- « I’ll see you guys in New York. » — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-declared « Caliph » of ISIS.
- On May 23, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that the « war on terror » was over.
- In a public opinion survey conducted in 2006, in Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco and Indonesia, two third of respondents supported the idea of »uniting all Muslim countries in a new caliphate. »
- On June 8, 2015, President Obama said his administration had « no strategy yet » for dealing with the Islamic State. The Islamic State does have a strategy.
- For now, Western countries are, at best, on the defensive. They dare not even identify the enemy. Rather than cautionary vigilance in the face of danger, today’s Western leaders are choosing willful blindness and appeasement.
Saint Quentin Fallavier, France, June 26. A man, Yassin Salhi, decapitates another man, Hervé Cornara, his boss. He lifts the head he has just severed, takes a selfie, sends the picture to one of his jihadi friends in Syria, and pins the head to a fence, next to the black flag of the Islamic State. He then attempts to trigger a deadly explosion in a factory manufacturing industrial gases, but fails. Had he succeeded, he could have caused a regional disaster akin to the accident that occurred in Seveso, Italy, in 1976.
The same day, another man, Seifeddine Rezgui, goes to a beach in Sousse, Tunisia. He unearths an assault rifle he earlier had buried in the sand. He kills thirty-nine tourists, mainly British, and wounds forty others. He is shot and killed by the police. Before the shooting spree, he had sent a selfie, smiling, rifle in hand, next to the black flag of the Islamic State. He sends the picture to a jihadi friend in Syria, just as Yassin Salhi did.
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber kills twenty-seven people when he blows himself up in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City.
The Islamic State issues a statement claiming responsibility for the three attacks, and stating that June 26 was the first anniversary of the caliphate proclaimed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In one year, the Islamic State has come to control half of Iraq, more than half of Syria, and occupy an area the size of Great Britain. It seized important towns, such as Ramadi and Palmyra. It destroyed monuments that had been preserved since ancient times. It killed thousands of people, mostly Christians, often in the most atrocious manner. It restored slavery. It spread well beyond its original territory and secured promises of allegiance from other Islamic groups: Boko Haram in Nigeria, Jund al-Khilafa in Algeria and in Yemen, and Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Egypt. It is now present in fourteen countries. It releases bloody videos, and awakens religious callings. It welcomes thousands of recruits from Sunni Arab countries, from Europe, and from America. It calls on all « authentic Muslims » to kill the « disbelievers » (Christians and Jews) and « impure infidels » (Shi’ites) in all possible ways, and in all possible places.
On the first day of Ramadan, June 17, one of its leaders, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, renewed the call to kill « infidels ». Yassin Salhi, Seiffeddine Rezgui and the author of the suicide bombing in Kuwait City followed the directive.
Three days after the attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, the Islamic State killed Hisham Barakat, Attorney General of Egypt in a bomb attack in Cairo. At the same time, it launched anoffensive against the Egyptian army in Sinai, in El Arish. Israeli intelligence believes that the offensive was organized in cooperation with Hamas in Gaza.
The Islamic State is present in Egypt’s larger cities, in the Gaza Strip, in Judea and Samaria, and in the territories occupied by the Palestinian Authority. The French police estimate that it has sleeper cells in France and throughout Europe. The Islamic State controls the city of Derna in Libya and the coast of Cyrenaica, whence boats carrying thousands of illegal immigrants are sent to Sicily and southern Italy.
The Islamic State is minting its own coins bearing a world map and the words « The Islamic State – A Caliphate based on the doctrine of the Prophet. » It appears to have global ambitions.
It does not have the means to realize all its ambitions. Nevertheless, it has unprecedented resources for a jihadist structure. It is the first jihadist structure to organize as a state, and the first to produce oil. It works as both a state and as an informal global network.
It is the main incarnation of the global jihadist threat of our times. It does not yet have nukes, but it could have access to nuclear bombs through Pakistan.
It is now the main incarnation of the jihadist war launched against the West and its allies several years ago.
Rather than cautionary vigilance in the face of danger, today’s Western leaders are choosing willful blindness and appeasement. They speak of the Islamic State as if it were a cult and as if it promoted a « perverse ideology. » They therefore cannot understand its attraction for so many young Muslims. They do not grasp how it establishes for young Muslims a return to the original Islam and to what Muslims consider the « words of God » dictated to Muhammad. They also do not understand the nostalgia for the caliphate, ever present in the Sunni world, since the departure of the last Caliph, orchestrated by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1924.
In a public opinion survey conducted in 2006, in Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco and Indonesia, two thirds of the respondents supported »uniting all Muslim countries in a new caliphate. »
Many Muslim commentators in the Western world encourage blindness; they declare that the Islamic State is not Muslim. The flag of the Islamic State bears the shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith. The Quran used, and cited constantly, by the Islamic State is the Quran used and cited by all Muslims, all over the world. Muslim organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Fiqh Council of North America, have published texts claiming to « refute » the Islamic State’s Islamic legitimacy, however, none of those texts asserts that the Islamic State does not respect Islamic principles.
After the killings in Tunisia, David Cameron said the fight against the Islamic State is the « fight of our generation. » He did not say how he would lead the fight. He then repeated that the ideology of the Islamic State is not Islamic.
After the beheading in Saint Quentin Fallavier, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke with a little more clarity, and said that the enemy is « jihadism. » He added that the world must pursue a « war against terrorism. » He did not say how the war should be conducted.
France has neither the means nor the will to wage a global war. President François Hollande immediately mitigated the « harshness » of Manuel Valls’s remarks and simply referred to France’s « determination. » Manuel Valls’s remarks resembled other remarks, pronounced fourteen years ago.
On September 20, 2001, nine days after the attacks of September 11, U.S. President George W. Bush spoke of a « global war on terror. » He designated targets and implemented a strategy. Most Western leaders strongly criticized him at the time. Despite mistakes, by the autumn of 2008, Islamic jihadism and terrorism had largely receded and seemed on the edge of defeat.
In March 2009, the U.S. Defense Department officially changed the name of operations from « Global War on Terror » to the « Overseas Contingency Operation. »
On May 23, 2013, President Obama declared that the « war on terror » was over.
In January 2014, in an interview given to The New Yorker, Obama downplayed Islamic State power, and compared it to a « jayvee » (junior varsity) team.
Eighteen months later, on June 8, 2015, he said his administration had « no strategy yet » for dealing with the Islamic State. It seems his administration still does not have one.
The Islamic State does have a strategy. The jihadist war against the West and its allies is growing.
The West’s war against jihadist terrorism is only beginning. For now, Western countries are, at best, on the defensive. They dare not even identify the enemy.
In 2009, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi walked away from a U.S. detention camp in Iraq, he said, « I’ll see you guys in New York. » He is not in New York — yet.
© Guy Milliere for the Gatestone Institute.