The Russians disputed Donald Trump’s account four hours after his triumphalist October 27 announcement of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
No thanks due to us, the Russian Ministry of Defence said tersely, after Mr Trump’s announcement – dripping with vulgar self-satisfaction, larded with inappropriate language, and fulsome praise for “Russia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Syrian Kurds…” in that order, before he thanked American servicemen.
In fact, Major-General Igor Konashenkov’s comment was even worse. “We are unaware of any alleged assistance to the flying of US aviation into the airspace of the Idlib de-escalation zone during this operation,” he said.
The suggestion was that Mr Trump’s announcement was yet another wishful announcement of Baghdadi’s death. Ergo, don’t believe anything this man says. He’s lying if his lips are moving.
More important, don’t believe the US. Discrediting the US is probably Russia’s game plan.
The Russian swipe makes Sunday a rather important day for a number of reasons.
First, Mr Trump’s claim that the US had got Baghdadi underlined the effectiveness of US special forces stationed in Syria, for all that he had recently pulled back from northern Syria. It left Turkey to invade northeastern Syria, the Kurds to their fate, and ultimately meant a re-jigging of alliances in the Middle East with the Russians profiting mightily.
Some have said that news of Baghdadi’s death could be a boost to Mr Trump, after weeks of international and domestic bipartisan criticism of the pullback of US troops. Perhaps.
But the exact reverse might be true. Baghdadi’s death should not lull people into thinking ISIS poses much less threat than before. The issue has to be considered in a more holistic fashion. Only the naïve or the ignorant would believe that perverted jihadists’ defeat lies in taking out Baghdadi.
The hateful ideology that has spread across much of the world did not come from Baghdadi. Al-Baghdadi was no Osama bin Laden, who was an original thinker, an evil visionary.
Al-Baghdadi was, by all accounts, just someone who saw the opportunity in the moment.