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    In this Oct. 6, 2014 file photo, shot with an extreme telephoto lens and through haze from the outskirts of Suruc at the Turkey-Syria border, militants with the Islamic State group are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria

    ISIL and the Tale of Too Many Coincidences

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    ISIL leader Al-Baghdadi is apparently alive and well - but knowing that his ‘Caliphate’ is under attack, he wants to deflect attention away from Iraq and Syria by destabilizing other key areas in the region. Here’s where it gets interesting: there appears to be an awful lot of overlap between his interests and those of his coalition enemies.

    After surviving what was reported to have been an assassination attempt on his convoy last weekend, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi released an audio recording where he singled out targets for his new regional offensive, focusing on the Mideast and parts of Northern Africa. A deeper look at his plans shows that they might coincidentally aid certain interests of the international coalition fighting against his ‘Caliphate’. 

    Which side is he really on?

    First up on al-Baghdadi’s hit list is Saudi Arabia, which ironically is home to many wealthy individuals that have long been suspected of funding ISIL’s rise to power. The country formally denies any association to the terrorist group, although its official state ideology of Wahhabism is very similar to the extreme Islam that ISIL promotes. Still, it appears it wasn’t extreme enough for al-Baghdadi and he now wants the Saudi monarchy must be overthrown…or so he says. 

    What he might be doing in fact is strengthening it. The Shiite minority in the oil-rich Eastern Province staged protests during the ‘Arab Spring’ events in 2011, and they’re on the verge of doing so again, after prominent activist Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr was sentenced to a public beheading and subsequent crucifixion by the Saudi government for his supposed “foreign meddling” back in 2011. This has drawn heavy criticism from human rights campaigners worldwide and raised the possibility of more Shiite protests in the near future. With al-Baghdadi’s de-facto declaration of war against the Saudi government, the threat exists that anyone protesting against them might be labeled terrorists and accused of overthrowing the monarchy. 

    The Saudis have already set themselves up for a major internal crackdown through their harsh anti-terrorist laws passed earlier this year, which were slammed for stifling the freedoms of speech and assembly. And al-Baghdadi’s statement is more than enough to taint any legitimate Shiite movement as a terrorist-inspired regime change attempt, even though that may not be the case at all. So even though he talks about overthrowing the Saudis, he’s really playing right into their hands and helping them to oppress the Shiites, who incidentally are among his major enemies. Talk about coincidence!

    Fanning Sectarian War

    Al-Baghdadi’s persecution of Shiites extends into Yemen, which just saw a people’s uprising in September that empowered that long-suppressed minority. The Houthis’ ascent to power brought about the first time the minority group was adequately represented in the country’s government. But not everyone saw it that way. The US and many likeminded Western media outlets alleged a secret Iranian conspiracy to usurp power there, conveniently forgetting that the previous government was too inefficient to warrant resistance against it. They emphasized the sectarian standpoint to increase resistance to the Houthis – ironic, since the West usually favors minority empowerment all across the world (the support of Albanians in Serbian Kosovo, for example). Now, al-Baghdadi has joined the fray and is calling for jihad against the Shiites in Yemen, which is again just a totally coincidental policy convergence on his part. 

    Painted portrait of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
    © Flickr / Thierry Ehrmann
    Painted portrait of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
    The ISIL chieftain then sets his sights across the Red Sea to Egypt. Cairo is struggling to support its secularity amidst a spate of Islamic insurgency in the Sinai that has resulted in yet another state of emergency. In this case, any additional Islamic violence would basically be a complete anathema and would destabilize the consolidating government even more. 

    Algeria, also targeted by al-Baghdadi, is similar in this way, since it emerged from a brutal Islamic-inspired civil war over a decade ago and is vehemently against any extremist groups. It was also the scene of the In Amenas hostage crisis in January 2013 when 37 foreign hostages were killed by Islamic terrorists, showing that the threat is still certainly there. 

    Libya may have been the  last country mentioned by al-Baghdadi, but only because it is practically a sitting duck with its current terrorist challenges. By bringing jihad to these three countries right on Europe’s doorstep, ISIL could be trying to distract the international coalition from striking in Iraq and Syria and focusing there instead. Algeria has gas, Libya has oil, and Egypt is the largest Arab country and has huge market potential. Once again, this is obviously nothing more than yet another coincidence. 

    Israel as the Last Man Standing

    How coincidental is it that al-Baghdadi, the leader of the world’s most fearsome, notorious, and extreme Islamic terrorist group in history, doesn’t have a bone to pick with Israel? Sure, he blasts it and the Jews every once in a while, but which Bin Laden wannabe doesn’t? So let’s get this straight – al-Baghdadi occupied part of Iraq and Syria and just declared his intent to move into Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, and even as far afield as Algeria…but there’s no mention of imminent war against Israel, the supposedly sworn enemy of jihadists everywhere. Maybe he was so shell-shocked from the recent assassination attempt that he just forgot to mention it. If all goes according to his plan, when the dust settles in the Mideast and North Africa after the ISIL-inspired chaos, Israel will be the last man standing. But all this is just a coincidence, right?

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