How Islamic State's Succession Plan Could Destroy It

Its utopian dream requires a caliph in charge religiously and militarily.

What will bring down the flag?

Photographer Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Leaked intelligence reports say that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the titular head of Islamic State, is delegating authority in anticipation of his untimely demise. That raises some timely questions: Can you have a caliphate without a caliph? What will happen to Islamic State if Baghdadi is killed? And, by extension, how much effort should the U.S. and its allies put into trying to target and kill him?

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