Three weeks ago, we highlighted what we dubbed “the greatest piece of terrorist video propaganda in history.” The clip, a 5-minute Hollywood special produced by Islamic State’s al-Hayat Media (the nerve center for a labyrinthine network of “Wilayats”), begins with a glorification of the “caliphate”, as an English-speaking narrator notes that ISIS’ territory is now “thirty times the size of Qatar.”
The graphics-laden presentation goes on to mock the US military for its high suicide rates and ineffective air campaign before presaging the “final” battle with the crusaders where the nonbelievers will “burn on the hills of Dabiq.”
Dabiq - which, you’ll note, is also the name of Islamic State’s propaganda magazine - is a reference to a town in northern Syria, near Aleppo. It is in Dabiq that one of the final clashes between Christianity and Islam will unfold (or so the story goes). Here’s BBC:
The group has focused on the dusty backwater not because of any strategic importance or the size of its population - the Syrian census of 2004 recorded that little over 3,000 people were living there - but for the power of its symbolism.
Dabiq, which lies around 10km (six miles) from the Turkish border, features in Islamic apocalyptic prophecies as the site of an end-of-times showdown between Muslims and their enemies.
The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have said that "the last hour will not come" until Muslims vanquish the Romans at "Dabiq or Al-A'maq" - both in the Syria-Turkey border region - on their way to conquer Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).
IS has been seeking to bring on that battle by goading the international coalition to confront it there.
From the so-called “godfather” of ISIS, Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi:
"The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify... until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq".
“The Islamic State celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains,” The Atlantic notes, adding that it is in Dabiq where “the Prophet said that the armies of Rome will set up their camp” and meet their Waterloo or their Antietam. Here’s a bit more color:
The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” is, now that the pope has no army, remains a matter of debate. But Musa Cerantonio, an Australian preacher reported to be one of the Islamic State’s most influential recruiters, makes a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. Other Islamic State sources suggest that Rome might mean any infidel army, and the Americans will do nicely.
After its battle in Dabiq, Cerantonio said, the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but Cerantonio suggested its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.
Got that? The Turks or the Americans or perhaps both (in the form of NATO) will be defeated in a decisive battle on some farmland near Aleppo at which point an Iranian devil called Dajjal will decimate Islamic State's forces, nearly eradicating the group. That's when Jesus descends from the heavens and kills Dajjal with a spear (and yes, America, you read the excerpt from The Atlantic correctly, Muslims hold Jesus in high esteem contrary to what a politician might have told you).
Well, in anticipation of the epic battle, ISIS has released a new propaganda video called "Meeting At Dabiq." The 14 minute clip has all of the slick, 1080p production you've come to expect from the group and also contains clips of ISIS tanks advancing on Rome. It's presented below in its entirety and there plenty of still shots as well should the internet's neverending game of ISIS video whack-a-mole end up conspiring to kill the hosting.
What's interesting to note here is that this comes as Ash Carter warned John McCain (at a Senate hearing a few days back) that sending a large contingent of ground troops to the Mid-East (as McCain has advocated on a number of occasions including, allegedly, in a secret meeting with Iraqi PM Haider Abadi) risks falling into a trap by turning Islamic State's mythology into reality, thereby emboldening the group and giving its powerful propaganda arm an excuse to recruit still more fighters by claiming that the prophecy has been fulfilled.
Perhaps Carter is just playing devil's advocate to McCain's hawkishness for the sake of perpetuating the charade or perhaps he's just naive, but those of a skeptical persuasion might be tempted to suggest that the US and Turkey intend to use this as an excuse to put more boots on the ground in Syria. That is, if Washington and Ankara can point to new videos as evidence that ISIS is getting serious about this "final" battle, then it would be easy to make the case that their ultimate goal is to make the whole story come true by eventually marching on Instanbul and just to make sure all of their prophecy bases are covered, attacking Rome.
So you decide: slick propaganda piece produced by fanatical terrorists with delusions of religious grandeur and a misplaced belief that they are part and parcel of a prophecy foretold by a prophet, or just another attempt by "someone" to provide the impetus for boots on the ground and the excuse for a protracted troop presence in Syria.