After the killing of Qardash, ISIS is preparing to announce the name of its new leader

Baghdad (Reuters) 02/09/2022 22:43

Analysts suggest choosing an Iraqi with military experience to lead the terrorist organization ISIS

  • Analysts believe that Al-Qurashi’s successor is an Iraqi with military experience
  • Waiting for ISIS to announce the name of its new leader within weeks

Two Iraqi security officials and three independent analysts said the next leader of ISIS is likely to come out ISIS The terrorist is from a narrow circle of Iraqi militants who were polished by the battles and whose roles emerged in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The two Iraqi officials said that one of the members of the group nominated to succeed Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, nicknamed Abdullah Qardash, who blew himself up during a US operation to arrest him in Syria last week, is a military commander whose death Washington and Baghdad announced last year.

The killing of Qardash, 45, was a severe blow to the organization two years after the similar operation in which its former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019.

Qardash did not speak publicly to his fighters and followers, eschew electronic communications and oversaw the transformation of the fighting style into small, separate units in response to intense pressure from Iraqi and US-led forces.

However, those who follow the terrorist organization ISIS closely expect the name of its new leader to be announced in the coming weeks as the organization, which imposed harsh rule over swathes of Iraq and Syria from 2014 to 2017, continues its stubborn and bloody insurgency campaign.

Iraqi expert Fadel Abu Ragheef, who advises the security services, said that there are four potential candidates to succeed al-Qurashi.

He said, “These are both … Abu Khadija, and his last known role was a leader in ISIS in Iraq, Abu Muslim, who is the leader of the organization in Anbar, and another named Abu Saleh. Little information is known about him, but he was close to al-Baghdadi and al-Qurashi.”

He added, “There is also Abu Yasser al-Issawi, and there are doubts that he is still alive, although the organization mourned him and his position is very important in the organization, due to his long military experience.”

The Iraqi army and the US-led military coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria announced the death of al-Issawi in an air strike in January 2021.

However, an Iraqi security official confirmed that there are strong suspicions that al-Issawi is still alive, and the official added, “If it turns out that he was not killed, he has experience and experience in planning military attacks and has thousands of followers.”

After the killing of Qardash, ISIS is preparing to announce the name of its new leader
An American publication about a reward for the arrest of Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi. Photo of the US State Department obtained by Reuters from a third party (Reuters)

Security clearance due to leaks

The official added that it is likely that the terrorist organization ISIS will carry out a security purge due to the possible leaks that led to the killing of Al-Qurashi, before the meeting of its leaders to choose a successor and announce his name.

Hassan Hassan, editor-in-chief of the New Lines magazine, which published research on al-Qurashi, said the new leader would be a veteran of Iraqi militants.

“If they choose one in the coming weeks, they will have to choose one from among the members of the same district … the group that was part of the Anbar group that operated under the name of ISIS in Iraq since the early days,” he said.

The organization emerged from among the militants who launched a Sunni Islamist insurgency with sectarian motives against US and Iraqi forces after 2003.

The terrorist organization ISIS in Iraq, also known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was an offshoot of the global al-Qaeda organization founded by Osama bin Laden and from which the terrorist organization ISIS emerged, which acquired its shape in the chaos of the Syrian civil war on the other side of the border.

Al-Baghdadi and Al-Qurashi, who were members of Al-Qaeda in Iraq from the beginning, were held by US forces for a period of time in the mid-2000s.

A security official and a colonel in the army told Reuters that no US forces had arrested any of the four potential candidates to succeed al-Qurashi.

Officials and analysts in different countries agree that the terrorist organization ISIS is under greater pressure than ever and that it will not regain the status of the caliphate. But they are divided over how significant the setback that al-Qurashi’s killing represents to the group.

Some say that the war on the organization will continue to preoccupy the United States and its allies for years to come as it turns into a permanent insurgency movement with new leaders ready to seize its help.

One of the security officials said, “In Syria, ISIS groups operate in a network of individual units in order to avoid being targeted. Therefore, we do not believe that the killing of al-Qurashi will have a significant impact.”

He added, “It has also become difficult to track them down because they have stopped using mobile phone calls to communicate with each other for a while.”

Some officials say that since the defeat of the organization in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria in 2019, its leaders have found it increasingly easy to move between the two countries, helped by a gap in the areas of control between the different armed forces.

Security and military officials said the 600-km border with Syria makes it very difficult for Iraqi forces to prevent militants from infiltrating through underground tunnels.

New driving style

Lahore Talabani, the former head of the anti-terror unit in the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, said that some of the leaders of the terrorist organization ISIS can travel throughout Iraq.

“When you see the attacks increasing in a certain area, I wouldn’t be surprised if an important person passed through that area. The caliphate was defeated but the terrorist organization Daesh in Iraq was not eliminated. I don’t think we were able to accomplish the task,” he told Reuters.

The organization’s control over an area of ​​land in Iraq and Syria had distinguished it from other similar groups such as Al-Qaeda and became central to its mission when it declared the establishment of the caliphate state in 2014 and the subordination of all Islamic peoples and countries to it.

The fiercely anti-Western group also derives its strength from Sunni-Shi’ite tension and considers Shiites to be infidels who deserve to be killed.

Abu Ragheef said that the leader of the new organization may have stronger military credentials than al-Qurashi, whose followers Iraqi officials say was more of a man of Islamic law than a military leader.

“After the inauguration of the new leader of the organization, the legal rulings will remain fixed, but the attacks and invasions will definitely change according to the approach of the new leader, who may believe in massive invasions or bomb attacks and suicide bombers,” he added.

Analysts say that although Al-Qurashi was not under the spotlight and the secrecy that surrounded his activities, his death is likely to affect the militants of the organization.

Hassan, editor-in-chief of the New Lines magazine, expected the elimination of Al-Qurashi to dampen morale.

A symbolic leader is very important to the organization, said Aaron Zelin, a research fellow at The Washington Institute.

“When a group leader is killed, the oath of allegiance goes to the (next) leader, to the person himself, not to the group,” he added.

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