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The rise and fall of Daesh

The rise and fall of Daesh
Led by Iraqi-born “caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, it declared it would henceforth be known only as the Islamic State. (AFP)
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Updated 27 May 2020

The rise and fall of Daesh

The rise and fall of Daesh

Daesh changed the terms of the debate on extremism

Summary

On June 30, 2014, Arab News reported that a Sunni terrorist group, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, had declared the formation of a caliphate, imposing its extreme interpretation of Shariah law on areas it had conquered in Syria and Iraq.

Led by Iraqi-born “caliph” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, it declared it would henceforth be known only as the Islamic State, a caliphate whose territory extended from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala in Iraq.

Known in the Arab world as Daesh, the organization was responsible for a reign of terror in which thousands were killed or held as slaves, priceless antiquities were destroyed or stolen, and historic sites from Palmyra in Syria to Mosul in Iraq were devastated.

Although Daesh continues as an ideological threat, over the past five years a US-led coalition of dozens of nations, including all six Gulf Cooperation Council states, has stripped it of the 110,000 square kilometers of territory it once controlled, liberating 7 million people.

In October 2019, Al-Baghdadi committed suicide during a US raid on his hideout in northern Syria.

In June 2014, I was part of the team that launched a new think tank looking at religious extremism. Our patron, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, had long been concerned that the ideological element of extremist groups was being overlooked, and it needed more policy-focused research.

That month, Daesh raced through northern Iraq, routing government troops and capturing a vast quantity of material that would strengthen its new position. On June 29, in the central mosque in Mosul, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader, declared himself to be caliph of a new caliphate.

The world was fascinated and horrified. Most had never heard of Daesh, or were aware of its links to Al-Qaeda in Iraq during the Iraq War. How had this group come out of nowhere to conquer the north of Iraq in addition to its territories in Syria? Interest was such that an article I published on our think tank’s website explaining where the group had come from was at one stage the top result in Google searches.

For extremists and their sympathizers across the world, this was the moment they had been waiting and fighting for over many years. Al-Qaeda’s softly-softly approach had caused immense frustrations; here at last, they thought, was a leader and a group capable of delivering on what it promised. Extremists flocked to Daesh in their droves; estimates in 2016 put the number of foreign fighters who had joined at 40,000, with a flow at its peak of up to 2,000 per month. The majority of these foreign fighters were from the Middle East and North Africa, but they included a large number from the West, and South and Southeast Asia too.

Throughout modern history, in every kind of social or political movement, new kinds of organizations have emerged and changed the terms of the debate. Al-Qaeda did that with the 9/11 attacks. Daesh did the same in 2014.

All across the globe, people still claim to be acting in the name of Al-Baghdadi’s supposed caliphate

Peter Welby

Daesh’s use of propaganda probably received the most focus (and parts of its violence, such as the immolation of Muath Al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot, were for propaganda purposes). It produced slick videos and professionally edited and produced magazines. It created vast networks on social media. Counter-Daesh efforts sought to emulate this, with very limited success, because the majority of efforts seemed unable to grasp that the production of slick videos was not the point, but merely a mechanism for communicating the point.

Key Dates


  • 1

    Daesh declares the formation of a caliphate, led by Iraqi Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri, aka Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.


  • 2

    Al-Baghdadi makes his only known public appearance, in a video filmed at the Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul.


  • 3

    Daesh posts photographs of the beheading of dozens of captured Syrian soldiers. Over the next year, more filmed beheadings would follow, including those of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines.

    Timeline Image July 25, 2014


  • 4

    The Global Coalition Against Daesh is formed by the US.


  • 5

    Daesh fighters murder 163 people in Mosul, Iraq.

    Timeline Image June 1, 2017


  • 6

    Daesh destroys the historic Great Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul.


  • 7

    Daesh destroys monuments at Syria’s UNESCO World Heritage site at Palmyra.

    Timeline Image December 2017


  • 8

    US Special Forces track Al-Baghdadi to a hideout in northern Syria, where he kills himself and three children by detonating a suicide vest.


  • 9

    At a ministerial meeting in Washington, the 82-member global coalition celebrates the liberation of the group’s former territories but warns “these achievements and Daesh’s enduring defeat are threatened... our work is not done.”

Another area of total change was in Daesh’s approach to governance. Other transnational terrorist groups had attempted governance before — notably Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the aftermath of 2011. And other extremist groups of different ideological stripes had tried it on a large scale, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan. But Daesh was the first group with an explicitly transnational ideology (it sought to establish a global caliphate) to attempt governance at scale. It put out calls to doctors and teachers; it announced the launch of a currency with great fanfare; it encouraged those who traveled to its territory to burn their passports.

Iraq said Daesh’s ‘caliphate’ was coming to an end three years to the day after it was proclaimed, following the recapture of Mosul’s iconic Al-Nuri Mosque on Thursday.

From a story by Siraj Wahab on Arab News’ front page, June 30, 2017

This relates to the third area of total change, and the reason that, even now, with the majority of Daesh territory liberated, extremists all over the world are still carrying out attacks in the group’s name. Daesh’s actions in 2014 had proclaimed a message across the Islamist world: “We Deliver.” For decades, different groups had been claiming to seek a caliphate. Most observers laughed at this fantasy and focused on how the West, in their eyes, could stop provoking such groups. Daesh’s actions granted it legitimacy in the sight of its ideological sympathizers. Fighters for other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq defected — in contrast to Daesh, their leaders were mere warlords. Groups from Nigeria to the Philippines swore allegiance. And, right across the Middle East and North Africa, Daesh cells claimed to expand its jurisdiction.

Wind forward nearly six years and Al-Baghdadi is dead, while the territories he commanded across Syria and Iraq are Daesh territories no more. But the allegiance to the idea has remained: In Nigeria, the Sinai, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere across the globe, people still claim to be acting in the name of Al-Baghdadi’s supposed caliphate.




A page from the Arab News archive showing the news on June 30, 2017.

This is the power of ideology. When we focus on personalities, propaganda or territory, we risk missing the most important aspect. It was not Al-Baghdadi’s charismatic personality that drew people who had never met him and hardly ever heard him speak to pledge allegiance. If slick films were enough, the world would be rushing to pledge allegiance to Peter Jackson. If territory were the key, then support for Daesh’s would have dried up on the banks of the Euphrates. All of these things are important, but it is the idea of the caliphate, and the means to achieve it, which holds Daesh’s supporters together.

  • Peter Welby is a consultant on religion and global affairs, specializing in the Arab world. Previously he was the managing editor of a think tank on religious extremism, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, and worked in public affairs in the Arabian Gulf. He is based in London, and has lived in Egypt and Yemen. Twitter: @pdcwelby


Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
Updated 21 min 56 sec ago

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
  • It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods

DUBAI: Indian customs have foiled an attempt to post gold from Dubai disguised in containers of the popular Tang drink.

After sieving the contents of the drink mix, Chennai customs officials discovered it had been mixed with gold granules, according to a statement from the Commissioner of Customs at Chennai International Airport.
Officials probing the racket found that the address of the receiver had been misused.
It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods.
Earlier this year officials at Chennai airport also nabbed two men trying to smuggle gold through the airport underneath their wigs.
The hapless pair were nabbed after their unusual hairstyles caught the attention of officials.

They were found to be carrying two gold paste packets weighing almost 700 g


Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)
Updated 37 min 6 sec ago

Review: Kate Winslet exudes quiet brilliance in sleuthing series ‘Mare of Easttown’

Kate Winslet shines in this small town murder mystery. (Supplied)

CHENNAI: British actress Kate Winslet has dabbled in period pieces, rom-coms, dramas and everything in between, but in her latest outing in “Mare of Easttown,” a series streaming on OSN in the Middle East, she absolutely dazzles as a detective in a small, conservative town in Pennsylvania.

In bleak, deprived small-town America, everybody knows everybody and working as a cop is not easy for Winslet’s character Mare Sheehan.

Mare, who rarely smiles but is not grumpy or snappy, carries her own demons. She is tired and weighed down by grief over a family tragedy. Add to the mix a wayward ex-husband (played by David Denman) and a cagey daughter (Angourie Rice), and it seems her personal life is enough to fill a drama series on its own.

But this is a murder mystery, and soon our protagonist is faced with the unsolved case of a 19-year-old missing girl and more. The girl had been gone for a year, and her mother is a friend of Mare’s, which makes it difficult and personal for the detective. And it seems like a hard bolt from the blue when Erin (Cailee Spaeny), a single teenage mother, is found dead in the woods one night after townsfolk had gathered for a party.

The people of Easttown, used to leading uneventful lives, are not pleased with the ramped up police presence — including the intrusion of a county detective, Colin Zabel (Evan Peters) who is brought in to assist Mare — and it is into this tense atmosphere that Brad Ingelsby, who created and wrote the series, tweaks the formula to add a romantic angle.

Mare meets writer and guest lecturer Richard Ryan (an intelligent, witty and charming Guy Pearce), who is visiting the town.

The writer turns “Mare of Easttown” from what could have been a dull and boring story into something that leaves us thirsting for more at the end of each twisting episode, where every detail matters.

It is a fantastic study in both police work and, more interestingly, the effect a brutal crime has on a community. The series is ably led by director Craig Zobel, who builds a convincing narrative style.

Of course, his eyes are on the star of the series, and it is remarkable to see Winslet so engaging.


Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians
Updated 40 min 44 sec ago

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Arab League, Muslim World League condemn Israeli attacks against Palestinians
  • Aboul Gheit called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence
  • The Muslim World League has strongly condemned the attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque

CAIRO: The head of the Arab League condemned on Tuesday deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip as “indiscriminate and irresponsible” and said Israel had provoked an earlier escalation in violence by its actions in Jerusalem.
“Israeli violations in Jerusalem, and the government’s tolerance of Jewish extremists hostile to Palestinians and Arabs, is what led to the ignition of the situation in this dangerous way,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.
The attacks in Gaza were a “miserable show of force at the expense of children’s blood,” he said.
Aboul Gheit called on the international community to act immediately to stop the violence, saying continuing “Israeli provocations” were an affront to Muslims on the eve of the Eid holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Arab League foreign ministers are holding a virtual meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the Muslim World League has strongly condemned the attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque, it said in a statement.
The organization, issued Tuesday went on to say that it rejected the escalations against worshippers.
Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League further denounced all acts of violence that undermined the dignity and rights of the Palestinian people, as well as provoking the feelings of Muslims around the world.
Al-Issa called on the International community to put an end to the violence, preserve the right of the Palestinian people, provide the necessary protection of civilians, guarantee their right to practice their religion, and stop all violations and attacks.
He also reiterated the affirmation of standing by the Palestinian people. He said he supports all peace efforts to reach a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.
He also said the solution should allow Palestinians to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as their capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
Health officials in Gaza said at least 20 people, including nine children, were killed.


US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Updated 29 min 2 sec ago

US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US actress and business mogul Jessica Alba showed off a pair of dainty heels by Lebanese designer Andrea Wazen and accessories by part-Arab jewelry designer Ana Khouri while out and about in New York last week.

The actress — who is also the co-founder of the billion-dollar home care business The Honest Company — was in New York to visit NASDAQ headquarters for the IPO of her company.

Later, she was spotted walking in Manhattan and even appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” wearing a pair of dainty rose-colored mules by Wazen.

Alba showed off the Denver mesh mules in pink, which feature a translucent upper, thin ankle strap and elegant pointed toe shape. The heels complemented a dark sage green bag by Celine and a greige trench coat-and-sheath dress combination.

The entrepreneur and actress wore a pair of pink heels by Andrea Wazen. (Getty Images)

Wazen isn’t the only Arab designer Alba flaunted while out and about in New York. She attended the IPO of her company wearing chunky gold statement earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. 

New York-based Khouri has seen her pieces worn by everyone from Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron to Karlie Kloss and Alicia Vikander.

Wazen is also no stranger to celebrity fans, and has seen her designs sported by the likes of actress Gabrielle Union-Wade, model Ashley Graham, Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez during her “It’s My Party World Tour” in 2019.

The shoe designer is fresh off a win at the Footwear News (FN) Achievement Awards in December, nabbing the Emerging Talent prize.

“What a feeling… I cannot explain the joy and satisfaction I am feeling,” she wrote at the time, before thanking Michael Atmore, chief brand officer and the director of the event, for recognizing her as this year’s emerging talent, stylist Jill Jacobs for presenting her with the award and her team, who she said she couldn’t have “accomplished any of this” without.

“Last but not least, I would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful city, my source of inspiration and my home Beirut,” she wrote.


UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
Updated 11 May 2021

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
  • The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider

DUBAI: British telecommunications company Helios Towers has signed a deal with Omantel to acquire 2,890 sites for $575 million from the sultanate’s largest mobile network operator.
The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider.
The deal is expected to bring in a $59 million bump in revenues in the first full year of operations.
It also involves a $35 million plan to add 300 new build-to-suit sites over the next seven years.
“We view Oman as a very attractive and supportive market for foreign investments, with strong growth and exciting future prospects,” the UK-based company’s chief Kash Pandya said in a statement.
He said the acquisition strengthens its business through “further hard-currency revenues and diversification” in what the CEO described as the fastest growing markets in the region.
“We look forward to working with Omantel and the other MNOs over the coming years to further develop next generation mobile infrastructure solutions and services in Oman,” he added.
The partnership reflects Oman’s FDI aspirations, Omantel CEO Tala Said Al-Mamari said, adding it will create jobs and opportunities in the country.
“This move also allows the monetization of our towers at attractive valuation levels, de-lever our balance sheet, and will accelerate network development in next generation advanced technologies,” he noted.
He said it would allow Omantel’s management to focus on innovation and product development while outsourcing infrastructure management to an independent firm.
The transaction will close by the end of 2021, and the long-term partnership will last for an initial period of 15 years.