Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1319, (10 - 16 November 2016)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1319, (10 - 16 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

IS: Countdown to extinction

The Islamic State group is facing its final hour on the battlefield. But when it loses, the focus should turn to preventing any such group ever appearing again, writes Hany Ghoraba

The Caliphate of Delusion and terrorism, labelled the Islamic State (IS), which struck fear in the hearts of millions of innocent civilians in the Middle East and worldwide, is finally meeting its doomed ending. Like all delusional fascists, they believed that through fear-mongering and bloodshed they could create a state out of zeal and twisted beliefs of superiority. As with all fascists, IS hit a brick wall of reality that sent their wild dream into an abyss of nightmares.

The IS case is not different from any such delusional attempts at hegemony through violence and intimidation, such as the Nazi expansions in Europe in the mid-20th century. IS possessed the very seeds of its demise upon its very inception. Among these seeds is relying mainly on magnified delusions of power and religious extremism against a civilised world that fights wars in a completely different pattern.

In the early days of IS’s expansion in Syria and Iraq, most Western governments chose to concede the fact that the rise of a caliphate may be inevitable, and some even looked the other way in the context of Turkish assistance to the terrorist group at the beginning of the Syria conflict.

It is safe to say that without Turkish regime assistance and the free passage of terrorists through the Turkish-Syrian and Turkish-Iraqi border, IS wouldn’t have amounted to the menace that it did in the region. In fact, IS leaders managed to secure safe passage not only for terrorists coming from across the world through Turkish borders, but also secured a trade passage for stolen Iraqi and Syrian oil. That oil was sold through smugglers across the Turkish-Iraqi and Turkish-Syrian borders in huge amounts that reached 12,000 tankers and trucks in December 2015. This was revealed through Russian intelligence reports supported by satellite imagery. Moreover, the sale of the IS oil was confirmed by a report leaked by Norwegian daily newspaper Klassekampen at the request of the Norwegian foreign ministry citing an independent oil consulting firm by the name of Rystad Energy.

Western governments’ complacency towards atrocious IS war crimes continued for a long period until terrorism knocked on Europe’s door in the form of the Lone Wolves and IS affiliated militias. These groups committed appalling acts of terrorism in major cities all across the world, the most infamous of which took place in Paris, Marseilles and Brussels. In the aftermath of these attacks, Western governments initiated a hands-on approach in dealing with IS. While a major NATO campaign against IS took place in September 2014 in Iraq and Syria, the campaign intensified after the bloody Paris attacks orchestrated by IS. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the Russian intervention in the Syrian war, fighting against all terrorist groups operating there, that IS started to significantly recede in power and size.

Russian intervention: The Russian intervention was unpopular among some countries in the region for geopolitical reasons. However, Russia entering the fray of the Syrian war marked the beginning of the end of the most notorious terrorist group in history. The scenes of IS brutal mass murders, slave markets, beheadings, and destruction of ancient and priceless archaeological sites and places of worship have receded in recent months as the terrorists group now scrambles to defend its crown jewel, Mosul. Mosul is Iraq’s third largest city and the declared capital of the supposed IS caliphate headed by terrorist leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Undoubtedly, the great sacrifices of the Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi army and Syrian army contributed to stalling IS’s rapid expansion since early 2014.

Nevertheless, the true eclipse of the terrorist group was foretold in September 2015 with Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict siding with the Syrian regime and aiming to destroy IS once and for all. Subsequent Russian airstrikes have inflicted huge losses within IS’s ranks.

According to the Russian defence ministry, Russian forces in Syria managed to kill over 35,000 terrorists and destroy their weapons depots and infrastructure. Russian air raids targeted all jihadist and terrorist groups in Syria, but focused mainly on IS and Jabhat Fath Al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front). Heavy bombardment of these terrorist groups caused the massive support they once received to dwindle and their expansion to rapidly recede.

IS is now taking defensive positions for a desperate attempt to hold whatever towns and villages they have left. The battle for Mosul is the most decisive and one the Iraqi army cannot afford to lose.

Downfall of IS: Should Mosul fall as a result of the massive operation led by the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga units, Popular Mobilisation Forces (comprised of Iraqi Shia militias), the once fearsome terrorist group will begin its final descent into oblivion. With all the aforementioned forces amassed to take down the terrorist group once and for all, the dream of eliminating IS was never closer since that group emerged.

One of the weaknesses of IS leaders and their supporters is their complete detachment from reality. They have been basking in their dream of a caliphate extending from the borders of China to those of France, and all in-between. For a group that doesn’t possess an air force and relies mainly on light guns, heavy weapons, SUV vehicles and short range missiles, that dream is simply insane.

Another fact ignored by IS members is that regardless of the military successes and rapid expansion in the region, new states cannot be established except on the basis of international recognition. Hence almost all independent countries are United Nations members, or seek that membership in order to attain international recognition after independence. IS would never have been recognised by the UN under any circumstances.

Syria, Iraq and the entire Middle East region is in a total state of shock as a result of the IS terrorist attack on civilisation in the region. Cities and villages lie in ruins amid the path of destruction that alleged caliphate trod in Iraq and Syria. The demolition of marvellous treasures of ancient Iraqi and Syrian civilisation, located in Palmyra, Mosul, Al-Raqqa, Nineveh, and Nimrud, was a devastating blow to all humanity. Great works of art, archaeology and architecture that were preserved as part of the legacy of human civilisation for thousands of years were lost in a few days in some of the most barbaric and heinous acts of destruction ever known to mankind. Even historical places of worship, including Islamic ones, were not spared destruction by IS.

The loss of such treasures and historical human achievements should serve as an extreme warning against any form of complacency towards or acceptance of extremism under any pretext. IS should be the last group of its kind to exist in the Middle East and all Muslims along with the rest of the civilised world should remain vigilant that no such group ever surfaces again.

The final countdown to the extinction of IS has begun. This group already belongs to an extremely dark chapter of history, side-by-side other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and the Muslim Brotherhood, all of which are dwindling in power as time passes. However, these groups may yet evolve into other types of organisations under new names, which happened in the past.

Accordingly, in order to ensure that such groups never again resurface, thorough ideological and theological reformation within religious currents is in order. The aim should be one of cleansing Islamic religious beliefs of all twisted and violent ideas that have tainted the faith, led by extremist clerics and their heinous interpretations. This effort would serve in restoring the faith to its righteous path. It may take years to attain that goal, but it would secure a peaceful future for upcoming generations in the world.

The writer is a political analyst, writer and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and Winding Road for Democracy.

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