Is Al-Baghdadi the New Islamic Savior?

Steven LeBlanc

And he will be a wild donkey of a man, His [Ishmael] hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him—Genesis 16:12.

In an audio recording released at the beginning of Ramadan, the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared its chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, “the caliph” and “leader for Muslims everywhere”. The word caliph means “successor”—that is, a successor of Muhammad, who founded the Islamic religion. The word caliphate means “dominion of a caliph” and refers to a theocratic state that united all Muslims under one leader.

Baghdadi represents to many Sunni Muslims, the latest Islamic savior, greater in achievements than even Osama bin Laden. The stunning success of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in establishing a Caliphate, “Islamic state”, across northern Iraq and northeastern Syria in the last weeks represents a significant change in Middle East realpolitik. It is important to note that ISIS announced that it is now to be called the “Islamic State”. According to one of its spokesman, the new caliphate stretches from Iraq’s Diyala province to Syria’s Aleppo. Bin Laden never controlled large amounts of territory such as Baghdadi now controls—and the Islamic state is growing in size every week.

Not all Sunnis support the new found celebrity of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Many believe he is too violent, including the leadership of Al-Qaeda. Once an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, ISIS (now the Islamic State) is attempting to seduce Al-Qaeda warriors to its vision of an Islamic empire. Many Islamic leaders believe IS is too strict regarding Sharia and too oppressive. Also, IS (Islamic State) is known for its ruthless tactics, which include publicly crucifying enemies and beheading those who violate their strict religious interpretations of Sharia law.

Navi Pillay, a senior United Nations human rights official, expressed “extreme alarm” over what she expressed as summary executions, rape, beheadings, reprisal killings and shelling of civilians. It has been reported that ISIS crucified eight men in the town of Deir Hafar, in the east of Aleppo province, where their bodies remained in public view for three days.

But to many fanatics Baghdadi is the new caliph. Extremists from Europe, North America, and Eurasia are making their way to the Middle East to join Baghdadi’s cause. Also, it is important to note that ISIS has become the world’s wealthiest terrorist organization. Iraqi officials estimate that the group now has about $2 billion in its war chest. Those who have supported ISIS in the past include individuals in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Gulf Cooperation council. American intelligence recently learned that ISIS secured massive cashflows from the oilfields of eastern Syria, which it had commandeered in late 2012, and some of which it had sold back to the Syrian regime. They also looted the city of Mosul’s biggest bank absconding with nearly $450 million dollars. Word is they take good care of their fighters and their widows.

Sunni Shiite civil war

Iraq came under the influence of a Shia-majority government after the US-led invasion deposed Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime in 2003. Since then withdrawal of US troops in 2011, Sunni/Shiite tensions have boiled over, resulting in Sunni insurgents, such as ISIS, increasingly waging war against the central Shiite led Iraqi government.

Gulf leaders often justify their support of ISIS and other extremist Sunni groups by recalling what they see as a failed America policy in Syria– a loss of credibility after President Obama retreated on his pledge to strike Syria’s leader Bashar Hafez al-Assad, after the regime used chemical weapons. Our Sunni Allies in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt do not trust the President to protect their interests (stopping the Shiite –Iranian move– to control the Middle East). Remember, that today, the Shiites are the dominant force in Iran and the biggest single religious community in Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain. So, in absence of America’s leadership in the Middle East, Sunni governments feel compelled to arm and financially support proxies such as ISIS—who will fight and kill Shiites.

The Sunni/Shiite civil war continues to intensify. Iraq and Syria are broken nations that will most likely fragment into various religious and ethnic states. The immediate goal of the Islamic State is to take control of Shiite dominated Baghdad, then move on to seize power in creating an Islamic state straddling Iraq and Al Sham, an Arabic label that has, over time, come to mean an area in the Middle East encompassing Iraq and Syria but also Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon.

The reality is that ISIS (now called the Islamic state)– is fighting against what many view as an Iranian-backed, Shia-led government of Iraq. Any intervention on behalf of the Iraqi government by the United States or Europe will be seen – by many segments of the Sunni population of Iraq and the region – as America backing of Shia over Sunni.

Saudi troops placed on high alert

It is believed that many leaders in the Arab world quietly supported ISIS, but that picture is quickly changing. Baghdadi has become too powerful and too popular, too fast; he is now seen as a threat to the Saudi Royal family and the monarchy in Jordan. So concerned is the Saudi Royal family that it has deployed 30,000 troops to its 500 mile border with Iraq following an alleged withdrawal of Iraqi border guards because of the ongoing battles against Al-Baghdadi forces to the north.

Saudi intelligence has discovered that IS militants have been heading towards the Saudi border with the aim of seizing the strategic border crossing of Ar Ar. A Saudi Arabian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN that security forces had been placed on the highest level of alert. “Saudi Arabia shares a long border with Iraq and the government is aware that ISIS is very close to Iraq’s border with Jordan, and is also aware ISIS has been very public about its intention to attempt to attack Saudi Arabia,” the official said.

A collateral concern in the region is, as the civil war in Iraq spreads, relief agencies are being overwhelmed. According to United Nations figures, the total number of displaced Iraqis inside the country could be approaching one million, in neighboring Syria, there are three million refugees who have fled across Syria’s borders. Relief agencies cannot keep up with the massive human need.

King of the South versus King of the North

As we watch the civil wars raging in Syria and Iraq it is good to keep in mind various prophecies found in the book of Daniel. Much of Daniel 11 describes the back-and-forth warring and subterfuge between the Seleucid Empire based in Syria—the king of the North—and the Ptolemaic Empire of Egypt—the king of the South. Notice, during the time of their conflict, these nations were north and south of Jerusalem, Israel was caught in between these warring nations.

History then reveals that the Roman Empire swallowed up Syria and became the kingdom of the North in 64 B.C. Thereafter History tells us that the kingdoms of the North and South continued to fight each other over the centuries, dominated by an ongoing struggle between Christian (Catholic) Europe and the Muslim Middle East. For example in 732 A.D. Islamic hordes advanced into what is modern France but then were defeated by the Christian armies led by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne. This victory blunted Islamic ambitions of taking control of all of Europe.

The 11th through 13th centuries saw the Crusades, launched by Catholic Europe in the north to regain the Holy Land from the Muslim powers of the south. Then in the early sixteenth century, the armies of the Ottoman Empire (Islamic) overran Hungary, sacking Budapest. In 1529 at Vienna, the armies of the Holy Roman Empire successfully defended Europe and prevented Muslims from sweeping through Europe. Another Ottoman (Islamic) attack in 1683 was defeated, again at Vienna. Since then no Arab army has advanced into Europe. The north-south struggle then broke out again when Napoleon attempted to militarily seize Egypt, Palestine and Syria from the Turks—he failed. During World War II, the north-south struggle flared up yet again, when Axis forces tried to take over the whole of North Africa and the Middle East—they eventually failed.

We will see another conflict in the future—Europe and the Arab world are bound to cross swords again. An end time prophecy found in Daniel 11(verse 40-42), describes a King of the South who will provoke a King of the North. The prophet Daniel described the rise this southern Islamic power that will push (fight) against this European (northern) power. Notice: “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He [the king of the North] shall also enter the Glorious Land [or the Holy Land], and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. The provocation of this King of the South motivates the soon coming European dictator to move troops into the Middle East—war will ensue.

Some of the key nations comprising the empire of the future “king of the South” are the nations of Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia! These are all Arab (and primarily Sunni) nations, which are located primarily south of Jerusalem, they are prophesied to enter into a confederacy with their Arab brothers, as is also indicated in Psalm 83.

Many Sunnis look to Baghdadi as the new Islamic caliph who will establish a permanent caliphate in the Middle East. We know from prophecy that this King of the South—will emerge on the world stage. Is this King of the South Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? No, I do not think he is the King of the South. But it is interesting to see his quick rise to celebrity status in the Arab world. The future Islamic King of the South will be enormously popular among many in the Arab world. We watch closely the personalities of the Middle East to see whom this man may be.

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