Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 | Page 25

DAESH Ali, served five years before he was killed. Daesh’s leaders, no doubt aware of the high attrition rate of caliphs in Islamic history and worried about the probability of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s demise, announced in the first issue of Dabiq magazine, “We will strike the neck of anyone—whoever he may be—that attempts to usurp his [referring to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] leadership.”50 Shia, Alawites, and the Twelfth Imam O Sunnis of Iraq, the time has come for you to learn the lesson of the past … that nothing will work with the rafidah except slicing their throats. They conceal their hatred, enmity and rage towards the Sunnis … they trick and deceive them.51 —Daesh spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani Like the Sunni, the Shia also believe in the figure called the Mahdi. The Shia believe the Mahdi has appeared and will return as the twelfth imam.52 Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reported as saying that the real ruler of Iran was the twelfth imam and government policy should be guided by hastening his return.53 Vali Nasr, writing about the Shia revival in 2007, reports that Muqtadir al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia cleric who gained prominence after the fall of Saddam Hussein, named his army the Mahdi army to indicate “that his cause was that of the Twelfth Imam.”54 According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2011–2012, 72 percent of Muslims surveyed in Iraq believed they would live to see the return of the Mahdi.55 To understand Daesh’s actions in Syria, one needs to understand the deeply rooted animosity between the ruling Alawites and the Syrian Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, or Ikhwan.56 The Syrian government, headed by Bashar al-Assad, the son of Hafez al-Assad, has maintained control in Syria by brutally repressing the Sunni majority living there. After the Iranian Revolution (1979), Syrians “took to the streets … demanding an Islamic state—one not controlled by infidel Alawites.”57 The Ikhwan tried to assassinate then President Hafez al-Assad and seized the Syrian town of Hama. Hafez al-Assad responded by destroying the town and killing twenty thousand members of the Ikhwan.58 Today, Bashar al-Assad MILITARY REVIEW  March-April 2016 carries the same animosity toward the Ikhwan, cl aiming that Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan “belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology” and is ”very fanatical and that’s why he still supports ISIS.”59 The Assads belong to the Alawite sect, which believes in a sort of trinity.60 The word alawi means “upper, heavenly, or celestial.” While Alawites claim to be Muslim, with the name derived from the name Ali, Hafez al-Assad reportedly said, “I’m not Moslem. I belong to the Allawi faith …. The Allawi religion is a very complicated business.”61 According to Sam Dagher, “Alawites believe that Imam Ali … was an incarnation of God, who revealed himself in six other people before Ali’s seventh-century caliphate.”62 In the eyes of Daesh, the Shia and Alawites are apostates; this is why Daesh is committed to their destruction. The Return of the Mahdi In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful, here is the awaited Mahdi. … Pay allegiance to brother Mohammed Abdullah al-Qurayshi.63 — Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al-Otaybi While Daesh clings to the prophetic end-of-days imagery, believing the end of days imminent, similar claims were also made on the last day of Ramadan in 1979, when gunshots broke the early morning silence at Islam’s holiest mosque in Mecca. Snipers fired from the minarets, killing scores of worshipers.64 The bloodbath continued for two weeks as Saudi soldiers refused to retake the holy ground, citing religious concerns, and Saudi officials sought guidance in hadith books. Saudi soldiers thought they would go to hell if they tried to retake the mosque because the Quran expressly forbids fighting there.65 The gunmen, Saudi youth familiar with a prophecy involving the Mahdi, believed they were ushering in the end of days.66 They believed the Mahdi had arrived, as a man with attributes of the Mahdi had appeared. The Saudi government checked old hadith books to determine if the individual really was the Mahdi, and after determining that he was not, issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, giving Saudi soldiers the religious authority to retake the mosque. Despite the 23