This analysis was part of Prime Source's Weekly Regional Assessment
Recent Development: Amidst persistent speculations regarding his possible death, ISIS's "Caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi purportedly released a new speech, almost a year after his latest recording in November 2016. While the recording remained relatively vague, several references including one to the North Korean crisis as well as the Astana negotiations suggest the audio was recorded relatively recently. The release thus contradicts Russian claims that an airstrike in Raqqah in May had killed the jihadist leader. The jihadist leader further called on his followers to "be patient," "rise against their apostate governments, criticizing several local enemies of the group such as Erdogan Saudi Arabia and the Syrian opposition and calling for attacks in the West, more specifically against "information centers" - a likely reference to media outlets.
Analysis: With this latest message, the jihadist leader seeks to prove that he is alive and remain relevant, while further giving the group and its supporters a moral boost just as ISIS suffered several setbacks in Syria and Iraq. With the aforementioned references placing the audio recording in time - the speech was likely being recorded in the past two months - after the Russian claim, the "Caliph" proves that he is still alive despite efforts by Russia, the US and other nations to find and kill him.
The release of the speech further comes at a time when the group is pushing back against multiple offensives in Iraq and Syria. In the past week, the group has launched several significant counter-attacks, including the infiltration of Ramadi that was eventually repelled, a large counter-offensive against both the regime and the Kurds in Eastern Syria as well as another infiltration of the regime-held city of al-Quraytayn on October 1 and multiple counter-attacks in Libya.
This timing likely isn't coincidental and may be destined to the group's supporters around the globe, showing that the group will continue to fight back and that they should also do so. The speech thus could serve to encourage attack in the West, in the same way the almost annual ISIS speech during the Ramadan also serve to galvanize its supporters.