June 30, 2014–The caliphate has arrived, or at least we’ve been told it has. That is the confident assertion of propagandists for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who over the weekend put out an announcement that the area they control is now one state, with their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the caliph, or supreme leader. All Muslims the world over, we are told, now owe their allegiance to Al Baghdadi.
Listen up! ISIS is confirming what was argued here several weeks ago (“Whose Terror War?” June 3, 2014)– that the terror war has changed. The object of the jihadis is not an “imminent” attack on the United States, as popularizers of the war on terror would have us believe, but primacy among Islamists.
The original Al Qaeda has already “expelled” ISIS from the movement, or jihad, or however you want to describe the politico-religious framework in which this array of movements functions. You can be sure as well that other groups–including the Shahaab in Somalia and Kenya, the Magreb front in Chad, the islamists in Central African Republic and Mali, the Army of God in Sub-Saharan Africa, will all be surprised–and doubtless annoyed–that they are now supposed to report to Al Bagdadi.
This development lends further weight to the proposition that what we are seeing is a collection of local revolutionary movements intent on imposing social change for religious purposes. The islamists may believe that the West and the United States are decadent, but this is not a unified international front that aims at striking the U.S. There is no “global war on terror.” If that ever existed it ended a long time ago.