On Wednesday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Daesh (also known as ISIL and ISIS), released a new audiotape. Here are my five takeaways.
1) Baghdadi is almost certainly not in Mosul. He wouldn't have risked being surrounded by the Mosul operation, and the Western Intelligence Community clearly believes he has left. This belief is attested by a comment the UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson made suggesting that Baghdadi has left the Iraqi city.
2) ISIS will double-down on its bloodletting strategy (my analysis here). The audio message contains threats against just about every sectarian group in Iraq. And it revels in new calls for bloodshed.
3) The message contains a specific and explicit instruction to Daesh fighters in Mosul to stand and die. This is evidence that the group intends to hold Mosul and Raqqah as long as possible. It also suggests that Daesh intends to turn Mosul into a death trap for Iraqi forces that enter the city.
4) The length of the message (over 30 minutes) will raise concerns that it conceals an activation order for sleeper cells in the west. The message carries a lot of apocalyptic rhetoric that could have double meanings. At one point, Baghdadi says ''the sky will fall to earth'' etc. As I've noted before, Daesh cells in Europe are extremely patient. Thus far this year, Germany has disrupted two directed Daesh cells. But officials believe more cells remain at large across the continent.
5) The message includes specific threats against Turkey/Saudi Arabia and individuals therein. Daesh is desperate to destabilize Middle Eastern politics.
You can read of my thoughts on Middle East politics by clicking here.