During the night, a rumor originating from ISIS' media sources announced---with few details---that ISIS Supreme Leader Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead and that a successor would be named soon. The report came from the Iraqi village of Tal Afar, an ISIS-occupied redoubt west of Mosul.
The story was met with initial skepticism, as there have been conflicting reports about Baghdadi since he fled Raqqa in May, 2016. Russian Military Intelligence claimed at the end of June that the believed the Caliph was killed in a Russian airstrike in Eastern Syria. During the final days of the Battle of Mosul, ISIS religious leaders issued a fatwah against publically announcing Baghdadi's death; and the fiends even burned an Imam who violated that policy at the stake to make their point.
Fars News, an Iranian publication very closely connected to Iranian Intelligence and Military sources also confirmed the story today. Iranian Intelligence has actually proven quite accurate during the course of the war. According to them, there is an internal battle going in ISIS now for control of the group---although why anyone actually would want this job right now is difficult to comprehend. (Well, we are talking about madmen here). It is noteworthy though, that Iran didn't confirm the earlier Russian report, even though the two countries are allies and share intelligence.
Iranian officials are not certain as to the cause of the Caliph's demise; but some unnamed sources told Fars that there is suspicion that al-Baghdadi was overthrown in an internal coup following the Battle of Mosul. Others believe that he may have died this weekend in Mosul from some battle-related cause.
Regardless of how Baghdadi met his demise, the world is now rid of one of the 21st Century's most notorious master-criminals. Baghdadi unleashed a Reign of Terror on par with other political killers of the modern era: Robespierre, Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, etc. And unfortunately---as was true of these others---he'll serve as inspiration for future collections of fanatics. Baghdadi was especially noted among this infamous group for his refined cruelty. These others at least sought efficiency in their means of killing innocents; Baghdadi seemed to delight in, and even encourage, his followers to kill with the most hideous means that their evil imaginations could suggest.
Political and religious fanatics are invariably driven by an obsessive hatred. Classical psychologists believe that the fanatic---driven mad by the evil within himself---sublimates this hatred under an affected superiority and then projects what he hates of himself onto other groups or individuals. Psychologists also believe that the reason that fanatics gain followers is that they attract others of a similar neurotic inclination whose evil tendencies find validation in the fanatic's approval. This explains the so-called charisma that such personalities seem to have---and why it effects some people deeply while having no effect on others. As the fanatic's movement grows, others are lured in through cunning propaganda and the social effect of the fanatic's popularity.
Baghdadi seemed to have been consumed with such a hatred of humanity in general that he was able to act as a human conduit for anybody else with a hatred they wished to act out upon. Any one who hated the Allied Governments; or the West, or Christians, or Jews, or Moderate Moslems; or Westerners who hated their own cultures; or hated women---all were welcome to join ISIS. ISIS was truly innovative in that was an equal-opportunity hate group. Adherents had to pledge a superficial loyalty to the Wahhabi Cult; but they were basically free to commit sins against Islam and Crimes Against Humanity afterwards.
From the sociological standpoint, let us all pray that Baghdadi's innovations aren't setting a trend for the 21st Century. At least fanatics of earlier times had to seize control of governments to cause global mayhem; the world is really going to have a problem if ISIS-like groups can spring up out of nowhere in various discontented parts of the world.
ISIS will survive Baghdadi's death, but in much the same way that Naziism continued after Hitler. It's always going to be a problem, but its main driving-force is now gone. ISIS, as a worldwide movement effectively died with Baghdadi. There is no real threat of them any longer building a Caliphate in the Fertile Crescent, which was Baghdadi's objective. Yes, they will still be active here and there and commit some further attacks on occasion. And the Allies still have to liberate Raqqa and a few other areas under their control. But it's only a matter of time now before this exceptionally evil group recedes into history.
As Leslie Charteris, the author of The Saint series, once had his character say to a Nazi commander, "You and your kind represent nothing in world history more significant than a forest fire. You burst onto the world scene bringing your black gifts of terror and destruction; but one day the forest will be green again and nobody will remember you."
And we can't think of a better eulogy for Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi than that.