ISIL has learned the basics of 21st century public relations.
The Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams or Syria (ISIS) – also known as the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) – has shortened its name.
Unfortunately, the news comes along with a chilling announcement: ISIS announced that it has changed its name to just ‘Islamic State’, claiming the “legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null and void by the expansion of the caliph’s authority.”
In plain English, on the first day of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, the Al Qaeda-linked group declared the establishment of a new Islamic state across the territories it now controls in Iraq and Syria, and is demanding worldwide Muslim allegiance.
The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was declared the new Caliph. Muslims around the world have been ordered to support and swear allegiance to him.
“The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas,” said Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, ISIL spokesman, in an audio statement posted on the Internet on Sunday.
“Listen to your Caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.”
The new Islamic state, as defined by Adnani, is described as running from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala, along the border and already under the group’s control.
It remains to be seen how many observant Sunni Muslims around the world will comply.
But the broad global jihad movement sparked years ago by Al Qaeda has already inspired thousands of young Muslims via the Internet to hop on to planes and head to the Middle East. Those who are local to the region – not to mention those across Europe — also stream across borders to “join the fight.”
One key question is, how will international Al Qaeda terrorist chief Ayman al-Zawahiri – who publicly disengaged his group from ISIL back in February – react?
Another is how the United States and other Western nations will respond.
“ISIL’s strategy to develop a caliphate across the region has been clear for some time now,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing. “That is why this is a critical moment for the international community to stand together against ISIL and the advances it has made.”
On Sunday, meanwhile, the Iraqi government appeared to have succeeded to taking back control over the city of Tikrit, hometown of former dictator Sadaam Hussein. Clashes continued in the city, however, and it was uncertain how long the Iraqi military would be able to hold off ISIL forces.
Meanwhile, ISIL remains in control of the largest oil field in the country – a major asset for the terrorist organization.