The fall of Aleppo to a consortium of Iranian-built militias backed by Russian airpower and special forces constitutes not only a loud victory for Damascus but also a quieter one for ISIS, or the Islamic State, which mounted a surprise attack that retook the ancient city of Palmyra.
The contrast could not have been starker or a more clear vindication of one of ISIS’s longest-running propaganda tropes: the “infidels” and “apostates” will do nothing to save Sunni Arabs from the pillage, rape, and barrel bombs of the Russians, Alawites, and Shia. But Aleppo’s fall also buttresses one of the lesser-scrutinized claims made by ISIS’s former spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, shortly before his demise.
In May, months before he was taken out by a U.S. airstrike, Adnani issued what would turn out to be a final communiqué refuting a common Sunni criticism of ISIS, namely that the group’s takeover of Sunni towns and cities invariably brought only devastation. See Fallujah and Ramadi. For Adnani, however, such devastation was never the fault of ISIS, as rival jihadist enterprises had discovered at their peril.
“If we knew that any of the righteous predecessors surrendered a span of land to the infidels, using the claim of popular support or to save buildings from being destroyed or to prevent bloodshed, or any other alleged interest,” he said, “we would have done the same as the Qa’idah of the Fool of the so-called Ummah.” Only steadfastness, even in the face of overwhelming odds, would restore Sunni dignity.
Thanks to Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—not to say Barack Obama—Adnani now gets to play the posthumous prophet. Rather than die fighting for Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army (and its Western backers), plus rival Islamist or jihadist groups such the Syrian al Qaeda franchise Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, negotiated the terms of their surrender through a series of failed and humiliating “ceasefires” and evacuations, which are in fact forced population transfers. And Aleppo was still pulverized. [Continue reading…]