“In the beginning we had hopes, not necessarily bright ones, but something, something could happen. We prayed for it,” sighs a Mosul grandmother who’s name she requested we not publish. “Now there is only the sins of the past, again, we have given up.” She gazes out at the mostly deserted streets from her dilapidated house. Her eyes vacant.
Over three years into his first term as the Prophet’s Successor, the administration of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi finds itself on the ropes. Besieged by internal strife and still embroiled in two wars, al-Baghdadi seems unable to cope with a endless litany of troubles. This last month poll numbers showed the Sultan’s ratings at near 30%, the worst for any first term Caliph since Mustafa III.
Even his closest supporters ponder if his Blessed Reign as Caliph has lost all momentum for good. “There’s a sense there’s a complete lack of direction. Nobody’s driving change anymore,” states an ISIS party insider.
Only this week the administration was rocked by yet another scandal, this time a sexual assault allegation against an ISIS party official at a conference in Ramadi. Councilor al-Rousani has vehemently denied the charges laid against him in Sharia Court on Tuesday. He has admitted to the illicit sexual contact but described it as “completely consensual”. al-Rousani is married.
al-Baghdadi’s spokesmen have struggled to balance party factions, mainly the pro-rape and hardcore Sharia elements, who have lined up against one another. Said his chief mouthpiece, “The Caliph has requested that al-Rousani take a leave of absence. He asks for the Prophet’s Guidance upon the investigation and demands that all withhold judgment until the facts are known.”
“We want the old days back…”
The sense of aimlessness is clear on the Tikrit front. Bogged down in the third year of stalemate the Caliphate Regiments are becoming less enthusiastic in fighting a war they view as increasingly separated from the daily lives of their loved ones. Particularly given the incessant economic turmoil back home.
“Those dirty bastards in Mosul, they have no idea what this is like,” sneered one private, to the wide agreement of his colleagues. “Indeed, they’re just a bunch of bandits,” cried another.
The sense that even the Sultan’s closest military advisors are detached from the sufferings of the Ruled were apparent in Sharia Court this week as High Councilor Colonel bin-Fatad was formally charged with bribery in the now infamous Prophet’s Wind attack helicopter procurement fiasco.
bin-Fatad pleaded not guilty to the charges that he aggressively sought and received bribes from French defense contractor EADS. Although bin-Fatad strenuously denies the accusations, it is said various low ranking officers have cut deals with the Prophet’s Prosecutor and will testify against him.
And in France this week President Hollande is said to believe charges are required against EADS employees who, “clearly violated our laws that when we sell French kit to evil, that it should be above board at all times”. The Sultan is thought to have told his advisors that at the very least, bin-Fatad needed to “lose his cock”.
That millions may have found their way into pockets angers those at the front. “We’re fighting Iran every day and they just take all our cash before we see one dinar,” griped a grizzled first sergeant.
“In the old days we had victories, now we just have battles that never end. And how can we win with this, just look at this,” the first sergeant kicked a dusted, green Huawei radio, “this thing is so complicated and nonfunctional that I have to send two corporals to schools just to get this thing to turn on. But nobody has any school quotas, so the thing just sits here and doesn’t work. We generally use it to hold down the daily orders book from the wind.”
The sergeant shakes his head in confusion, “Once upon a time I had only my Land Rover, my Kalashnikov, and my faith. And we won victory after victory. We ran circles around the apostates. Now I can’t even lead a single patrol without writing three drafts of a seven paragraph order and run it up five officers to get to the Company Commander. It’s like writing how you know you’ll lose. We want the old days back.”
“Not the dictator we need…”
In Raqqah, near the ever-present western front, the dissatisfaction was widely described by local students at a “values talking shop”. Sipping tea at sunset they described a future they viewed as without hope, without job prospects, and while trapped in a country that did not honor their dreams.
“When the Caliph assumed power we thought things were different, that he’d bring about Paradise here on this life,” said one university senior majoring in philosophy. “But now all we see is the same games, the same corruption. We want change.”
And yet change has been consistently not forthcoming, both in the wars, and with the al-Baghdadi agenda. Still alongside dictators al-Assad and al-Maliki, supporters questioned whether the three were inherently tied to each other’s static fates.
Said the ISIS party insider, “al-Baghdadi doesn’t want to stay equal with the two of them, but he can’t escape their grasp. Yet since he’s the Caliph, people are always expecting him to deliver, to overcome the two of them. But al-Assad and al-Maliki have Iran and the Sultan only has the Will of the Prophet. What can you do?”
The students in Raqqah were harsher, “He’s not the dictator we need. If this Prophet’s Successor can’t fulfill our destiny then it’s time to find somebody who can.” Although the values group was unsure how they would conduct such a power transfer given the al-Baghdadi administration’s propensity to liquidate its most fervent enemies in a sea of brutality that makes Stalin’s ghost flinch.
“You can’t hide behind a title…”
This next week promises two greater challenges that might perhaps truly test what remains of al-Baghdadi’s authority. On Wednesday, the Prophet’s Court provides its final ruling on the much touted water usage rights on the Tigris. On Friday, the High Council reaches its deadline to pass the next fiscal year’s expenditures. Either event might prove fatal to the administration’s future.
“For three years the Caliph has promised economic prosperity and now he’s hiding behind the courts,” shouted al-Qaeda opposition party official al-Nir. “If the Sultan won’t stand up even to ensure all our people have clean drinking water then what’s the Caliphate for except to keep the rich, rich?”
Caliphate watchers were nearly unanimous in their belief that the High Council would not pass its budget on time due to the overwhelming disagreement over line-item additions inputted by Fallujah representatives in back room dealing last week. International financial institutions warned that yet more financial hurdles would only weaken the Caliphate’s already damaged credit rating.
“Increasingly the markets are concerned that the Sultanate can’t even pay its bills, let alone grow the economy consistently,” commented one BNP Paribas manager, “I think what we’ll ultimately see is the financial community lose faith and perhaps a downgrade of the bond rating to near junk”.
“You can’t hide behind a title,” emphasized al-Nir, “if the Sultan can’t deliver on his promises maybe it’s time to go.” And go he might. In private al-Baghdadi is said to frequently express exasperation with the challenges of office and frustration at the inability of most of his subordinates to produce results. He is said to frequently seek “detachment” in the peace of the desert where he states his intention is to “go fuck off”.
He is said to actively consider retirement from time-to-time but worries of the consequences. “He thinks if a new Caliph appears that he’ll get beheaded along with his whole family,” stated the ISIS party insider, “in reality he’s probably right. But that leaves the rest of us to endure his malaise.”
Back in Mosul the concept of a brutal bloodthirsty purge of leadership has no appeal for the grandmother. “I just want there to be peace, and maybe a little money to go around. But I don’t see it, not from al-Baghdadi or the opposition. We’ve lost faith in them all.”