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What if the Original Leader of the Islamic State Never Existed?

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By Jay Johnson

US foreign policy seems to follow a certain pattern. Deny Deny Deny until it can not be denied and then quietly admit the truth. The war in Iraq was about oil and regime change in Syria is also about energy. A recent DIA document details the rise of IS and how it enables US interests in the region.

The man gave fiery speeches against the perceived evils of the world that were thought provoking as well as inspiring. Although he wasn’t seen in public, he was a very public figure. In fact, everyone was either talking about him or what he said. His words were powerful and led many to do what they otherwise wouldn’t have. He was a leader to many in all senses of the word. In fact, many people from all over the world listened to his recordings and dropped what they were doing in order to follow him and promote his message. According to his bio, he was a highly educated man but not much else was known about him which only enhanced his image. A real man of international mystery, so to speak.

Now, if that description sounds vague and somewhat like the plot of the 2013 Iron Man movie, where Tony Stark battles the evil Mandarin, then you wouldn’t be far off. In that movie, a terrorist mastermind that carries out deadly bombings and other horrible acts is revealed to be a cutout character that simply doesn’t live up to his image. In fact, the Mandarin turns out to be just an actor playing a part, while the real terrorist is able to operate behind the scenes while the world remains blissfully unaware.

When Osama bin Laden dropped off the media’s radar sometime back in late 2006-7, the media immediately began to look for a new bad guy. Although Osama did release a few more recordings over the next few years, his status was reduced to mere a side note. Remember, in the early days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, any mention of a new Osama bin Laden recording would have been front page news. But not anymore. Now the media was looking for something new and hot. And find someone they did.

Enter Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi. The leader of a little known terror group called the Mujahideen Shura Council  and also the Islamic State of Iraq. Neither of these groups had much support or even a presence in Iraq at the time. But all that was to change. Slowly over time, the groups began to establish a larger presence by carrying out bigger and more impressive bombings. Eventually he was declared to be Iraq’s public enemy number one by the US Military. Which sounds logical, right? A growing terrorist cell needs bombings and deaths to draw attention and only the most atrocious acts will bring new followers to the cause. And a group needs a leader. In an attempt to halt this group’s growing popularity, the US army tried to capture or kill him on numerous occasions and each and every time, al-Baghdadi seemed to escape alive. But why?

The answer is pretty straight forward, actually. The New York Times reported back in 2007 that Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi didn’t exist. In clear language, the Times quoted Brigadier General Kevin Bergner as saying —“the elusive Baghdadi was actually a fictional character whose audio-taped declarations were provided by an elderly actor named Abu Adullah al-Naima.”

Wait, just let that soak in for a moment and think about it. The chief American military spokesman at the time said that top terrorist that US military was supposedly chasing in Iraq was a ghost. A person who never existed. In fact, the US military even knew there was a voice actor pretending to be a terrorist. And yet the US military seemingly still raided houses and compounds in an attempt to “capture him”. So, where did this fictional character come from? And why did they chase him for years to come?

The answer to that question is answered in the NYT article as well — “The ruse was devised by Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who was trying to mask the dominant role that foreigners play in that insurgent organization.” The article continues by saying —“The ploy was to invent Baghdadi, a figure whose very name establishes his Iraqi pedigree, install him as the head of a front organization called the Islamic State of Iraq and then arrange for Masri to swear allegiance to him. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, sought to reinforce the deception by referring to Baghdadi in his video and Internet statements.”

So, essentially, the story is as follows. Too many foreigners were joining the Islamic State in Iraq and the locals were becoming annoyed that they were losing control. In order to reverse this trend, a fictional character was created by a competing power structure and several regional groups were asked to play along. And so they did. Over time, this group became very powerful and today we know it as the IS or the Islamic State. Eventually this character was killed off and a new leader emerged, although there are some questions about this new guy as well, since the telegraph noted that he was photographed in public only once, and wearing a wristwatch that cost tens of thousands of dollars.  But back to the main character and many pundits are now asking, why would the US military pursue this non-existent person for years? Was it because of bad intelligence? Is the US military not as all-seeing and all-knowing as they would like to be? Or simply a small part of a much larger story? While we don’t know the answers to these questions, a newly revealed document from the Defense Intelligence Agency has shed more light on the situation.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, is a little known intelligence group with a massive budget and a direct line to the United States President. In fact, the DIA regularly provides input to the US President’s daily intel briefing. A recently revealed DIA document predicted long ago that “ISI (Islamic State in Iraq) could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria” and that “there is a possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria.”  This is exactly what transpired in the years after 2012 with the declaration of the Islamic State. Yet not only was this a possibility, this was instead “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion” with Iran and Iraq being labelled as integral parts of this expansion.  In the text, the supporting powers are defined as, “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey.”

So, to sum it up, it seems as if the top brass in US intelligence and military agencies either had a hand in or seemingly knew they were chasing a ghost for years in order to promote regional instability in an effort to effect regime change in Syria. And why would they want regime change in Syria? Could it be because Syria refused to join the so-called “Friendship Pipeline” running from Qatar to Europe? But why would Syria want to not get behind this project? Could it be because Syria is an ally of Russia? and Russia supplies a large portion of Europe’s gas? Or is this an oversimplification of the situation?

While we don’t know the answers to those questions, CNN did publish a story called —“Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil”. In that article, it was noted that —”Of course it’s about oil; we can’t really deny that,” said Gen. John Abizaid, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan agreed, writing in his memoir, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Then-Sen. and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same in 2007: “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are.”

So, what do you think dear listeners, “What if the original leader of the Islamic State never existed?”