Reports of death of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri
To be honest despite confirmation I’m still skeptical, especially given how many times these two have been ‘killed’ or ‘captured’.
And especially given reports that al-Masri left Iraq for Afghanistan some time ago– although it is entirely possible he could have gone back. Though I also seem to remember reporting he had been killed in Afghanistan too. Ugh
Anyway, if it is them, well it will be very interesting to see what happens.
So, my thesis frazzled off the top of my head thoughts are as follows:
A key question will be with them now gone (especially al-Masri) how many links still exist back into AQ core – and at what level in the food chain, so to speak.
If there aren’t that many left –which I suspect is the case, there will be an issue with command and control with AQ HQ. The composition of AQ in Iraq then becomes an interesting proposition.
This is significant because of the tension between franchise groups of AQ and AQ HQ over their local and regional objectives versus AQ’s more global focus. It’s clear from their communications these issues often come up. And it is tension between objectives, along with ideological issues and ‘staying on message’ both in terms of propaganda releases and attack typologies that seems to dominate the core franchise relationship.
So who is left in AQ in Iraq becomes key. Having old school members of AQ core in the crew, like al-Masri, was crucial to ensuring the franchise stayed on message. A newer younger generation might have different ideas.
Significant here too are their ideologues. Who is the current sharia judge within the group? What is the status of its sharia committee? Where will it look for direction? Where will it look if links to AQ core are cut?
We’re not talking about a large group of people here. AQ in Iraq is not the organisation it used to be. However, before people go writing it off they would do well to remember that Zarqawi went to Iraq with 16 people. That was it.
While the cauldron caused by the US invasion of Iraq and ongoing conflict largely drove his ability to rapidly expand and develop his organisation (especially during and after Falluja) and this can’t be repeated now, it would be a mistake to fully write off the organisation.
Another interesting dynamic will be to see how other militant factions/groups linked to the group react and whether they make a move to put the boot in, so to speak.
If these guys have been taken out, this will have a significant short term impact on whoever is left – because of the way AQ in Iraq was/is structured. All AQ franchises are heirarchical, but the degree of heirarchy tends to be higher in groups operating in conflict zones. AQ under UBL pre 9/11 was an exception here but that’s in part because he is a control freak of epic proportions.
Taking out the two top honchos could leave AQ in Iraq vulnerable to other groups.
I’m interested to see if any AQ media releases come out in relation to this. They should give some indication as to the group’s next move and what, if any, types of restructure, merger etc may result.
And as I noted in my Jane’s piece, we know that command and control with franchises and with the Iraq AQ franchise in particular is exercised via the information committees. So this is where I’d be looking, not just for a release about this but also for behind the scenes movement in terms of appointing new leaders and subsequent follow up communications with AQ core and any directives that may come from it in relation to this.
Moreover, those in the information committee tend to have the formal, pre-existing links back to AQ core, so a leader maybe appointed from within its ranks–at least in the interim. Or hold more sway. But again this depends on the composition of the remaining leadership and also the role of the Sharia judge and his own position viz AQ core and its objectives versus those more localised or regional objectives.