[Ed. – Four months later. Stick with me, folks. We’re going places. “She that tooteth not her own horn shall not be tooted.”]
Leaders of the Islamic State movement in Syria and Iraq are infatuated with apocalyptic Muslim prophecies foretelling a titanic final battle of good and evil that even involves the re-emergence of Jesus Christ to join their cause at the end of time in the Middle East.
Analysts say the Sunni extremist group is consumed by such fantasies in a way Osama bin Laden’s original al Qaeda never was, and its propaganda is so saturated with them that intelligence officials are working to determine how much of the group’s operational strategy is actually being shaped by the obscure predictions.
From the Islamic State’s circulation on social media of photos depicting a so-called “cyclops baby” to its fixation on a Syrian town where the prophecies say the final battle will occur, analysts say the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is tapping the mythology to convince his followers that the apocalypse has already begun.
“Since its inception, the leaders of the Islamic State have been obsessed with Islamic prophecies of the ‘End Times,’ ” said William McCants, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. “Even the establishment of the Islamic State itself is based on their interpretation of when those End Times would occur.”
“The group’s ideological and organizational DNA is simply different from al Qaeda in how it approaches these prophecies,” said Mr. McCants, a fluent Arabic speaker currently writing a book on the group’s obsession with such prophecies.