BAGHDADI, MAKING IT PERSONAL IN MOSUL
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is back on your screen. After almost a year of public silence, and amid rumors that the self-proclaimed "caliph" might be dead, ISIS released what it claims is a 31-minute audio recording of its leader. In his message — which was recorded in the last 10 days according to an expert quoted by Al Jazeera — Baghdadi urges ISIS fighters not to "retreat" as a coalition of Iraqi troops, Kurdish fighters and Shia militias advance on its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. He declared that "this raging battle and total war" was "a prelude to victory."
To many ISIS enemies, this will sound like a desperate call from a fanatical leader who knows he's losing. In a little over two weeks, anti-ISIS forces have boasted of their impressive gains as Iraqi troops have even entered the city for the first time since Baghdadi's army captured it two-and-a-half years ago.
No doubt, beyond the battlefield, a propaganda war is in full force aimed in part at motivating the respective forces. Baghdadi's audio urges his followers to strike the "enemies of God," including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and to "turn the nights of the unbelievers into days, to wreak havoc in their land and make their blood flow as rivers."
For the anti-ISIS coalition, the goal of eliminating Baghdadi himself may now become just as important as liberating Mosul. Still, as the West has seen in Iraq alone — from Saddam Hussein to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — eliminating a leader is no guarantee of final victory.
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