Fiamma Nirenstein

Today, the caliph is a star on TV. This is the new esthetic of terror

For the first time, and coinciding with the commencement of the holy period of Ramadan, the self-proclaimed “caliph” leader of the Islamic State (I.S), Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, has launched a personal media offensive. Wearing a turban, and with the blackest of beards, in the background arabesques of the Mosque of Mosul, in his first video he states that the caliphate will be established around the world, and he calls for the obedience of all Muslims to him. His call is to his Sunni followers, to the dissident groups, to the Shia enemies with which he is at war. The head of the old Al Qaeda, Ayman Al Zawahiri has excommunicated Al Baghdadi, but no one can doubt the fact that ISIS is on the rise with them having already conquered part of the Middle East. This can be understood without doubt by watching other ISIS videos, where the world is drowning in the blood of the past. Search the internet for ISIS videos, the Al Qaeda terrorist group in Iraq and in the Levant. The title of the video is Saleel to Sawarin (“clang of swords”).

But the ISIS acronym has been surpassed: the “prince of believers”, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has announced the advent of the IS, the new Islamic state, which will resurrect the empire that stretched from Spain to Iran, Turkey, and Eastern Europe. It is not a different program from that of Bin Laden, but the aesthetics of this video, and other films made by the new version of Al Qaeda, is completely different from the 35 videos that Bin Laden posted.
In addition to his discourses, Osama posted beheadings in closed spaces, a type of intimate threat in which the executioner in the name of Allah ends the lives of Americans and Jews, as with the 26 year old Nick Berg in 2004, or as the journalist Daniel Pearl. But the aura chosen by Bin Laden was prophetic, dressed as a cleric with white and beige clothes and white turban, or wearinga military jacket as did Arafat. He spoke in a still hieratic tone, a prophecy of inevitable death. With his steady voice, Osama urged recruitment to fight the West, the kafirs, the infidels, he praised the11 September massacre, and with his subdued priestly tone he designed a worldwide caliphate.

Instead, Isis recruits by showering us with a cascade of human blood. The mass murder, the ruthlessness, the field of battle, the hamwee; missiles are its advertisement. A militant standing before a background of black flags, fiery battles, terrified prisoners before their death, while proclaiming the future conquest of Rome, has two purposes: the first to show images of passports burning on a bonfire, of countries which no longer exist, like Syria and Iraq. But also the USA, Australia, Europe, from which 5000 jihadists are departing, all members of the IS. The second is to terrorize: they shoot, dismember, cut off heads, and kill unsuspecting officials in the street, shooting them in the head after having forced them to kneel, forcing them to dig their own graves, and to declare their unworthiness; they force hundreds of young people to march towards death; they show mangled bodies to the camera, shooting indiscriminately at any car that passes, while in the background martial music is playing, they quote a verse that says; “We have come to bring you only massacre”.

The IS is composed of Sunnis repudiated by Al Qaeda, and now it asks Al Qaeda and the Syrian Al Nusra group to fight alongside them. Their immediate enemy is the Iraqi Shiite president Al Maliki. Obama, with Kerry’s useless approach, has called for the formation of a broadened government. In reality, al-Maliki is relying on something else: the Shiite has Iran on its side, which has already sent three divisions of the Revolutionary Guards and has stationed the famous commander, Qassem Sulaimani, in Baghdad. Iran points to the conquest of the Middle East, and for now it holds Assad’s Syria, Shiite Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon. Even the Fars agency, affiliated with the Quds Force, has posted a video: tens of thousands of people with green and red flags praising Hussein, the revered Imam buried in Karbala, the Shiite holy city in Iraq, while volunteers place requests to depart for Iraq.

War is uncertain but boundaries have already changed. The Kurds are moving towards the establishment of their own state, which includes parts of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Soon we will be talking about the former Iraq and Syria, as we do today of the former Yugoslavia. For now, from a military point of view, the Islamic-Iranian part is stronger than that of the Sunni; even the Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan have placed an army on the border, but King Abdullah can count on a strong and motivated army. Israel, the only refuge for moderates from all parties (including Abu Mazen,who would face the ugliest of ends if he were to end up in the jaws of al Qaeda and Hamas), has promised aid to Jordan and the Kurds. New balances are being drawn in the Middle East.

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.