Michael Weiss writes: Abu Muhammed al-Adnani’s last communique as ISIS’s spokesman and overseer of international operations came in late May of this year. Anticipating the further loss of cities and villages, he cautioned the faithful not to despair and again emphasized the exportation of holy war as an obligation of all Muslims, a motif that has been serially mischaracterized in the media as a shift or pivot in ISIS’s long-term strategy.
In reality, it is the culmination of a long-held fever-dream of world domination, one that began in the late 1990s and was intermittently implemented, mainly in Mesopotamia and the Levant, under the guidance of the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founding father of ISIS’s first incarnation, al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Zarqawi’s expansionism was ultimately apocalyptic: he was fond of citing a hadith, or saying attributable to the Prophet Muhammed, that foretold the inevitable clash between the Armies of Rome and the Armies of Islam in a scruffy little town in the Syrian province of Aleppo known as Dabiq, now also the name of ISIS’s two year-old propaganda magazine. “The spark has been lit here in Iraq,” Zarqawi said, in one of his own sayings that has furnished the epigraph of every issue of this grim periodical, “and its heat will continue to intensify — by Allah’s permission — until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” (ISIS currently holds Dabiq, although in the coming weeks it will likely lose it either to American-backed Kurdish guerrillas or Turkish-backed Arabs rebels, assuming they’re not too busy fighting each other.)
Lately, Zarqawi’s fever-dream has been reified as a declaration of total war against disbelievers wherever they may be. Does this mean, in the near term, that ISIS envisages driving Abrams tanks and Humvees down Pennsylvania Avenue or the Champs-Élysées the way it drove them into Mosul two years ago? No. It means sowing mayhem and destruction in the Land of Disbelievers and watching these societies cannibalize themselves in advance of the future Islamic conquest. The sequence of war was written up centuries ago. [Continue reading…]