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The murder of Adnani, not ISIS

Everyone has begun analyzing the murder of ISIS senior figure Abu Mohammed al-Adnani

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

Everyone has begun analyzing the murder of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) senior figure Abu Mohammed al-Adnani. Some say the group has lost its propaganda mastermind, and the person who appealed to the sentiment of supporters in the West.

His assassination, the circumstances of which Russians and Americans dispute, also points to domestic betrayals that led to his elimination. This comes in the context of the confrontation with ISIS’s propaganda machine.

Adnani was not known for being charismatic. Audio recordings and footage of him have not revealed any communication skills that distinguished him. He reportedly recruited men in Iraq and Syria, but he was no exception. His success lay in his ability to find and exploit weak points. He thus supervised ISIS propaganda and spread his recordings while making maximum use of social media.

Beginning of the end?

Does Adnani’s murder mean the beginning of the end for ISIS, as some are saying? It is probably not that simple, as its power is not dependent on its figures. Unlike other extremist groups - particularly al-Qaeda - ISIS does not use its leaders to address sympathizers and recruit followers. Its power comes from its surroundings, not from its leaders’ attractiveness or speeches.

It is naive to think that murdering figures such as Adnani will destroy the threat posed by this extremely dangerous, brutal organization

Diana Moukalled

Looking at ISIS’s practices and videos, we can see it is not popular to celebrate its leaders’ appearances as much as its murders. Therefore, it is naive to think that murdering figures such as Adnani will destroy the threat posed by this extremely dangerous, brutal organization. Its media policy is not just about footage and murder, but also about feeding on injustice, conspiracies, extremists, and collapsing states and societies.

Thus it is unwise to depend on military victories against ISIS without looking at how, when and why it was established. If Adnani’s murder does harm its propaganda machine, this may be temporary.

As long as the situation in Iraq and Syria is troubled, and as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies stay, ISIS will exploit people’s feelings of injustice. Adnani was killed, but it is too early to pronounce the organization’s death.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 05, 2016.
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Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.