It has been almost a year since June 29, 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) declared the formation of a new caliphate and dropped the second half of its name, rebranding itself as simply the Islamic State. It has survived nine months since Barack Obama vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it.
It has survived, and has continued to attract Muslims from all over the world, even after virtually every major world leader and Islamic group has condemned it as un-Islamic. And it shows no sign of going anywhere anytime soon.
All this is well-known. What is less known is that the plan for the restoration of the caliphate was sketched out ten years ago by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and has been followed out more or less exactly by the Islamic State.
The claim to reconstitute the caliphate is the key to the Islamic State’s success — the importance of this cannot be overstated.
The revival of the caliphate is, in the eyes of those who support it and have longed for it all these years, a return to the form of government of the glory days of Islam. From Muhammad’s death through Islam’s Golden Age up until the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the end of World War I, Muslims were ruled by a caliph, the successor to Muhammad as spiritual and political leader of Islam.
And the declaration of the caliphate, and its placement in and around Syria and Iraq, was not an invention of the Islamic State, or incidental to what it perceived as its mission from the beginning. In reality, a new caliphate had long been an aspiration dear to the hearts of many jihadi terrorists, including al-Qaeda.
Bin Laden’s lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote to the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (which ultimately became the Islamic State), Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on July 9, 2005:
It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world, specifically in the Levant, Egypt, and the neighboring states of the Peninsula and Iraq; however, the center would be in the Levant and Egypt.
Zawahiri also heaped praise on Zarqawi for helping bring that state — the revived caliphate — closer to reality:
If our intended goal in this age is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet and if we expect to establish its state predominantly — according to how it appears to us — in the heart of the Islamic world, then your efforts and sacrifices — God permitting — are a large step directly towards that goal.
Zawahiri then offered Zarqawi his “humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals,” the first of which was to “expel the Americans from Iraq.” The second stage, wrote Zarqawi, would be exactly what the Islamic State ended up doing nine years later:
The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate — over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.
Following the establishment of this state, the third stage would be to “extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq,” followed by the fourth stage, which “may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.”
Zawahiri wrote in an extremely deferential manner to Zarqawi, repeatedly assuring the Iraq commander that his analysis was not “infallible.” Nonetheless, he did not hesitate to give him direction, emphasizing that:
Gee, I wonder why it hasn’t worked, until now?
Oh, that’s right… we used to have adults in charge.
Only a man who can trace his family back to Muhammad can wear the black turban. Such a person is called a Sayyid. For example, the Supreme Leader of Iran. Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Hezbollah’s Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah all of whom are Shiite Muslims.
Look at photos of Ayman al-Zawahiri. He wears a white turban.
ISIS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi wears a black turban indicating he comes from Mo’s line and therefore can be Caliph.
Then there’s Muqtada al-Sadr, of Baghdad, who is positioning himself to become the Caliph, if ISIS wants him.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who aspires to lead the Caliphate over the Islamic State wears no turban at all.
Abubakar Shekau, also known by the alias Darul Akeem wa Zamunda Tawheed, or Darul Tawheed , the current leader of Boko Haram, aligned with ISIS and desirous of a Caliphate wears a colored turban, indicating he, too, can never become Caliph.
So, ISIS, and their affiliates are equipped to place a popularly recognized Caliph on the Islamic throne.
But, the Iranians and al Qaeda also have leaders who could.
Is ISIS doing the dirty work for al Qaeda? for Iran? for al Sadr?
Is ISIS reign of terror so overwhelming that they can impose a caliph on all of their area of control?
The dog fight that would occur should ISIS ever get to the point of trying to place a caliph over all Muslims would be long and bloody.
It isn’t al Qaeda that’s behind the military success of ISIS. It’s the former Iraqi military elite that were driven out after we toppled the Saddam Hussein regime. We drove them out, gave them a cause, and back-filled their former positions with rank amateurs.
The Caliphate truly is our own creation. Without the removal of Hussein, it was just a crazy idea.
@Greg: If you want to blame someone (as in a nation) for today’s caliphate, look no further than Turkey.
The Baathists would not have been able to ”melt into the civilian population” only to emerge later as ISIS had it not been for Turkey’s last minute refusal to allow our pincer movements into Iraq from both south AND north at the exact same time.
Turkey waited until we had placed a gigantic set of land forces in and near Turkey waiting to go in at the exact time out southern invasion started.
Then Turkey reneged its permission for troopps to go over land through their territory.
What followed happened to be the largest sea movement of land troops EVER in military history.
But there’s a good reason it made history.
No other land forces had ever been so respectful of a last minute refusal like we were.
We could have nipped ISIS in the bud IF we had been willing to lose Turkey as an ”ally.”
Instead we tried to stay on Turkey’s good side so we moved the troops by ship and led them in behind our southern invading forces (where they were both redundant and late.)
The Baathists rewarded Turkey over the years as they (the Baathists) morphed into ISIS.
Turkey’s leader was so confident he would be the caliph of the caliphate that he’s built a huge palace guarded with medieval-costumed loyalists.
ISIS has been spotted walking around turkey freely, even using the buses while the civilians just smile.
Turkey has been complicit in the rise of ISIS.
The USA has not been.
ISIS’s use of a baby for target practice this week is another new low.
But CNN covered up Saddam and his sons’ use of zoo animals as executioners of domestic enemies.
CNN, however bad they were to get access, are not the USA.
Obama gets all upset over a thug’s death be it Trayvon or Michael Brown, but he can sit quiet while a baby is used as target practice for ISIS bombers.
He can sit quiet as children as young as 9 are raped and sold as sex slaves.
He might be complicit, the USA is not.
@Greg: Then Obama gave them their opportunity by doing his illegal immigration act over there; swing the door wide open and invite, “Yall come on in and make yourselves at home!!”