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The Islamic State's Leader is Dead. What Now?

The Islamic State's Leader is Dead. What Now?

The death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a daring raid by US special forces on Saturday is a significant breakthrough in American efforts to defeat the sprawling terror organization, which has killed thousands and inflicted suffering on millions of people, primarily in the Muslim world. What should we make of the takedown of one of the world's most elusive terrorists? Here are some key questions to consider.


For ISIS, is this an operational blow or a symbolic one? In recent years, al-Baghdadi has seldom been seen or heard from. And while he served an important inspirational and symbolic role in building ISIS' jihadist brand, attracting fighters from every region of the world to come to the Levant, and inspiring offshoots elsewhere, his operational control of the organization had evidently faded as the group became more globally diffuse. But that symbolism is important: taken together with the loss of their self-proclaimed Caliphate (which was once as big as the UK), the death of al-Baghdadi may well undermine the vision of establishing a global caliphate. What's more, intelligence recovered from al-Baghdadi's hideout could help to disrupt operations by the organization's members and sympathizers in the region and globally.

What does this mean for the broader appeal of Islamic extremism? Probably not much. It is one thing to kill a particular terrorist leader, but quite another to extinguish the appeal of jihadist extremism itself. The death of Osama bin Laden in 2011 is a case in point. At the time he was the most wanted terrorist in the world. His death helped to hobble Al-Qaeda, but just a few years later ISIS emerged. For ISIS sympathizers scattered around the world and connected to its violent ideology via the internet, al-Baghdadi's death is unlikely to have much effect on their extreme beliefs or their readiness to carry out attacks.

How does this fit in with Trump's plan to withdraw from Syria? One of Trump's stated reasons for leaving Syria was his claim that ISIS had been defeated. Killing al-Baghdadi certainly lends weight to that notion. But it's still not clear whether Trump's withdrawal will, in fact, allow rank and file ISIS members to regroup and regenerate their movement in ways that undercut the recent successes. The Trump administration seems aware of that possibility, as it has deployed hundreds of US troops to "guard oil fields," in part from ISIS advances in eastern Syria.

Looking forward: The death of the visionary sadist behind the Islamic State strikes a blow to the terror group, but how this will translate on the battlefield remains unclear. The group has been landless for some time, now it's leaderless. Will that matter?

A century after the rise and destruction of Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood, Greenwood Rising is turning the site of a tragedy into a vibrant community hub, supported by a $1 million grant from Bank of America.

Greenwood, or Black Wall Street, was a thriving community of Black-owned businesses until the race-fueled massacre of 1921 that killed hundreds of Black residents and wiped out the neighborhood's homes and businesses. Nearing the 100th anniversary of this tragedy, focused activity in the neighborhood—including a history center—is bringing to life the spirit of Black Wall Street.

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It's a rare bit of hopeful news after 15 months of collective misery. So where do things stand at the moment, and what's keeping the world from getting to herd immunity faster?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

With protests growing, where does that leave the Myanmar coup?

Well, certainly no feeling on the part of the military that they need to back down under either domestic or international pressure. There's been relatively limited violence, thankfully so far. A few protesters have been killed. They've used tear gas, they've used water cannons, but much less of a crackdown than certainly they're capable of or that we've seen from the Myanmar military historically. That, of course, gives the protesters on the ground more incentive to think that they have success, and they can continue.

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Reducing carbon emissions is good for the planet and good for your lungs, but there's one group of countries that might not be so keen on green: those that rely heavily on oil and gas exports to run their economies. As the rest of the world gets closer to "Net Zero" in the coming decades, these petrostates will be in big trouble unless they diversify their economies — fast. So, how vulnerable are the world's top oil and gas producers to a low-carbon future? We look at how the treasuries of the 20 most hydrocarbon-dependent nations will fare over the next two decades under what the Carbon Tracker Initiative refers to as a scenario in which global demand for oil and gas will be much lower than today.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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