Ali Soufan Op-Ed in The New York Times: Can You Kill the Islamic State?
June 20, 2017

Can You Kill the Islamic State?

The New York Times
By: Ali Soufan


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the self-described Islamic State, might have been killed. Again.

In announcing last week the airstrike that may have felled the Islamic State’s leader, Russia wisely hedged its bets. If Mr. Baghdadi’s death is confirmed, though, this would be a positive development. The resulting leadership vacuum, and the scramble to fill it, would no doubt hasten the coming disintegration of the Islamic State. In truth, however, the handwriting was on the wall long before last week’s announcement.

From its inception, the Islamic State’s real power resided not in religious extremists like Mr. Baghdadi but in a corps of former Saddam Hussein loyalists behind the scenes who had linked up with convicted jihadists when they were together in American-run prisons in the mid-2000s. These ex-Baathists, with a talent for eye-catching violence and unsurpassed knowledge of the inner workings of Iraqi society, kept the Islamic State alive through lean years before leading it to sweeping victories following the American departure from Iraq …

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