Although ISIS releases nearly 40 pieces of propaganda each and every day via the group’s sprawling network of production units located in at least a dozen countries, one person you don’t hear from very often is TIME magazine’s runner-up for “person of the year”, Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The ISIS chief - who was once held in a US jail in Iraq - is notoriously reclusive and hasn’t been seen in public since last year’s speech in Mosul in which he declared himself caliph. On Saturday, Baghdadi has released a new audio clip in which he assures the world that neither the US nor Russia has weakened the group. He also threatens attacks on Israel.
#BreakingNews Purported audio recording by ISIS leader Baghdadi says group has not been weakened by U.S. or Russia strikes— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) December 26, 2015
ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi published a voice recording Saturday in which he threatened that Islamic State militants would attack Israel.
"With the help of Allah, We are getting closer to you every day," al-Baghdadi told his Israeli listeners. "The Israelis will soon see us in Palestine. This is no longer a war of the crusaders against us. The entire world is fighting us right now."
The ISIS leader continued, "The Israelis thought that we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it. That is not the case. We have not forgotten Palestine for one moment."
Part of ISIS leader Baghdadi words on Jews (Israel) and Palestine in newly released audio statement. pic.twitter.com/Cnu9RMC27Q— Israel Breaking (@IsraelBreaking) December 26, 2015
And from The Jerusalem Post:
The audio message said air strikes by Russia and by a US-led coalition had failed to weaken the group.
"Be confident that God will grant victory to those who worship him, and hear the good news that our state is doing well. The more intense the war against it, the purer it becomes and the tougher it gets," Baghdadi added.
The tape was posted on Saturday on Twitter accounts that usually publish Islamic State statements.
In May, ISIS issued an audio recording that it said was by Baghdadi, calling on supporters around the world to join the fight in Syria and Iraq or to take up arms wherever they live.
In the May recording, issued by the group's al-Furqan media outlet and posted on several websites, a voice sounding like Baghdadi's says: "There is no excuse for any Muslim not to migrate to the Islamic State ..."
Joining (its fight) is a duty on every Muslim. We are calling on you either join or carry weapons (to fight) wherever you are."
Reuters and The Jerusalem Post could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio of the May or the Saturday recordings.
In the May message, Baghdadi tells the rulers of Saudi Arabia that "their end is near", adding that Gulf rulers felt threatened by the growing popularity of his group among Sunni Muslims.
A bit of humor:
It's nice to be remembered. https://t.co/Ko15fyCFU6— Daniel Gordis (@DanielGordis) December 26, 2015
And so, as Baghdadi's soldiers are set to lose control of Ramadi, a key city in Iraq, the ISIS leader appears keen on reassuring the caliphate that all is indeed well. As The Telegraph notes, "he also called on Saudi citizens - the biggest contributor to Isil ranks - to "rise up" against their government as he dimissed the kingdom's newly formed Muslim coalition against the caliphate." He needn't worry, Riyadh's "coalition" is farcical given the kingdom's penchant for promoting the exact same ideology as that espoused by Baghdadi.
But with Russia systematically dismantling the group's oil trafficking network, and with the Iraqis on the move first in Ramadi, and perhaps soon in Mosul, Baghdadi's declarations may well be a sign that the end draws nigh for a pet project that, until recently, was nutured by the US and its regional allies in Riyadh, Ankara, and Doha.