Al-Baghdadi speech presages collapse of ISIL
By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad and Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo
"Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's latest audio message comes off as a speech of defeat and collapse, analysts say, with scolding warnings that reflect disappointment in the group's fighters.
In the November 3rd recording, which was widely circulated on social media, al-Baghdadi urges ISIL elements in the city of Mosul not to escape or retreat.
The ISIL-affiliated outlet that released the message claims it is al-Baghdadi speaking. The ISIL leader is in hiding and seldom shows his face.
"Do not retreat," al-Baghdadi says in the recording. "Holding your ground with honour is a thousand times easier than retreating in shame."
Since October 17th, Iraqi forces have been engaged in an offensive to drive ISIL out of Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq and the place where al-Baghdadi announced his self-proclaimed "caliphate" two years ago.
Observers and security officials described the 32-minute speech as a desperate attempt to boost fighters' morale, noting that it had the opposite effect, by exposing the group's weak points and missteps as it gradually loses ground.
Al-Baghdadi's speech was one of defeat, reflecting ISIL's state of collapse, Joint Operations Command spokesman Maj. Gen. Yahya Rasul told Diyaruna.
He kept repeating phrases such as "endure", "hold your ground" and "do not escape" which shows that "al-Baghdadi is trying to mend a clear state of defeat among his fighters", Rasul said.
The ISIL leader's disappointment with his followers was clear even in the tone of his voice and the words and expressions he chose to use, he added.
Let down by his followers
"The speech reflected a state of despair, confusion and disintegration within the group, and also betrayed a state of detachment and lack of communication with its supporters," military analyst Fadel Abu Rughaif told Diyaruna.
Al-Baghdadi used the word "endure" 18 times, he said, reflecting a state of alarm among his fighters.
He used the expression "hold your ground" six times, in addition to scolding warnings such as "beware of weakness" and "beware of turning back", as if he was expecting his followers abandon their positions and flee, Abu Rughaif said.
The speech also revealed divisions and insubordination within the group, he said, as evidenced by al-Baghdadi's call on his supporters at eight different intervals to obey their leaders and his warning against "conflict and discord".
Al-Baghdadi addressed the people of Ninawa directly, imploring them for support, which indicates he has lost hope in many of his own followers, Abu Rughaif said.
The ISIL leader chose to conclude his speech with a prayer of "supplication and imploring", a prayer that is only said in times of dire straits, "as is the state of al-Baghdadi and his followers today", he added.
Speech had no effect
Iraqi MP Iskandar Witwit, who serves on the parliamentary security and defence committee, ridiculed the speech, in which al-Baghdadi calls on his followers to "resist the coalition's aircraft with prayers".
"The group has lost all of its tools and is today incapable of standing up to the advancing Iraqi forces as they push towards the centre of Mosul," he told Diyaruna.
Al-Baghdadi's speech has had no effect on the course of the fighting nor has it lifted his fighters' degraded morale, Brig. Gen. Rasul said.
On the contrary, only a few days after the speech, ISIL fighters were defeated in Hamam al-Alil to the south of Mosul, which has been one of the group's key strongholds, he added.
Federal forces, the Iraqi army's 15th Division and 34th Armoured Brigade forces also recaptured a number of villages on the outskirts of Mosul and are now just a few kilometres away from the city centre, he said.
"Al-Baghdadi, who has kept quiet for more than a year, is today preaching to his supporters again because he realises that Mosul ... is now under threat of slipping through his hands," he said.
He knows well that "his collapse in Mosul will be followed by other big collapses in the remaining usurped areas, and that his game will soon be over", he added.
Rebellion against al-Baghdadi
In his speech, al-Baghdadi admonishes his fighters, telling them to fully comply with the orders of emirs and not question their decisions, said Mazen Zaki, director of the new media department at Ibn al-Waleed Studies and Field Research Centre in Egypt.
This indicates that a "rebellion is sweeping the ranks of the group, and especially since the start of the campaign to liberate Mosul", he told Diyaruna.
"Al-Baghdadi also stressed another crucial point in his speech, that the group was not and will not be affected by the loss of several of its emirs and commanders," Zaki said.
The decision to address this stems from "the fear and confusion" prevailing among rank and file fighters after a number of ISIL commanders were killed in recent airstrikes, he said.
Throughout his speech, al-Baghdadi made a point of inciting individuals he referred to as "inghimasis", or suicide attackers who immerse themselves in enemy ranks, said retired Egyptian army officer Maj. Gen. Yahya Mohammed Ali, who specialises in extremist groups.
He called on them "to attack with full force those involved in the assault on Mosul", Ali told Diyaruna, noting that "the group most often uses inghimasis in only two cases, in attacks to clear the way for other elements, or in desperate defence against major attacks on it and its positions".
"In Mosul’s case, it appears that the group fully realises what the eventual outcome will be and is trying to proactively forestall it by using suicide attackers to at least delay the fall of the city from his hands," he said.