We need to talk about the restriction of militants in certain areas of Iraq and Syria
The terrorist organization ISIS is one of the main problems of the modern Middle East. The group terrorizes civilians, organizes attacks of suicide bombers in Arab countries and Europe.
According to the research of RAND, radical groups stop their existence in two ways: 1. the grouping is including in the political process (43%), 2. intelligence agencies destroy the «root element» of the organization (40%). It is difficult to achieve victory over fanatics only by «purely» military actions, complex measures are needed here.
The first point can be immediately forgotten in the case of ISIS. The second point that is the gradual destruction of the «root element» of the organizations is the most likely scenario in the case of ISIS. This will undermine military, ideological and economic opportunities, narrow the perimeter of militant activity. Only time and a long siege will strangle ISIS. However, even in this case we can’t speak about complete destruction; the organization will exist and continue its activity, albeit on a reduced scale.
2014-2015 years have created the myth of the invincibility of ISIS. I remember how a lot of people talked about the imminent expansion of it beyond Syria and Iraq, to Central Asia, North Africa, Afghanistan. Of course, these conclusions were hasty ones. «Basic conditions» that are absent beyond the borders of some areas of Iraq and Syria for now, are needed for the ISIS expansion. The root element of ISIS laid in Iraq and Syria, who were infringed in their rights by the policy of part of the Shiite leadership. Similar conditions exist in Iraq and Syria these days. That is why ISIS has bases in separate regions of the two countries. ISIS radicals will find support among civilians until deep socio-political, economic problems is solved. And the death, injury or flight of the leader will not be of fundamental importance.
However, the grouping has already passed the peak of its power. Thanks to the joint efforts of the International Coalition against ISIS, the organization’s capabilities were significantly undermined.
The coalition includes countries such as the USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Canada, etc. The activities of such regional countries as the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt are of particular importance. Russia’s activities in Syria, in particular the attacks on the oil infrastructure of terrorists, also played a role in undermining the capabilities of the ISIS.
The second largest city in Iraq is under siege now; ISIS is losing its positions in its own territory, where the local population, if not support, is neutral towards it. Somewhere in early 2016, and maybe earlier, the recession began; the grouping began to suffer one defeat after another. The loss of Mosul is a catastrophe for radicals. The idea of controlling cities is a competitive advantage, the idea fix of the organization. Losing one settlement after another lead to ISIS budget reducing.
Now we need to talk about the restriction of militants in certain areas of Iraq and Syria. ISIS originated in separate regions of Iraq and Syria because of a whole range of factors. First, the Sunni Arab population was marginalized by the policies of the Shiite leadership. For example, in Iraq, the policy of former Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki pushed many civilians into armed struggle. The same can be said about Syria. Another factor in the intensification of extremism was the foreign invasion of Iraq in the beginning and a forceful regime change. Based on this, ISIS has influence in certain areas of Iraq and Syria. It will be extremely difficult to get rid of terrorists from there; it will take time and efforts, both from the local militaries and from the international community.
There is another factor related to the fight against ISIS and it is extremely important in the fight against extremism. This is the social support of the fight against terrorism. There is another detail that has special significance. Initially, the name of the grouping was «The Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant». The key point here is the preposition «in». There is a big difference between the concepts of «Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant» and «Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant». That is, the ideologists of the organization initially claimed to control certain areas of the Arab region of the Levant. Along with this, we should not call radical fanatics as «Islamic state», because they are not. It’s just fanatics, militias and terrorists.
Ph.D., Scholar, Senior Lecturer, Georgi Asatryan