'Islamic State' leader Al-Baghdadi fails to rally fighters in Syria

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

A general view shows the areas under 'Islamic State' control in al-Raqa on June 27 in the suburb of Dariya on the western city limits after the area was seized by Syrian Democratic Forces. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

A general view shows the areas under 'Islamic State' control in al-Raqa on June 27 in the suburb of Dariya on the western city limits after the area was seized by Syrian Democratic Forces. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

"Islamic State" (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has lost his ability to rally fighters, experts tell Diyaruna.

The group's "Labbu an-Nidaa" (Answer the call of duty) campaign, which urged youth to fight in its ranks against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has largely fallen on deaf ears, they said.

The campaign, inspired by al-Baghdadi's call for fighters to head to al-Raqa and "defend the land of the caliphate", has been a failure, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Despite the widespread circulation of leaflets and broadcasts in mosques promoting its message, it drew little response.

This was not surprising, Syrian journalist Mohammed al-Abdullah told Diyaruna, "as the truth about the group and its claims about the establishment of an Islamic state have been exposed".

News of the group's atrocities against civilians have spread to every home, he said, and those who refused to join IS in the past -- despite its enticements and pressure -- are highly unlikely to do so now.

"Liberation from IS rule is only a matter of time in Syria, as the area the group used to control has shrunk to a narrow strip," al-Abdullah said.

In light of the current circumstances, he said, al-Baghdadi’s call on civilians to fight for him shows he "is afflicted with delusions of grandeur".

The Syria city of al-Raqa, the capital of the IS's so-called caliphate, is currently surrounded by anti-IS forces.

After a months-long battle, Iraqi security forces in July finally pushed IS out of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, inflicting a crippling blow on the group.

No one is listening

Residents in other areas controlled by the group greeted the call to mobilise with derision and apathy," said rural Deir Ezzor media activist Mohyuddin al-Aqidi.

"No one is known to have responded to the calls to fight in the ranks of the group in defence of al-Raqa, issued via mosques and leaflets distributed in the streets," he told Diyaruna.

The group has "imposed a media blackout in the areas under its control and banned all means of communication and access to news related to its defeats, fearing the loss of control over civilians and its fighters", al-Aqidi said.

But news of its defeats still reaches the city in full detail, he said, along with stories about the group's use of civilians as human shields.

IS loses its aura

The failure of al-Baghdadi's call to arms "is not surprising at all, as the group has lost the aura of intimidation", said military analyst and al-Qaeda expert Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Ahmed, who is retired from the Egyptian army.

The group has been roiled with internal divisions and defections, as a number of IS fighters have withdrawn their support for al-Baghdadi to join the ranks of al-Qaeda and other armed groups that espouse a similar extremist ideology.

The only people who will fight in IS’s ranks at this stage are "foreign and Arab elements who have lost hope of returning to their home countries", he told Diyaruna.

These include Syrian fighters who have been involved in administering torture and conducting public executions "whose identities have been exposed", he said.

"[Their] survival is tied to the survival of the group."

"The group’s failure to preserve its alleged state was undoubtedly frustrating to its elements, especially foreign elements who left their home countries and are now on most international terrorist blacklists," Ahmed said.

They lost their home countries, as well as the dream that was stuffed into their heads by the group's media machine over the past years, he said.

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