One of the main problems confronting the U.S. and other Western powers in connection with the newly appointed Caliph, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is that by assuming this title and showcasing that he has some charisma, the savvy leader of the Islamic State bestowed upon himself a certain holiness that would resonate with Jihadis across the globe.
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.
The condemnation of Saudi Arabia on account of her funding of extremist movements around the world is more than warranted. But the persistent failure to condemn Iran on account of her similar efforts since the Islamic Revolution, in support of certain Shia groups like Hezbollah, and the occasional extremist Sunni group as well, including some units currently affiliated with ISIS in Syria, and the extremist factions in Hamas, is really baffling. This phenomenon is as well documented as its Saudi equivalent, is fueled by similar mixture of cynical and strategic calculations, and it poses no less a danger to global security and regional stability than Saudi involvement. So, why do researchers keep neglecting to highlight Iran’s role, even as some pushes for the kind of an engagement with Iran that, in practical terms, amounts to an appeasement? Is there an agenda involved here? What is it? Or how else could we explain this phenomenon?
Mere disaffection with the status quo in the world, or one’s lot in it, is not enough to help chart a path beyond it. A guiding vision is needed, and in order to formulate the right vision, which needs be inclusive and fair, an open debate of the issues is a must. Otherwise, processes will be guided and outcomes determined by figures and parties armed with the narrowest of visions and the lowest of ethical standards, people like Putin and his obsession with the return of Greater Russia, and groups like Al-Qaeda and its determination to revive the obsolete Caliphate system. While neither Putin nor Al-Qaeda is in a position to directly threaten global peace and stability, the localized regional mayhem they create is more than sufficient to harm millions of people, making this world a more dangerous place than it needs to be and rendering hope in a better future irrelevant. Atavistic longings cannot pave the way to a better future.