What’s next for Islamic State 2 months after taking over Mosul

Two months ago then-ISIS made the headlines with taking over Mosul. What those 2 months says to us about now-the Islamic State, in your opinion? Read few comments.

Edwin BakkerProfessor, Director Centre for Terrorism & Counter Terrorism, Leiden University

Islamic State has successfully managed not only to conquer territories, but also to align itself with local Sunni leaders and people that were fed up with the Shia controlled government in Baghdad. This explains why they have managed to remain in control over most of the territories conquered earlier. Add to that the substantial weakening of the Iraqi army in terms of moral and equipment (and of course IS’s use of these weapons) and it remains to be seen if the government in Iraq will manage to reconquer Mosul.  The problem of the increase in power of IS is now also felt in Syria where Deir es Zor is under increasing pressure and so are the areas controlled by the Kurds. In many ways, IS conquest has been a game changer and the reactions by the Maliki government have limited the possibilities for the US and other countries to support Baghdad. Surprisingly little has happened on the international front. There seems to be some kind of stalemate. Nobody knows what to do: Support Assad or not? Assist the opposition with the risk that some elements might join a winning IS, support the Kurds with the risk that one has to take sides after a referendum, use of drones and special forces ….. and in the mean time, IS is profiting from the inactivity. They have dealt a major blow to several parties in the region and it is more likely that IS will be the actor to deal the next blow.

David RomanoAssociate Professor, Missouri State University

ISIS makes al-Qaeda look like a bunch of boy scouts. Whereas al-Qaeda was more of an idea, a franchise with some loosely organized and far-spread cells of small groups organizing dramatic but mostly symbolic terrorist attacks, ISIS is a different beast. This is a group born out of the horrors of the Syrian civil war and conflict ranging from Chechnya to Algeria.  They are organized, much more numerous and now in control of substantial territory in bot Syria and Iraq. They are flush with more money than al-Qaeda ever had, and more weapons too. In terms of ideology, they appear even more extreme than al-Qaeda and anyone who does not subscribe to their hyper-extremist, pathologically violent brand of Islam is fit for execution. While they promised many Shiite and Yezidi populations they captured mercy if they would convert to ISIS’ brand of Sunni Islam, they still executed them after they did so.

I find it hard to believe that world leaders, who must know all this, do not appear to be taking the issue more seriously. Instead we’re all distracted by a side show in Gaza. Recent ISIS gains against the Kurds — a pro-Western secular group in Iraq ruling an autonomous region the size of Switzerland and thought to be the only force there able to stop ISIS — seem to have occurred with little notice. President Obama has not made a statement on Iraq or Syria sine mid-June.  Meanwhile the Yezidis, whose ancient faith predates Christianity and Islam, are looking genocide down the throat — 200,000 of their 400,000 population is on the run from ISIS, displaced from towns like Shangal that ISIS captured from the Kurds over the weekend. Some 10,000 Yezidid civilians are on a mountain top with no food or water in 45 degree heat, with untold numbers of children and elderly already dead from dehydration and heat — they can not come down or reach aid because ISIS forces surrounded the base of the mountain after they fled Shangal. After nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left in Mosul.  Yet somehow the world can hardly notice.  I must admit the situation — especially the attitude in the West whose leaders should be discussing urgent interventions to arm and finance the Kurds — has made me more than a little upset.

Ramzy Mardini, Nonresident Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council

The Islamic State is consolidating its power and authority over the territory it had gained. They can no longer be characterized as a terrorist organization, but rather a military force and the predominant power in central and northern Iraq.
The Islamic State is becoming more and more entrenched, which may likely lead to growing resistance from the local population. Their governing structure is too rigid and strict to survive in the long-term. Moreover, the Islamic State does not share power with other insurgent groups and aims to subjugate others under their authority. Over time, Iraq’s Sunni insurgency is likely to see more infighting due to the struggle of power within the movement.

Its growing entrenchment signifies that the Iraqi government will be unable to oust the Islamic State from power. Baghdad cannot reconquer lost territory any time soon as the militants have demonstrated their ability to defend against government offensives.

Despite their small numbers in the beginning, two months after the fall of Mosul, the Islamic State now controls a much larger percentage of the overall Sunni insurgency, both in Iraq and Syria. Their numbers are growing and their superior capabilities and mobility make the Islamic State a regional problem that will remain for the foreseeable future. There are two trends happening simultaneously: the Islamic State is growing stronger, and the incidents of infighting within the Sunni insurgency are increasing. The insurgency may continue to break down and fragment, but no insurgent group is likely to be strong enough to overpower the Islamic State.

If Maliki is ousted, the Islamic State will declare a major victory and will exploit and showcase it as part of their propaganda strategy. If Maliki’s out, we could see the pendulum swing back towards Syria in ousting Assad from power.

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