Under pressure from the impeachment process and U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the U.S. president is trying to capitalize on the effect of the Islamic State terrorist’s death on public opinion
The timing could not have been better for President Donald Trump, who has striven to capitalize on the announcement of the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder of Islamic State. He has spared no words in highlighting the act of bravery in the killing of America’s most hunted terrorist and in predicting that "the world is safer" thanks to his government.
Trump has finally had his “Osama moment” in front of a national audience. It was also on a Sunday, on May 1, 2011, that then-President Barack Obama announced, with a short and powerful statement, the death of bin Laden, founder of al-Qaida.
The circumstances, however, are completely different for the two presidents. Trump is under pressure from an impeachment process in the House of Representatives, triggered by an attempt to influence Ukraine in undermining the campaign of political opponent Joe Biden.
Although his dismissal from office today seems unlikely as he faces the Republican majority Senate, the weakening indicates a tortuous path to re-election.
Trump has been trying to divert Americans' attention from the Capitol to overseas. Earlier this month, he announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, leaving his Kurdish allies at the mercy of a brutal Turkey offensive. This move was widely criticized, especially for reopening the door to a further strengthening of the Islamic State in the region.
The end of Baghdadi is undoubtedly an asset to Trump. His death was wrongly announced on other occasions. This time, however, it is backed up by the U.S. president, who ensured DNA confirmation and spared no details about the feat: "He died like a dog, he died like a coward, he was whimpering, screaming and crying."
The president acknowledged the help of Russia, the Kurds and Turkey and strove to make the terrorist's death seem more significant than Osama bin Laden's eight years ago.
Although he was the main face of the Islamic State, an organization that spread terror and beheadings across Syria, recruiting militants in the West, its leader al-Baghdadi is not a household name among Americans. Nor does his elimination represent the end of the terrorist network, as Trump has ensured in a national speech. Just take a look at the example of al-Qaida, which survived the assassination of its leader.
Trump's White House followed in Obama's footsteps and released the photo showing the president in the Crisis Room following the operation that ended terrorist al-Baghdadi in real time. For a president facing serious allegations of abuse of power, the impression left by this “Osama moment” will have limited effect on public opinion.