?Will The Fall of ISIS Signal Its Demise

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

So many studies and articles speak about the imminent fall of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) or Daesh in the wake of a serious break-up of its internal structure which explicitly reflected in the acts the group had committed in areas under its control or outside. Daesh is finding it difficult to maintain its grip on an increasingly hostile   population, due to its extreme brutality and use of civilians as human shields during battles.

Studies and statements indicate that the group has lost almost half the territory it has controlled in Iraq and Syria. According to Peter Cook, the US Defense Department spokesman,  Daesh has lost control of almost half the territory it has held in Iraq and around 20% of the territory under its control in Syria. Yet, day after day, news reports come out with shocking numbers of human losses and excessive acts of violence perpetrated by the group. Thus, it might be considered one of the most criminal groups in recent history. However, a feeling of optimism on its imminent fall or defeat should not make us ignore problems that may erupt as a result.

First of all, thousands of Daesh men are now scattered around the globe with terror attacks carried out by the group’s lone cells. Europe was the scene of terrorist attacks over the past two years with France specifically targeted for many reasons, among them Daesh’ apparent intent to direct a blow to its system of secularism as well as its life style and the globalization trend. The country is also the most open in the European Union to other cultures. Daesh has also turned its eyes to South East Asia, expanding its activities and quickly claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in some of its countries such as those carried out in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. Moreover, some militant groups in those countries such as the Philippine Abu Sayyaf group and east Indonesia Mujahideen declared loyalty to Daesh along with some of their citizens who joined the fighting in Syria and Iraq.

In East Africa, around 200 members of the militant Somali Shabab group known to be allied with Al-Qaeda, set up their own faction declaring it as an arm of Daesh in the region. They managed to recruit hundreds of Africans as they positioned themselves on the border between Somalia and Kenya to spearhead activities designed to lead them to Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameron in West Africa. It is also a fact that similar cells exist in Egypt, Libya and other countries.

Secondly, international reports and records of human rights groups refer to huge numbers of Daesh men who will return to their countries after its presumed defeat, since it has managed to recruit fighters from forty world countries, with Arabs accounting for 72% of them.  As an example, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) reported that a third of Daesh European members have already left Syria. According to the Centre, their numbers exceed 4 thousand mostly men between 18-30 years old. While it still remains unclear why most of them have chosen to return to their European countries, experts believe that some of them were very affected by the atrocities they have witnessed in Syria and Iraq, feel guilty and look for repentance. Yet, according to those experts, a group of them returned as lone cells with the intent of carrying out attacks and recruiting new terrorists.

Meanwhile, their return to their Arab countries would be more serious and could expedite the break-up of the nation state in view of the war in Iraq and Syria and the deviation of the so- called Arab Spring from its aspired path. It could even be more serious since Daesh has called for ‘general mobilization’ among its members to act and spread terrorism anywhere they want!!

Thirdly, a military defeat of Daesh will definitely be incomplete because it is not a war for security despite its importance. The real war will be one of a long-term cultural and ideological confrontation and its responsibility will lie in the hands of the political policy maker at a global level and in Arab and Islamic countries in particular. It would also be a responsibility of Islamic clergymen as well as the media in order to provide the right logical arguments and evidence capable of combating ignorance and a mentality encouraging terrorism currently prevailing in the Middle East.  Thus, defeating Daesh and other similar terrorist groups would be through intellectual persuasion countering extremism and fanaticism, which the ‘creators’ of terrorism fear more than a military confrontation.

Yet, the phenomenon of Daesh will, sadly, remain for a long time, even after defeating its military ‘state’. Such a fact is bound to keep the world busy with it for long fruitless years to come.  So, beware of quick naïve optimism that an end to Daesh ‘thought’ and terrorist acts is imminent.