EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: ISIS is facing defeat and liquidation, but its members are dispersing throughout the world and establishing local branches. The idea of the Islamic Caliphate is not dead, and the struggle in the West is not over. ISIS may disappear as an organization, but the world will continue to suffer from the evil spirit that this organization has instilled among too many Muslims.
As the city of Raqqa, the capital of the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” falls to the Free Syrian Army, made up primarily of Kurdish and Syrian militias, the question is what the aftermath of ISIS will look like.
The answer is threefold and involves the organization, its members, and its ideology.
The organization may well be routed and eradicated. The large swathe of territory it controlled will be divided among Syria, Iran, Turkey, and the Kurds, and its government institutions will become relics of the past. The attempt to reestablish the Islamic caliphate failed because the Muslim world – not only the “infidels” – despised its gruesome, seventh-century execution methods.
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A Kurdish general who previously led Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq against ISIS terrorists bemoaned on Friday the fall of Kirkuk to an Iranian-backed coalition earlier this week, warning that Israel would eventually become a target of the Tehran regime if the Islamic Republic’s regional ambitions were not effectively checked.
Speaking with journalist Assaf Gabor of the Israeli news outlet Makor Rishon, Gen. Tarek Ahmad-Jaf of the Peshmerga admitted, “We lost Kirkuk, we lost the battle.”
“It’s very unfortunate, even humiliating,” Ahmad-Jaf said.
Ahmed-Jaf reflected that, only a year ago, he had been one of the commanders leading Peshmerga forces in and around Kirkuk, during the successful counter-offensive against ISIS in which Kurdish forces played a central military role.
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For months now, Western counterterrorism experts have sounded the alarm: as ISIS loses ground, foreign fighters from America and Europe may try returning home. When they do, the experts cautioned, they will carry the terror threat with them, ready and willing to strike. Law enforcement needs to be prepared.
Now, with the fall of the Iraqi city of Harija, the Islamic State’s last major stronghold, and the impending collapse of its Syrian capital, Raqqa, the time has finally come. But is law enforcement prepared?
An estimated 5,000 Europeans joined ISIS and other terrorist groups since fighting first broke out in Syria. While some surviving members may choose to remain in the region, or travel to other conflict areas like Afghanistan, a few thousand others are likely to try to make their way back home. In countries such as France, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, most of them are at the border, where they will be taken into custody and ultimately tried for terror-related offenses.
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Latin America is a hotbed of Islamic terrorism where groups like ISIS and Hezbollah operate freely and raise large sums of money to finance terrorist activities in other countries, mainly the United States, according to a new report released by Spain’s Defense Ministry. “Latin America represents an important region for Islamic radicalism because conditions enable the free, almost undetectable, movement of their members throughout the region,” the defense document states.
Governments in the region consider Islamic terrorism to be a foreign problem, the report says, and intelligence agencies are ill equipped to handle the threat they represent. “The ignorance involving the threat of jihadist terrorism in Latin America has been such that some governments have refused to cooperate with U.S. authorities and other intelligence services,” the disturbing assessment reveals. The report was released this month by the division of Spain’s Defense agency known as Instituto Español de Estudios Estratégicos (IEEE), Spanish Institute of Strategic Studies. The document, authored by a counterterrorism expert, is titled “El radicalismo islámico en América Latina. De Hezbolá al Daesh (Estado Islámico),” Islamic Radicalism in Latin America, from Hezbollah to ISIS.
The Lebanese group Hezbollah is identified as having the largest fundraising operations in the region, though others, such as ISIS, are also prominent. The terrorist organizations have teamed up with established drug trafficking conglomerates to raise and launder large quantities of cash. The report identifies a group called El clan Barakat in Paraguay and Joumaa in Colombia as two examples of drug trafficking enterprises that have long worked with Islamic jihadists to launder money. Spain’s military experts refer to the relationships as a “marriage of convenience” between Latin American organized crime and Muslim terrorists with different objectives and interests. “Each takes advantage of the benefits that the relationship provides,” the report states.
ISIS is expanding quickly in Latin America, the report warns, revealing that around 100 individuals from the region’s large Muslim community have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups recently. Argentina and Brazil have the largest Muslim populations in Latin America with more than 1 million each, the report says. Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Chile also have large and rapidly growing Muslim populations. Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean islands on the northern edge of Latin America, are identified as “especially worrisome” because local authorities reported that 70 of their citizens traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Additionally, nine of the islands’ citizens were detained in Turkey attempting to cross the border into Syria. The report cites a 2012 article in a military publication from Trinidad that compares the growth of radical Islam in the country to a group of violent Muslims that tried to overthrow the government in 1990.
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US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently gathered defense ministers from allied nations to plan what officials hope will be the decisive stage in the campaign to eradicate the Islamic State (IS) organization. This is a strategic mistake.
IS, a radical Islamist group, has killed thousands of people since it declared an Islamic caliphate in June 2014, with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its de facto capital. It captured tremendous international attention by swiftly conquering large swaths of land and by releasing gruesome pictures of beheadings and other means of execution.
But IS is primarily successful where there is a political void. Although the offensives in Syria and Iraq showed IS’s tactical capabilities, they were directed against failed states with weakened militaries. On occasions when the poorly trained IS troops have met well-organized opposition, even that of non-state entities like the Kurdish militias, the group’s performance has been less convincing. When greater military pressure was applied and Turkish support dwindled, IS went into retreat.
REUTERS – The suicide bomber who attacked a wedding party in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep on Saturday killing 51 people was a child between the ages of 12 and 14, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
“Initial evidence suggests it was a Daesh attack,” Erdogan said, using an Arabic name for ISIS, during a visit to Gaziantep after the attack. He said 69 people were in hospital and 17 were “heavily injured”.
ISIS has been blamed for other attacks in Turkey, often targeting Kurdish gatherings in an effort to inflame ethnic tensions. The deadliest one was last October, when suicide bombers killed more than 100 people at a rally of pro-Kurdish and labor activists in Ankara.
Saturday’s wedding party was for a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, it said, and the groom was among those injured. The bride was not hurt, one local official said.
“Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.” — Ayatollah Khomeini
The rationale behind the 1916 plan produced by British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart, Francois George-Picot — and the international agreements that followed it about the future of the Middle East after World War I — was a mixture of British and French interests, with some basic understanding of the characteristics of the Middle East at the time.
The problematic pillars that were supposed to provide stability to this order were: Arab nationalism — though this pillar underestimated the role of religion, tribal and sectarian affiliation; the aspirations of other nationalities in the region; resentment towards foreign ideas; dividing the region between several invented nation-states under autocratic rule; and the expectation that the Arabs would submit themselves to foreigners in a way that would serve Western interests.
The Western powers were aware of the deficiencies that prevented the Arab states from functioning in a way that guaranteed stability, but supported the status quo, which had been surprisingly kept, due to the commitment of the ruling elites to the new borders and the autocratic nature of the Arab regimes.
This was the case until the Arab upheaval in 2011. The autocratic systems in non-monarchic states collapsed, and the Middle East witnesses to this day a fierce battle over the fate of the Sykes-Picot legacy, between “radical Islam” and the “pragmatic” forces. All factions of radical Islam deny the concept of nationalism, and believe in reviving the Islamic nation as a single political entity governed by Islamic law. But while the “ultra-radicals” (Islamic State and al Qaeda on the Sunni side, and radical leadership of Iran on the Shiite side) call for establishing Islamic rule as soon as possible, the “realist radicals” (the Muslim Brotherhood and the Rouhani camp in Iran) believe that the time is not ripe to establish the caliphate, since the West is not yet weak enough to be defeated.
The Islamic State (ISIS)’s de facto capital in Syria, Raqqa, has become the new headquarters for global terrorism. It is where plots to sow murder and mayhem across the West are hatched and orchestrated.
According to Western intelligence assessments, ISIS planners in Raqqa came up with the idea for the March suicide bombing attacks at the Brussels airport and a metro station, which killed 35 people
.Raqqa is also where the November suicide bombing and gun attacks in Paris, which left 130 people dead, were born.
ISIS’s caliphate in Syria in Iraq is losing territory to its foes. Yet its home base in Raqqa remains very functional, and it continues to pose a real threat to Western security, as well as to the stability of surrounding Middle East states.
Raqqa is where additional mass casualty terrorist attacks are being planned at this very moment. The plots target both Western cities, and capitals of Arab countries ISIS deems as counterfeit Muslim regimes and Western-enabled puppets.
Only a sustained military campaign against Raqqa would signify a serious intention by anti-ISIS coalition members to deal with the source of the current waves of terrorism.
In part II of the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s three-part series on trends in global Islamist terror, IPT Shillman Senior Fellow Pete Hoekstra discusses how ISIS has exploited the failed state of Libya to create a caliphate from which it exports weapons, fighters and ideology throughout Africa. The continent has become an emerging battlefield in the war against Islamist terror.