The Islamic State (ISIS) is again showcasing its indoctrinated children with a new video. After nearly 10 minutes of over-the-top editing to dramatize very basic training, a boy with an RPG appears, threatening to behead President Obama, “the dog of Rome.”
But what has mainly been missed in the fanfare is the video’s allusion to Islamic apocalyptic End Times prophecies.
ISIS believes it is actively fulfilling these prophecies that culminate with victory at the hands of the Mahdi, the Islamic messianic figure, and the Islamic version of Jesus. Even when it is beheading Egyptian Christians, the Islamic State ties it back to these prophecies. Al-Qaeda also references them. Shiite Islamists like the Iranian regime also see events through the lens of their own take on apocalyptic End Times.
The “dog of Rome” label on President Obama is meant to equate the United States with the “Rome” talked about in these prophecies. They believe that the “best” jihadists will battle the incarnation of this Roman entity (the U.S.) in Syria and Iraq, specifically at a place called Dabiq. The name of that town is the title of the Islamic State’s English-language magazine.
According to the prophecy, the jihadists will capture Romans and lure them in by holding them at Dabiq. One collector of the hadith—the collection of stories about Mohammed—states, “The Last Hour would not come until the Romans would land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq.” (The Islamic State doesn’t make this up out of thin air.)
The next part of the prophecy is why the boy states that the Islamic State is ready to battle the “filthy” U.S. soldiers who are bound to invade. This refers to the part of the prophecy that states that the Romans will tell Muslims to separate from the hostage-takers, but the infidel offensive will unite the Muslim world. Polls show that the Islamic State has around 22 million strong supporters in the region who have yet to actually join the jihad and the group is counting on success and the apparent fulfillment of prophecy to activate them.
The fighting will be fierce. One-third of the jihadists will die; one-third will flee from battle, committing an egregious sin for which Allah for which will never forgive them. The final third will be victorious over the Romans and expand the jihad into the rest of the region and the Mahdi and Jesus will arrive on the scene.
There are, of course, very obvious propaganda messages with the latest film. It is designed to shock and make headlines, display strength and discourage the enemy by implying that the next generation will continue the fight if necessary. But the overall wording is about prophecy and, from these prophecies, we know that the Islamic State wants to provoke one thing above all else: that the U.S. military will invade the area of Dabiq.
The way to do that, according to the prophecy, is by holding Americans hostage there.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.