State terror group is adapting to the loss of its self-declared territorial
caliphate by returning to its origins and becoming once again a more local,
Iraq-focused insurgency, and is recruiting in remote border areas in Iraq’s
western desert. But it still harbors ambitions to strike in the West, warn
European officials and analysts.
Security Minister Ben Wallace on Thursday warned that Islamic State and rival
jihadists in al-Qaida remain a serious threat to the West. Exploiting the
internet and social media platforms, IS can still recruit Westerners, and if
not organize attacks itself at least inspire adherents to strike, he said.
means that everyone has potentially an ISIS problem in every country around the
world,” he told Britain’s Sky News. “It is a different type of threat because
at the moment it's manifesting itself in lone actors.”
services the threat is unpredictable “because they have to watch one person who
may be just literally talking to themselves on one day and the next day they'll
go and grab a knife or a truck.”
But IS has
not lost the ambition to plot and organize terror attacks in the West itself.
current top IS leadership, two out of 12 members of al-Lajna al-Mufawada, the
group’s Cabinet, are tasked with overseeing operations abroad. They are Sukru
Tuncer, Frenchman of Turkish origins, and Abu 'Ammar al-Sa’udi, a Saudi. But analysts
say Daesh, the group’s Arab acronym, have had to return to its roots as a
mainly Iraq-based insurgency force and are undergoing a generational change.
Nonetheless it has the capacity to re-emerge, if it's ignored.
survives as result of the temporary lack of interest that various belligerents
in the Syrian war show in the region in which Daesh remains,” say analysts
Ronen Zeidel and Hisham al-Hashimi in a study of the group published in the
latest edition of Perspectives on Terrorism, a peer-reviewed journal. “This
lack of attention works in favor of the organization and is willing it to
regroup,” they argue.
they maintain a clandestine presence in the Hamrin and Makhul hilly region
between the provinces of Salah al-Din, Diyala and Kirkuk, in Sharqat and Qiyara
south of Mosul and in the western desert. This presence is confined to
uninhabited areas, but poses a daily threat to the population in the Sunni
periphery,” they say. Among the prime goals of the leadership is to sow and
reactivate “sleeper cells” in Iraq for attacks in bigger cities and to transfer
fighters across border with Syria into Iraq in order to increase its presence
there, they say.
IS is training and recruiting in the desert areas south-west of the Euphrates,
an area supposedly under control of the Syrian government of Bashir al-Assad,
but neglected now as the Syrian army focuses on the last remaining enclave of
anti-Assad rebels and al-Qaida-tied groups in north-west Syria. But the modes
of IS operation differ between Iraq and Syria, where the threat of air strikes
forces the group to be be defensive.
In Iraq the
group’s commanders have more freedom to plan operations and attacks have
increased in tempo steadily over the last year with government officials and
local ‘collaborators’ targeted in the Sunni countryside. Executions in villages
Mukhtars (local dignitaries) are filmed as a lesson to others.
brought the organization back to its basic essence: a small, marginal
Sunni-Iraqi terror/guerrilla force, capable of waging small wars, intimidating
populations and carrying out terror attacks in peripheral areas, exploiting the
geopolitical and governmental vacuum there. In fact, Daesh became a more
practical, matter-of-fact organization. Its organizational changes are
impressive. Apparently, this is the heritage of men who served in Saddam
Hussein’s highly organized security services,” write authors Zeidel and
though, is undergoing a generational change and has become even more Iraqi in
character. Ten out of twelve of the IS Cabinet are Iraqis; and of the 26 top
field commanders 21 are Iraqis, three are Syrian. Of the remaining two one is
Saudi and another European. It is estimated that just one out of 50 fighters
comes from outside either Syria or Iraq.
“As long as
the situation in Syria remains as it is and the lethargy of the Iraqi state in
providing security to the peripheral Sunni areas continues, Daesh will enjoy
more years of survival and might become a more threatening menace, especially
to Iraq,” Zeidel, a researcher in the Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University,
and al-Hashimi, an analyst at Al-Nahrayn Centre for Security and Strategic
Studies, Baghdad. But as an insurgency forces D
aesh is not imperishable, they
Source: Voice of America