The Islamic State (ISIS) is back. Five years after Donald Trump entered the Oval Office and quickly brought about the destruction of its caliphate in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is resurgent and wealthy. Could this have anything to do with Old Joe Biden’s misrule? Of course.
To be sure, there are other factors at play as well. An Iraqi security official said Friday that “recent assessments … put the group’s reserves at between $25 million and $50 million.” That could be a conservative estimate: the Wall Street Journal reported in September 2020 that ISIS had “assets ranging into the hundreds of millions of dollars across the Middle East and Central Asia,” according to “officials and government records.”
The Iraqi official said that ISIS got its cash from “opportunistic extortion, looting and kidnap for ransom,” but those are not the only sources of the jihad terror group’s income. WSJ added that ISIS “still extorts local populations in areas it controls or has supporters; receives income from businesses it seized during its rule; and collects payments from human trafficking.” It also controls “a growing share of illicit tobacco markets in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Nor is even that all: “donors in several Middle Eastern countries work on raising funds,” says the WSJ, in an understated reference to wealthy Muslims around the world who believe that ISIS is a worthy Islamic organization and keep it afloat financially with substantial donations.
On Friday, the group announced that it had chosen a new caliph, the brother of the former ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed in a U.S. raid in 2019. The new top dog is Juma Awad al-Badri, a.k.a. Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, succeeding Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi, who blew himself up to avoid being captured in a U.S. raid in Syria in February.
They all call themselves al-Quraishi because they claim to be members of the Quraish tribe, the Meccan tribe of Arabia to which Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, belonged. To be a Quraish is a prerequisite of being the caliph, or successor, that is, Muhammad’s successor as political, military, and spiritual leader of the Muslims, and that prerequisite is non-negotiable, leading people such as Juma Awad al-Badri to fabricate a lineage back to the Islamic prophet
Yet although they fancy themselves as seventh-century warriors, these guys are not remotely just fantasists. ISIS has been advancing all over of late. It is active in Mali, where either ISIS or al-Qaeda (both jihad groups are active in Mali) recently attacked an army base, murdering 27 soldiers and injuring 33 more. They have “seized vast swaths of the Malian countryside,” according to Reuters, and have expanded their operations into neighboring countries. In late February in Nigeria, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) slaughtered 25 people. In Mozambique, ISIS is such a formidable presence that South Africa, Rwanda, Botswana, Lesotho, Angola, and Zambia have sent troops to combat it there. None of those countries is anything close to being a military powerhouse, but it’s still noteworthy that forces from six countries have to come together to fight a threat that most people assumed had been decisively defeated several years ago and would fade into the background.
The group has designs not just in Africa, either. Homeland Security Today reported in late February that ISIS had posted a video online urging Muslims in the United States to join “ISIS North America.”
“To those who want to try,” the video said, “to my brothers following in the path of the Khilafa [caliphate] in America I urge you to come join our group. This new group will operate in the United States to surprise the murtad [apostates, ex-Muslims] in their own lands. The name of this group will be named ISIS-NA (Islamic State of Iraq & Sham [the Levant] – North America).”
It’s interesting that the Islamic State would choose now, of all times, to try to expand its organization into the United States. (There have been individuals who have joined ISIS from the U.S. in the past, but no significant organized ISIS group here.) Weakness invites aggression, and we see this all around the world, from Ukraine to Taiwan to North Korea and in the renewed activities of ISIS. With Old Joe Biden in the White House, the Islamic State sees a perfect time to act in the United States. And with the Southern border essentially fictional and our law enforcement and intelligence apparatus devoted to hunting for equally fictional “white supremacists,” it’s easy to see why they think this way.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.