The Islamic State is claiming responsibility for the London attack that left three people and the attacker dead on Wednesday. “It is believed that this attacker acted alone,” Prime Minister Theresa May said, adding that the British-born man, already known to authorities, was inspired by “Islamist terrorism.” For its part, ISIS called the attacker its “soldier” in a report published by its Amaq news agency in both Arabic and English. The caliphate, it seemed, was eager to signal to a broad audience that it was as busy and effective as ever. The facts, however, tell a different story.
Back in 2014, God was on the side of ISIS—or so it appeared, and so ISIS claimed, with some plausibility. The speed and scope of its ascent was extraordinary. In mid-June it seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and in the following months it annexed a Britain-sized swath of territory crossing Syria and Iraq. In his historic June 29 statement, in which he declared the restoration of the caliphate and announced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its leader or caliph, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said:
It is a hope that flutters in the heart of every mujahid [one who does jihad] and muwahhid [monotheist]. … It is the caliphate—the abandoned obligation of the era. … The sun of jihad has risen. The glad tidings of good are shining. Triumph looms on the horizon. The signs of victory have appeared. … Now the caliphate has returned. … Now the dream has become a reality.
Al-Adnani also warned ISIS fighters that they would face “tests and quakes,” and the next few months proved him right about that. But he couldn’t have been more wrong about the “triumph” part.