Who is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? That's the question asked by this Slate piece
, which hints -- without stating -- that the mystery man behind ISIS may have a hidden identity.
An “official” biography of Baghdadi, whose real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, that has circulated on jihadist forums says he earned a doctorate in Islamic studies and lectured on Shariah before becoming a militant. Some other accounts say he was a peasant who was trained by members of al-Qaida when he was in prison.
We have received a bit more info about his prison stay, but we still don't have the level of detail one would expect. Some sources say he was released in 2007 while others say 2009; the latter date opens the way for for propaganda like this
Let's return to that Slate article:
The former commanding officer of Camp Bucca recently told the Daily Beast that when Baghdadi was released, he told his captors, “I’ll see you guys in New York.” (The guards at the prison were from a Long Island-based military police unit.)
Is this squib is meant to prepare us for a possible future attack? Troubling.
Perhaps the wildest piece yet published on Abu Bakr comes to us by way of Aangirfan
. No, I can't go along with everything you'll find at the other end of that link -- especially the suggestion that Baffling Boy may actually be Jewish. Even by my
standards, that claim is simply outlandish.
That said, I am fascinated by the possibility that "Abu Bakr" may actually be a pseudonym adopted by several people. Such was the claim made by Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former British special forces commander, who spoke to the Telegraph
Why such a ferocious individual was deemed fit for release in 2009 is not known. One possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq. Another, though, is that rather like Keyser Söze, the enigmatic crimelord in the film The Usual Suspects, he may actually be several different people.
“We either arrested or killed a man of that name about half a dozen times, he is like a wraith who keeps reappearing, and I am not sure where fact and fiction meet,” said Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former British special forces commander who helped US efforts against al-Qaeda in Iraq. “There are those who want to promote the idea that this man is invincible, when it may actually be several people using the same nom de guerre.”
In a previous post, we quoted an Al Jazeera reporter's observation...
"It's not known whether Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the man who is said to have taken over the al-Qaeda organisation here is actually Iraqi, or, in fact, even exists or is a composite of several people..."
Some of you may recall an episode of The X-Files
in which a government agent brags: "There is
no Saddam Hussein. This guy's name is John Gillnitz. We found him doing dinner theater in Tulsa. Did a mean "King and I." Plays good ethnics."
(Believe it or not, someone once wrote an entire book outlining a theory that the Ayatollah Khomeini was actually Howard Hughes in disguise. Compare the photos, O ye scoffers!
Is there a plan?
The above-linked Aangirfan story argues that ISIS is functioning according to a long-range American conspiracy.
The USA and its allies are backing the Islamist forces (ISIS) which are attacking the Iraqi government.
The idea is to lure Iranian forces into Iraq, to support the Iraqi government, and thus start a war between the Sunni ISIS and the Shiah Iranians.
I'm unconvinced by this notion, and by the similar scenarios which various blogworld theorists have outlined.
The ultimate goal is a new Iran-Iraq war? That idea is hard to accept when we're starting to see signs of a de facto
alliance between Iran and the U.S. government in Iraq.
(Such an alliance would be fine by me. I never understood why we're supposed to hate the Iranians so much when the Saudis -- our alleged "friends" -- are far more detestable. Iran, for all its many problems, is a partial democracy, while Saudi Arabia has no democracy whatsoever.)
At this time, I believe that there is
no grand plan behind the current attack on Iraq -- at least, no plan of this administration's devising. Even if we accept the proposition that ISIS once had our (very covert) blessing, the jihadis have obviously decided to write their own script.
(To paraphrase John Lennon: Life is what happens when you're making other schemes.)
In previous posts, we have discussed the evidence indicating that ISIS received quiet backing from the U.S. and/or the Saudis. At the time, the target was Assad. I doubt that Obama was very happy when Abu Bakr and his compatriots went thundering back into Iraq. Do you really think that anyone in this administration wanted
to see Maliki undermined? Do you really think that this White House likes
seeing so many headlines scream about Iraq?
Sorry, but that idea is hard to swallow.
Iraq is a nightmare, and we have no good options. Although Bill Kristol
and other right-wingers are suggesting that we send troops back into that inferno, the president would be foolish to listen to "experts" who have compiled such a formidable resume of failure
I don't care for Obama, but I don't think he's insane. No sane president would have intentionally created such an insoluble problem for himself. No sane president would relish seeing so many opinion pieces which blame him for a situation created by his predecessor
If you click on that last link, you will encounter an argument that exemplifies everything wrong with the neocon mentality:
As David French has shown, when Obama took office the Islamist extremists were a subdued and nearly defeated force. With a continued American presence, they would have remained subdued.
Some Obama apologists argue that we could not maintain our military presence because the Iraqi government wanted us out, and thus would not negotiate a status of forces agreement with us. In reality, though, Iraqi prime minister Maliki and his government wanted a continued U.S. military presence, and it was Obama who never seriously negotiated for this to happen...
This elitist analysis ignores one key factor: The will of the people.
As the Bush presidency wound to a close, two facts were very clear: 1. The Iraqi people did not want our troops there, and 2. The American people did not want our troops there. The polling left no room for doubt. What part of this "democracy" thing is so hard for the neocons to understand?
Then again, one must admit: A continued American presence in Iraq probably would have united Sunnis and Shi'ites -- against us