The media is currently in a frenzy about the leadership of ISIS, hailing Al-Baghdadi as the new Bin Laden, the next Public Enemy #1 for them to write about and report on as the next 21st Century boogyman. The problem is, there is no Al-Baghdadi. As most media reports confirm themselves, the details of this guy are iffy at best. This article advances the alternative thesis that Al-Baghdadi is not an actual biological individual but rather an immortal idea.
Back when Special Operations forces were conducting nightly raids in Iraq, a number of individuals were fingered as being a terrorist leader named “Al-Baghdadi” but they turned out to be bogus claims, little more than whispers in the desert night. Commanders wrote off the mistakes and figured they had the wrong guy so they kept looking, rather than concluding that this person was more of a myth than a man. While HUMINT sources blabbed about Al-Baghdadi there was never any SIGINT or other technical sources which confirmed his existence.

This episode is also reminiscent of the “Al-Qeada Handbook” which was alleged to exist in Afghanistan and had various SOF units hunting around for it. Like Red Mercury, it was a fairy tale, probably planted by suspect local sources who were looking to cash in.
Al-Baghdadi is a man without a history and without any third party verification. There really wasn’t any evidence that anyone carrying that name actually existed until he popped up in a mosque in Mosul this year. Al-Baghdadi is more than likely a number of different people, some alive and some dead, who have assumed that name and acted as front men for the Islamic State of Iraq, and today, ISIS. The concept of using doppelgangers is a tactic that the Baath party used to help protect Saddam Hussein during the 2003 war. They had Saddam doubles all over the country.

This brings us to who is really running ISIS. Who are the real puppet masters?  Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri is a survivor. He was the most senior Baath party leader under Saddam to evade capture and flee to Syria. After Saddam was executed he took up the number one position and had always been a thorn in the side of Coalition forces in Iraq by supporting the insurgency. Al-Douri also has a long history as a military commander and a political leader. In his old age, this is someone who would have the experience to mentor and teach a younger generation of insurgents.

Many have speculated as to why Iraqi military and police forces so quickly deserted their posts when ISIS came to town. The Iraqi forces had a numerical superiority as well as the home field advantage. More than likely, Al-Douri used his Baath party connections to lobby the top Officers in Mosul in order to pave the way for the ISIS invasion.

Another wild card running around in Syria is the notorious Abu Musab Al-Suri [Not the same Al-Suri referenced in Benghazi: The Definitive Report], wanted in connection to the train bombings in Madrid back in 2004 and the 2005 London subway bombings. Al-Suri is also suspected to have had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, and also ran several terrorist training camps in Afghanistan for Bin Laden. Captured and rendered to Syria, the Assad government released him in 2012 to send a warning message to the United States government. Al-Suri is also the terrorist behind Al-Qaeda’s “open front” strategy.

What exactly is going on here is difficult to discern. Battlefields are filled with chaos and confusion, making a quagmire for even the best intelligence professionals to wade through. At a minimum, Al-Suri and Al-Douri should be the individuals that we should look towards as the potential leadership cell for ISIS, not the mythical Al-Baghdadi. Questions about mysterious financiers in Qatar and the UAE must also be answered.
Ultimately, it is fair to place a high probability on Al-Baghdadi being nothing more than a constantly revolving cast of characters, a series of stooges, and lookalikes. Al-Baghdadi isn’t a terrorist leader but rather he is what is known as a Stand Alone Complex in science fiction.
A copy that never had an original.

The deception works both ways. It galvanizes Islamic extremists who don’t know any better and it horrifies the public via the all too willing dupes on major new networks across the globe.