In a Tuesday (July 1st) audio message, “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called on skilled professionals to immigrate to his newly-declared “caliphate”, sparking outrage in Iraq and other countries whose sovereignty his would-be state violates ~
ISIL’s “Islamic caliphate”, declared on Sunday, claims to cover territory from Aleppo in northern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq and unilaterally names al-Baghdadi “Caliph of the Muslims”.
The attempt to create a new state and appoint a “caliph” without due process makes a mockery of Islam and has no chance at success or support, officials, clerics and civilians told Al-Shorfa.
Al-Baghdadi’s call is a sham as the territory in question does not belong to him, Iraqi joint operations command spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta told Mawtani.
“He must know that whoever tries to cross into Iraq illegally, with the intention of committing murders and terrorist crimes will not find mercy in our dealing with him,” Atta said, adding that Iraqi ground and air forces will deal firmly with any case of illegal infiltration.
Iraqi defence ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said he believes the number of ISIL fighters has dwindled as a result of the ramped up Iraqi army operations against the group, so it is not surprising that al-Baghdadi would try to recruit more fighters.
“He is trying to ask for help from other extremists to save his faltering army,” he told Mawtani, warning prospective ISIL recruits that “Iraq will be the graveyard for all terrorists who try to come in to harm its people”.
‘An empty caliphate’
Al-Baghdadi “created an empty caliphate then began to invite people to come to it to become its people, which runs counter to both nature and logic”, said Baghdad mosque preacher Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Obaidi.
“[Al-Baghdadi] appointed himself [first], then started to invite those he would be governing to gather around him,” he said.
Baghdad resident Silan Fahmi said al-Baghdadi’s call made him laugh.
“Those who are following him are more insane than him,” he told Mawtani. “[Al-Baghdadi] must know that Iraq is for its own people only.”
The Iraqi Iftaa Authority is one of a number of groups that have condemned ISIL’s declaration of an “Islamic caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, saying the group and its bloodshed must be resisted.
“ISIL’s declaration of a ‘caliphate’ is null and void both legally and under sharia, and is therefore not recognised by clerics or citizens,” said authority spokesman Sheikh Abdul Karim al-Adhami.
“We believe that the declaration has revealed the truth of that group that seeks authority and hegemony on citizens,” he told Al-Shorfa, adding that it is merely “one of the terrorists’ feverish attempts to disrupt Iraq’s unity and sow sectarian strife”.
Iraqis in the areas under ISIL’s control have rejected its declaration of authority, he said.
“The areas declared by ISIL to be under its control are witnessing military operations and an uprising by the tribes to get rid of ISIL fighters,” he said.
Renewed conflict with al-Qaeda
In addition to drawing the ire of Iraqis, ISIL’s declaration also has sparked renewed conflict with its rival, al-Qaeda.
“One of those hit the hardest by the declaration of the ‘caliphate’ will be the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who could find himself forced to pledge support to his disciple (al-Baghdadi),” Syrian National Coalition member and jihadist groups expert Abdul Rahman al-Haj told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“This competition between jihadists could be very dangerous,” Shashank Joshi of the London-based Royal United Services Institute told AFP, warning that al-Qaeda may look to make a “spectacular” show of force.
“The competition has already started,” Magnus Ranstorp, an expert on radical Islamic movements at the Swedish National Defence College told AFP, noting that al-Qaeda can hardly ignore what is essentially a declaration of war.
In a series of Tuesday statements, al-Qaeda affiliated leaders in Jordan criticised ISIL’s declaration of a “caliphate”, describing the move as “illegitimate”, The Jordan Times reported.
Al-Qaeda ideologue Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi has called on his followers not to recognise it, the newspaper said.
On Monday, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, al-Nusra Front, declared that the creation of an “ISIL caliphate” was “null and void”, AFP reported.
Baghdadi’s efforts will not pay off
Youth from the Gulf will not respond to al-Baghdadi’s call, Fadel al-Hindi, supervisor at Saudi King Abdulaziz University’s Centre for Social and Humanities research, told Al-Shorfa.
“The issue has become well-known and obvious, and such tactics no longer pay off,” he said.
Al-Hindi described al-Baghdadi’s call as “an empty invitation under the present international crackdown on jihadist elements, and the sense of awareness which the young now have, in contrast to previous years”.
It “reveals the triviality of al-Baghdadi in picturing himself as if he was standing before an army of millions of soldiers who are ready to obey his orders, whereas the reality is quite the opposite”, al-Hindi said.
ISIL is now working merely “to preserve the gains it made [in Syria], whose price was the blood of the Syrian people and the thousands of youths who were killed in this war after being misled and manipulated”, he added.
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