The blowing up by Isis of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul marks a decisive defeat for the caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the same mosque three years ago. Isis will continue fighting as a guerrilla force, but it will be the end of a state once the size of Great Britain and fielding a military force more powerful than many members of the United Nations. Presumably Isis decided to destroy the ancient mosque and its famous minaret, a symbol of Mosul, to prevent the Iraqi security forces triumphantly raising the Iraqi flag over a place so closely associated with Isis.The end of the short-lived caliphate will be underscored if the self-declared caliph is himself dead, killed by a Russian airstrike near Raqqa some three weeks ago. Oleg Syromolotov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, repeated today a claim made last week but with greater certainty, saying that fresh information showed that there was “a high degree of probability” that Baghdadi was dead, killed after a meeting he was attending was targeted by Russian aircraft.
Isis may be leaderless and facing defeat in Mosul, but the jihadis will fight on