could get more. But its chances of lasting for a longer period of time are not very bright. In an audio released on 2 July 2014, Baghdadi said:

“Those who can immigrate to the Islamic State should immigrate, as immigration to the house of Islam is a duty.”

“Rush O Muslims to your state. It is your state. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims.

“This is my advice to you. If you hold to it you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.”

It’s a shrewd communal idea. Baghdadi and the other around him knows very well that in the place under their control they can’t accommodate all the Muslims. Except hard core militants, no one is going to migrate. This “immigration” idea is similar to the Israeli government’s idea of offering Israeli citizenship to any Jew living in any part of the world under its Law of Return. Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi uttered similar thing, albeit on a small scale, during the month long election, regarding migrants from the neighboring Bangladesh.

“Those,” “who are forced to flee Bangladesh and are sons of mother India, love the nation, worship [the Hindu goddess] Ma Durga [that is, Hindus], speak Bengal … they will be protected and given the same status as other sons of mother India. But illegal Bangladeshi migrants [that is, Muslims}, who are being brought to India in the name of vote-bank politics, will have to go back to Bangladesh.”

But there is also foolishness involved in Baghdadi’s statement. Conquering and owning the world! This shows the mentality of Bush, Hitler, and Stalin but without the world conquering means. The rise of Islamic State has Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report predict the following:

“ISIS has proclaimed its caliphate, and the world will never be the same again. Although the territorial scope of the jihadist political entity will shift with the fortunes of battle, or maybe even vanish, the emergence of the “Islamic State” signals the final collapse of U.S. imperial strategy in the Muslim world – certainly, in the Arab regions of Islam.”

Ford, this author thinks, is little too hasty in predicting the end of US imperial strategy in the Arab regions of Islam. The US, most probably, will get more breathing space in that region, due to the Islamic State, than it has right now.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

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