I hate to say it, but if reported death of #Baghdadi is true (by suicide blast or Special Ops), it’s hardly the end of ISIS.

ISIS isn’t structured like Al Qaeda; ISIS’ organization was intended to be resilient in the event of decapitation strikes.

Regrouping won’t be as hard.
ISIS learned from Al Qaeda’s missteps - a network structure overly reliant on a singular charismatic figurehead like Bin Laden.

Post-Afghanistan, OBL was marginalized (in hiding); the Iraq war allowed (a new) Al Qaeda to regroup.

Baghdadi’s, sadly, death isn’t a game-changer.
*Baghdadi’s death, sadly, won’t be a game changer.

(Damn early morning dyslexia)
Look at previous decapitation strikes of key ISIS figures, and you’ll see how resilience was built into the organization’s structure.

Take out one key target, and there are already 2 replacements waiting in the wings.

No way in hell this isn’t the case for #Baghdadi as well.
From the beginning, ISIS took considerable security measures to obscure Baghdadi's identity - vs. Al Qaeda's reliance on Osama Bin Laden as the iconic "face" of the organization.

Baghdadi was deliberately downplayed in all of ISIS' propaganda -- unlike much of Al Qaeda's.
This is an excellent point, but there's no way ISIS hasn't located and planned for a Qurayshi successor to assume Baghdadi's place.

Call ISIS whatever we like, but they aren't stupid by any stretch of the imagination.
Baghdadi most definitely had a cult of personality that exerted considerable influence among fighters, but the more influential aspect of ISIS as a draw always lay in the idea of khilaafa - not in its figurehead.

By design.
Baghdadi was notorious for rarely being seen by ISIS members (even the upper echelon), and many leaders hadn't seen his face aside from the (extremely) rare appearances the world (as a whole) already knows about.
The deliberate obfuscation of "Baghdadi the man" has always been part of ISIS' tactic to root the charismatic appeal of so-called 'Islamic State' not in a singular figurehead, but rather 'khilaafa' itself.
In ISIS propaganda, although we do see occasional mentions of 'Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," these are EXTREMELY rare in comparison with an emphasis on hijra (migration) to a khilaafa (caliphate) and thus (ostensibly) binding on all Muslims.
So-called "Islamic State" exerts an appeal NOT because of #Baghdadi, but because of the powerful appeal of the 'caliphate' itself -- specifically, the long-sought dream of its revival.

No way in hell ISIS doesn't already have successors (of Qurayshi descent) already in line.
I consume ISIS propaganda all day, every day (unfortunately) for work, and it gives me zero pleasure to write any of these dire predictions.

But I am, because everyone needs to know the reality before politicians crow "mission accomplished!"
Keep in mind - over the years, we've had NUMEROUS reports of Baghdadi's death (proven false much later) -- none of these hindered #ISIS' operational capacities.

Here are a few: nytimes.com/2017/06/16/wor… (2017)

foxnews.com/world/voice-re… (2018)
pri.org/stories/2017-0… (2017)

Here, Baghdadi was killed - but no one knows how.
In 2016, Baghdadi was reportedly on death's door after someone poisoned him. foxnews.com/world/isis-lea…
In 2015, an airstrike had him ready-to-die from severe spinal injuries. theguardian.com/world/2015/may…
In 2016, a fake ISIS statement announced Baghdadi's death, and this didn't deter the organization or have the intended psyops blow to morale. independent.co.uk/news/world/mid…
I am not posting any of these "Baghdadi dead" news reports to cast doubt on today's reports that Baghdadi has been killed.

I am emphasizing the fact that previous "Baghdadi deaths" haven't, in fact, hurt ISIS nearly as much as territorial losses (by ANY stretch of imagination).
ISIS has long relegated the image and persona of #Baghdadi to the background specifically to keep global focus (rank-and-file recruits, as well as everyone else) on the IDEA of the caliphate, which has --and always will be -- the primary draw of so-called 'Islamic State.'
Intel experts and ISIS specialists have long speculated about the potential successors to Baghdadi -- whether in a military / political capacity, or as the religious title-holder 'caliph.'

Here are a few examples: reuters.com/article/us-mid…
In 2017, Baghdadi's potential successors (not in the role of 'caliph,' to be clear) included Iyad al-Obaidi and Ayad al-Jumaili.
As far as I am aware (correct me if I'm wrong, other ISIS specialists), Baghdadi is not known to have designated a successor himself -- at least not publicly.
There is a reason #Baghdadi has long been termed "The Ghost," and it has EVERYTHING to do with so-called Islamic State's strategic organizational capacities -- deliberately intended to relegate leadership / figureheads to the background.

In a 2017 report of Baghdadi's death, we find "The Ghost" strategy described as follows:

'Keeping a low profile -- in contrast to slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- helped Baghdadi to survive for years despite a $25-million US bounty on his head.'

As early as 2014, even media discussed ISIS' structure and the place of resilience as a deliberate component of the organization:

Whoever replaces Baghdadi in his capacity as caliph depends on the consensus of the ISIS shura council -- a deliberative body that is HIGHLY unlike to meet in-person, given security precautions.

If I were Special Ops (I'm not), I'd target couriers to deliver an *actual* blow.
Locating and eliminating couriers for members of the ISIS shura council (and, by extension, hopefully the shura council membership as a whole) would do far more to throw ISIS into disarray than merely assassinating Baghdadi.
It bears mentioning here:

We've got another huge issue with thinking "Baghdadi's death is the end of ISIS like Osama Bin Laden's death hurt Al Qaeda."
Osama Bin Laden was weakened way the hell before his death in May 2011.

Al Qaeda was fragmented and splintered, on the run, after the Afghanistan attacks in 2001.

Bin Laden was effectively marginalized in hiding, issuing a statement here and there - but that's it.
Al Qaeda was able to regroup, and rise like a demonic phoenix from the ashes, in the wake of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Bin Laden's marginalization also meant he couldn't control Zarqawi, whose recalibration of the 'Al Qaeda brand' eventually birthed ISIS.
When Obama successfully killed Bin Laden in May 2011, to be blunt -- it didn't really mean shit any longer.

Bin Laden long since lost control of Al Qaeda. Instead, Zarqawi's redefinition of the organization fundamentally altered the network's strategies, tactics, and identity.
Osama Bin Laden's successor - Aymen al-Zawahiri - never, ever had the charisma or unifying draw that Bin Laden did at the height of his leadership.

(Seriously, listen to a Zawahiri speech vs. Bin Laden's rhetoric -- for just one example of what I mean)
In any case, ISIS is nothing if not adaptable and resilient. ISIS learns lessons from predecessors' missteps, both in terms of 'outbidding' competitors, as well as shoring up points of organizational weakness.

Unfortunately, the anti-ISIS coalition has not proven so adept.
Remember the triumphalist block parties that broke out when Americans heard the news "Osama Bin Laden is dead?"

Fast-forward to Syria and Yemen, to name just two cases.

Uh, yeah. Not so fast.
Triumphalism may feel good in the moment, but in dealing with groups like ISIS, it's ... counterproductive.

And, frankly -- fucking stupid.
To recap (for the 'guess what Al Qaeda is still here' in my @'s) - Bin Laden's marginalization and fragmentation after Afghanistan dealt AQ a severe blow.

A blow Al Qaeda readily overcame, thanks to the idiotic US war on Iraq in 2003 - and one which had fuck-all to do with OBL.
Zarqawi was essentially given free reign in Iraq (because of AQ HQ's fragmentation at the time), leading to the transformation of Al Qaeda into a much more vicious entity -- even to the extent that Bin Laden tried to get him back in line and tone it down.

Spoiler - he failed.
For more on how Badghadi's death *could* impact ISIS (or not), absolutely follow @hxhassan - who explicitly addressed the issue of resilience in ISIS' organizational structure in numerous articles and books.
@hxhassan Stupid shit like the 2003 Iraq War let Al Qaeda regroup, and come back bigger than ever. Yes, the Surge and Sahwa temporarily drove them out, but...welcome to Syria. They're baaaaaaack.

Further, the roots of ISIS are located in 2003's post-Iraq invasion context. Sorry: FACTS.
@hxhassan [interlude - I'm so pissed I'm awake right now. I got a phone call to get off my ass and address these reports of Baghdadi's death ASAP, so I am extra cranky and want more coffee. Give me 10.]
@hxhassan Meanwhile, I'll post this as a thread.
@hxhassan Coffee almost done brewing; I'll use the remaining minutes for a caveat -- this analysis isn't partisan (so GTFO of my mentions, trolls).

Obama didn't "end" Al Qaeda.
Trump didn't "end" ISIS.

Dubya sure as hell didn't bring Iraq peace & stability.
@hxhassan Back with my coffee, Pop Tarts, and too-damn-early Sunday morning irritation.

Back to Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the ridiculous idea that the end of Baghdadi means the end of the bullshit 'caliphate' idea.
@hxhassan ISIS was able to 'outbid' Al Qaeda for several reasons in the context of Syria's theater of combat (as well as the virtual battleground).

Keep in mind: this doesn't mean AQ is neutralized, or even significantly damaged at present (they sure could've been, barring 2003 Iraq).
@hxhassan Al Qaeda wanted a caliphate "eventually," and advocated a gradualist approach to awakening the masses.

ISIS declared a caliphate in the here-and-now, a tangible, territorial 'reality.'

That's a key difference -- and a powerful draw.
@hxhassan Al Qaeda was a network, focused on operations.

ISIS saw itself as a state, anchored in territory - focused on everything from operations to sustaining a cradle-to-grave population: state-building.
@hxhassan Another key distinction.

Accessing Al Qaeda propaganda (until al-Awlaki) meant, for the most part, password-protected chat rooms (necessitating vetting for the already-interested).

Accessing ISIS propaganda meant logging onto Twitter.
@hxhassan JOINING Al Qaeda and ISIS also entailed a very different process.

Think of AQ as the 'jihadi Ivy Leagues.' You needed damn good recommendations.

ISIS' need for a population essentially meant: 'come on over. We need janitors, housewives, bakers, etc.'
@hxhassan #Baghdadi's death (if 100% confirmed, this time -- again) could help weaken ISIS in some ways, however.

But keep in mind that the following are my most optimistic points of analysis.
@hxhassan If coalition forces can locate members of the shura council through their couriers, and eliminate the group as a whole, this would go a long way towards throwing ISIS leadership structures into disarray.
@hxhassan (That said, I wouldn't be surprised if even the 8-member shura council has 16 additional 'understudies' in the wings -- much like other key roles in ISIS' anti-decapitation strike strategy)
@hxhassan We've been warning you -- for years -- that the more territorial losses with which ISIS is faced, the more 'lone wolf' (and organized-from-afar) attacks we will see in the (so-called) 'West.'

Don't for a second think #Baghdadi's death will somehow curtail this trend. It won't.
@hxhassan (Jesus fucking Christ - why are there people in my goddamn mentions accusing me of supporting ISIS?)
@hxhassan Let me clarify where I stand on ISIS:

ISIS = bad.
@hxhassan Moving on, since the emergence of so-called "Islamic State," the world has continually underestimated this organization.

These missteps have not only allowed the group to wreak havoc inside Iraq and Syria, but far beyond those nations' borders.
@hxhassan Territorial losses of ISIS' "homeland" in Syria and Iraq, moreover, presents a far different fragmentation effect than that experienced by Al Qaeda post-Afghanistan.

This, again, gets back to structure - AQ was a network, and ISIS a territorially-based STATE (far more people).
@hxhassan ISIS took and held territory for years, which enabled the construction of sustained and organized military training for a critical MASS of fighters.

Al Qaeda lacked that breadth, duration, and organizational resource.

So scattering ISIS doesn't mean nearly as much as AQ did.
@hxhassan Here's where I'm about to REALLY piss people off.

So buckle up and prepare your rage Tweets, y'all. Go ahead and shoot the messenger.
@hxhassan ISIS learned from predecessors' mistakes.

Why can't the United States?
@hxhassan I talk about this subject a lot in other areas, threads, and publications, but - one KEY reason ISIS is so successful?

ISIS consistently uses your own unrecognized bigotry as a weapon against you. They're playing you.

And you fall for it every damn time.

Maybe try stopping.
@hxhassan ISIS relies on 'the West' underestimating it as "medieval, backwards, monstrous barbarians incapable of logic, reason, and rationality."

Guess how they've outsmarted "us" time and time again.

Fucking OOPS.
@hxhassan If you're interested, here are some of my (expletive-free and peer-reviewed) publications on ISIS' weaponization of anti-Islam bigotry to achieve what they have: tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.108…
@hxhassan In addition, I wrote this brief for the United Nations, specifically addressing the appeal of so-called Islamic State propaganda as well as policy recommendations for smarter strategies to counter that appeal:

@hxhassan To sum up (for now):

#Baghdadi's death may cause ISIS some temporary problems, but is 100% not the end of so-called 'Islamic State.'

Mark my words: ISIS is an idea far bigger, longer lasting, and more dangerous than any singular charismatic figurehead.

@hxhassan Apparently, Trump will announce Baghdadi's death at 9:00 EST, so for the sake of my blood pressure -- I am seriously considering cancelling my Internet service in the next half hour.
@hxhassan @threadreaderapp please unroll my ridiculously big mouth.
@hxhassan @threadreaderapp I REALLY, really hope I'm wrong.

But either way, just for the record - fuck ISIS and fuck Baghdadi.

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