The false prophecies of ISIS have fallen flat.
As the battle to liberate the city of Mosul from the control of the Islamic State in Iraq was launched this week, coalition forces quietly liberated another key site from ISIS control in Syria — the Syrian town of Dabiq.
Few Westerners seemed to notice, but this was actually huge strategic and psychological loss for the Islamic State. Why? Because ISIS leaders have long proclaimed that Dabiq would be the site of an apocalyptic battle in the End of Days. Indeed, control of Dabiq is central to the eschatology of the Islamic State.
“The Islamic State’s magazine is called, Dabiq,” I noted on Fox News in January. “Most people have no idea what that means. [Dabiq] is a little town in the north of Syria. Why is that important? Because they believe, based on ancient Islamic prophecies, that the Western world — ‘the forces of Rome’ — will be drawn to that spot for the second-to-last battle of all history, and that the West will lose, and the Islamic State will win, and then they head to Jerusalem. The idea is that they believe that the End of Days has come, their messiah — known as the ‘Mahdi’ — will come reign over the entire world at any moment. The [leaders of ISIS] are driven by an Islamic eschatology that’s genocidal. And that’s why it’s so dangerous. And yet most leaders — including the President and our two front-runners on the Democrat and Republican side — they don’t understand it. They don’t talk about it. That’s a problem.”
[To read other articles I’ve written about the significance of Dabiq and why the next President and his or her advisors need to understand the eschatology behind it, please click here, here, and here.]
Yet as of this week, Dabiq has been seized from ISIS in what has to be one of the most anti-climatic battle of the ages. Now, ISIS leaders are furiously spinning that none of this really matters, that Dabiq was never really so important to them.
“It is without doubt that Dabiq was crucial to the Islamic State’s propaganda apparatus,” noted an analysis this week in the Washington Post. “Data from Google shows how its attacks in the West fueled the apocalyptic rhetoric, and the reverse. Search interest in the term ‘Dabiq’ first spiked in December 2014 when the magazine under the same title published strong criticism of al-Qaeda, referring to the apocalyptic battle that was assumed to be ahead. From that point onward, search interest always spiked when terrorist attacks in Western countries occurred: the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the Copenhagen attacks, and finally the devastating Paris attacks with more than 130 victims.'”
“It’s easy to conclude that ISIS’ leaders cited the prophesy cynically. They played it up when it was to their advantage and downplayed it when it was not,” wrote William McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse” which was published last year. “But another theory I offered is that ISIS, like other apocalyptic groups, changes its understanding of prophecy’s fulfillment based on circumstances.”
“Other researchers have voiced similar doubts whether Dabiq’s loss implies the end of its prophecy being used in ISIS propaganda,” noted the Post. “Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at London’s Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, wrote that the apocalypse narrative had stalled, but was ‘not undermined.'”
Here’s coverage on how the (less-than-apocalyptic) battle for Dabiq played out:
- Reuters coverage: Village Mythologized by ISIS Is Recaptured, Syrian Rebels Say
- BBC coverage: Syria conflict: IS ‘ousted from symbolic town of Dabiq’
- UK Express coverage: Dabiq captured from ISIS clutches — the apocalypse site of the final jihadi battle
COMING SOON: In the days ahead, I’ll post more coverage and analysis of the battle for Mosul.
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