Analysis: Islamic State spokesman claims group remains a ‘reality’ despite losses

The Islamic State’s spokesman, Abul-Hasan al-Muhajir, released a lengthy speech on Mar. 18. His talk, which was translated into English by the so-called caliphate’s online media team, contains many of the same themes as past productions. Al-Muhajir is defiant, claiming that “patience” will lead to “victory,” even after all of the setbacks his group has suffered.  

The 44-minute audio recording, titled “He Was True to Allah and Allah Was True to Him,” was clearly made in recent days.

Al-Muhajir references the terrorist attack by a white supremacist in New Zealand on Mar. 15. He has heard some compare that massacre, allegedly carried out by Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old from Australia, to slayings conducted by the Islamic State’s own men. Al-Muhajir makes an unpersuasive case that the two are wholly different.

“O people, everyone saw the incident of the massacre at the two mosques in Crusader New Zealand. We will reflect on that incident,” al-Muhajir says. Some “compare the killing of those worshipers with the Shari’ah-compliant jihad that the sons of the State of Islam are undertaking to establish the religion and repel the aggression of the Safavids, the Crusaders, and the murtaddin and turn them back from the Muslims’ lands.”

Al-Muhajir claims that this comparison is not warranted, as the Islamic State’s actions are both necessary to “establish the religion” and defensive in the face of opposition from the Iranians, the West, and “apostates.” In reality, most of the Islamic State’s victims are Muslims who simply did not adopt the organization’s totalitarian agenda.   

Al-Muhajir has to recognize the large toll the Islamic State’s jihad against the world has taken on its followers. And he does, conceding that it “is rare now not to find in the Islamic State a household that did not offer sacrifice and redemption for this religion.”

“Rhetoric fails to describe their sacrifice and redemption in terms of numbers among the killed, captive, and displaced among young, women, and children,” al-Muhajir says. He adds that “entire families refused to abandon Darul-Islam and preferred to die over abandoning Darul-Islam and returning to Darul-Kufr and living under the oppression of the taghut and its rule.”

This is a familiar construct, as the Islamic State has often referred to the territory it controlled as the abode of Islam, whereas most everywhere else is consider the land of infidels or apostates.

Al-Muhajir references Mosul, Raqqa and Sirte – the Islamic State’s three most important cities at the height of its power in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, respectively – as if there is glory to be found in the rubble. The self-declared caliphate has lost all three, but still operates in the areas surrounding the cities. And part of his message seems to be aimed at the survivors. Al-Muhajir claims “the epic battles and their effect in the Wilayat [provinces] of the Islamic State are no longer obscured” and the “sons of the Khilafah continue to prove that they are the firm and solid rock on which will break the alliance of kufr.”

In recent weeks, the Islamic State’s media team has cited comments by American officials, who have indicated that the group isn’t dead. Al-Muhajir has heard these comments as well. He specifically references comments made by Brett McGurk (who was the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State), CENTCOM Commander Joseph Votel, and National Security Adviser John Bolton to this effect.

Al-Muhajir gloats over the fact that McGurk resigned “in protest over” President Trump’s “claim of victory.” The Islamic State’s spokesman claims that Trump “quickly denigrated” and humiliated McGurk, “stating that he never knew him [McGurk] before” and that he was part of the Obama administration and its “failed policies.”

Calling Trump “the Roman dog,” al-Muhajir says the president proved that the “opposite” of victory was at hand when he complained that “developed countries can not engage in endless wars.” The so-called caliphate’s spokesman adds that Trump complained about other countries not “committing to send enough supplies and soldiers to solidify the bases of the government of the Iranian Rafidah militias in Iraq, in fear of the sudden emergence of the Islamic State and its recapture of the territories from which it was ousted.”  

The comments by American officials prove that the “state of the Khilafah has become a reality, the danger of which cannot be ignored or denied.” Pointing to the Islamic State’s global network, Al-Muhajir says this “is its army, the companies of its battalions touring Iraq, Sham, Khorasan, West Africa, and other Wilayat [provinces], awaiting the hour of decision.” 

As in past messages, al-Muhajir portrays the Islamic State as the Sunni population’s best hope against Iran and its Shiite militias in Iraq. “O Sunni people of Iraq, the Islamic State is your lifeboat and your impenetrable fortress against the Iranian Safavids expansion, so repent before it is too late and learn a lesson from others,” he says. “No matter how long it might take, the Islamic State is coming back to the areas it departed, by Allah’s will.”

The Islamic State maintains networks in both Iraq and Syria, as well as elsewhere. And some of its key leaders remain alive, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Contrary to various rumors, Al-Muhajir indicates that Baghdadi hasn’t departed by asking Allah to “preserve him.”

According to al-Muhajir, Baghdadi urges followers to “abandon” their “communication devices,” because they bring “disasters.” Of course, he means that the U.S. and its allies are able to track the organization’s members and leaders through electronic means. Thus, the Islamic State spokesman says, there is “no harm if a job that can be accomplished with those devices in two days is accomplished without it in one week instead.”

The Islamic State’s men are hunted, but they are hoping to regroup in the future.  

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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