ISIS leader’s death raises more questions than it answers


“Thanks to the bravery of our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more,” US President Joe Biden said, hours after the end of the operation that targeted Qurayshi in the Syrian rebel enclave of Idlib.

Biden may have hoped for the same fanfare that greeted his predecessors when they took out Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before him. But Islamic State experts were quick to throw cold water on claims of a blow to the group. Qurayshi is not Baghdadi, and a group that once commanded a territory larger than the UK is now a guerrilla with scattered leaders.

But the group that engaged in genocide, mass executions and oppression has proven that it remains a formidable force. A United Nations report released on Friday says the terror group is far from defeated. In fact, it remains a potent force in Iraq and Syria, with a growing presence in Afghanistan and West Africa, according to UN analysis.

The report – compiled by UN experts on ISIS and al-Qaeda before Qurayshi’s death and covering the last six months of 2021 – says ISIS may still have up to $50 million in his coffers.

Even before its disappearance, according to UN experts, the Islamic State had lost several important members of its upper echelon. And yet, the group remains a threat. Instability in Iraq and Syria “indicates that a possible resurgence of ISIL in the central region cannot be ruled out,” the report concludes, referring to the group by its alternate acronym.

In Iraq, the Islamic State organizes attacks almost daily. In Lebanon, officials say they have found fertile recruiting ground in the city of Tripoli. And the United Nations says ISIS may still have $50 million in its coffers and up to 10,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Last week, the Islamic State launched its biggest attack in three years when the group’s fighters tried to free detainees from a prison in northeast Syria. He lost the week-long stalemate and hundreds of IS detainees, including children, as well as dozens of US-backed Kurdish fighters died in the fighting.

The upsurge in IS violence worries security officials in the region precisely because the picture is bleaker than it was during IS’s heyday, when the group seized Mosul in 2014. Then a US-led coalition, along with Iranian-backed Shia armed groups, fought years-long battles that eventually led to IS territory vaporizing. Now ISIS is virtually invisible. Its spread is detectable but does not appear to have a single source.

Because of this, the American raid – as dazzling as the optics may have been to some – raises more questions than it answers. What was the Islamic State leader doing in Idlib, where the group’s supposed rivals, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, a former al-Qaeda affiliate, dominate? How could he command cells further afield in Syria and Iraq?

Far from reassuring observers and security officials, the devil in the details of Thursday’s operation appears to confirm what experts have been saying for months: Qurayshi was the head of a snake, but it will take a lot more sophistication and international cooperation to exterminate the pit from which he came.

Other news from the Middle East

France to strengthen UAE air defense system after drone attacks

France said on Friday it had agreed to bolster the UAE’s defense system, including the deployment of Rafale jets, following Houthi attacks.

  • Fund: The United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday it intercepted three drones that entered its airspace. Iraqi religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr has accused an obscure Iraq-based militia of targeting “a Gulf state”.
  • why is it important: The UAE has pressed the international community for a united front against the threats it faces from Iran-backed groups in the region, prompting the United States to label the Houthis a terrorist group. The United States also pledged to boost air support to the United Arab Emirates early last week.

Denmark finds members of Iranian opposition group guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia

A Danish court on Friday found three members of an Iranian Arab opposition group guilty of financing and supporting terrorist activities in Iran in collaboration with Saudi intelligence services, local news wire Ritzau reported.

  • Fund: The three members of the Arab Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) were arrested two years ago and have been detained ever since.
  • why is it important: A Norwegian-Iranian was sentenced to seven years in May last year for spying on an Iranian intelligence service and plotting to assassinate one of the ASMLA members. Both cases revealed an intelligence power struggle on Danish soil between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Turkey’s Uighurs call for boycott on Beijing Games

Hundreds of protesters from China’s Uighur Muslim community gathered in Istanbul on Friday to call for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

  • Fund: The US State Department estimates that up to 2 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been held in internment camps in western China’s Xinjiang province since 2017. Beijing says the camps are professional, aim to fight terrorism and separatism, and has repeatedly denied the charges. of human rights violations.
  • why is it important: The Beijing Olympics opened on Friday in the shadow of a diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights record and bereft of most spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.

what we watch

A major issue looming over the Ukraine crisis is whether Russia, Russia’s largest supplier of natural gas, will cut off the flow of energy to the continent. Qatar could step in and supply natural gas to Europe if Asian customers agree.

Watch this interview with Amena Bakr, Chief OPEC Correspondent for Energy Intelligence, on the likelihood of Qatar coming to Europe’s rescue.

Around the region

Eco-friendly ‘flying’ boats could soon soar over Dubai waters.

Home to man-made islands, a marina and a cove, Dubai has plenty of boats. Now, the futuristic Gulf city is eyeing a cutting-edge addition to its seascape with the introduction of hydrofoils.

While traditional boats float, hydrofoils, as they are called, take advantage of the wind by lifting the hull above the water, reducing drag and increasing speed. Hydrofoils aren’t new, but the Dubai version claims to be the first to have zero carbon emissions.

“We have already done it for the roads, why not the water?” said French yachtsman Alain Thébault, who has partnered with Swiss startup THE JET ZeroEmission to build the world’s first hydrogen-powered hydrofoil in Dubai.

His project fits perfectly into the climate-friendly plans of the emirate. As part of its clean energy strategy, Dubai aims to produce three quarters of its energy needs from clean sources by 2050.

The boat is expected to glide silently over city waters at up to 46 miles per hour, with capacity for up to 12 passengers, by next year when the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part , plan to host the 28 International Climate Summit, says COP28.

Picture of the day

Iranian Olympic skier Atefeh Ahmadi poses with a young fan on the slopes of Abali, outside the capital Tehran.  The 21-year-old is the only Iranian to have qualified for the Beijing Games, where she will compete in the alpine skiing event.

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