By Matt Young
Mar 16, 2017
Coalition forces have Islamic State on the
ropes and its leader in hiding, but if you thought the terror group's defeat
might be a huge win for the west, think again.
Middle East watchers have painted a dark
picture of a post-Isis world - in both the region itself and in countries like
With foreign Jihadis looking to flee back
to their home countries and the likes of Russia, Iran and Syrian dictator
Bashar al-Assad circling, US President Donald Trump's promised crushing of Isis
may be a victory in name only.
"We're looking at a very grim future
for the Middle East. If the government of Iraq can get its act together, they
have half a chance of making things better, but we have every reason to worry
that won't be the case," Professor Greg Barton, Chair In Global Islamic
Politics at Deakin University, told news.com.au.
"We may well see Isis forces coming
back as we've seen Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
"We've been constantly underestimating
strength and capacity, I think we'll be repeating that error again and
Experts suggest that despite Coalition
forces banding together to fight the common enemy, post-war rivalries are
already beginning to show signs of returning.
"We face a new Iranian empire, an
expansionist Russia, a treacherous Turkey, an Iraq lost to Iran and the prospect
of years to come of ethnic cleansing, massacre and violent uprisings on which
terrorists will again piggyback," Ralph Peters, a strategic analyst, wrote
in the New York Post.
The sale of seafood taken recreationally is
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Whangarei father and son fined almost
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US President Donald Trump has remained hard
line about the stance to destroy Isis, but said very little of his vision for
what happens after the fall of the caliphate. Will we see a repeat of the
George W Bush era?
"When everyone is gone, all the
military, and the country returns to start position, remnants that are left
come back and take advantage of chaos and re-establish themselves, it's
basically the story of the Taliban in Afghanistan," said Prof Barton.
"Al-Qaeda remains significant despite
its strength being greatly reduced. Al-Qaeda has reinvigorated and are quite
strong and robust. When you think about that, it's very likely they will be
with us for decades to come in some form or another.
"In Afghanistan and Iraq, the recent
experience is disastrous, it's as dire as its ever been. The Taliban is
stronger in Afghanistan today since it was driven out of power.
"As with Afghanistan, once resources
are taken away we'll see forces come back into power and a chaotic state run by
power seekers inside the country.
"For there to be a lasting solution
requires an stable government and there's every reason to believe that's going
It's this post-caliphate landscape that has
analysts worried for the future of the Middle East.
Not only is Turkey's president showing
signs of hard line Islamism, its relationship with Russia bounces between
friend and foe.
The Kurds, who fought Islamic State on the
frontline long before the Western Coalition moved in, continue to engage in
land disputes with locals and enrage Turkey.
Meanwhile, Russia's relationship with
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has global forces furious.
But while eastern Mosul flourishes, the
west continues to flounder under Islamic State rule.
A few weeks ago, one family made the most
terrifying decision of their lives; to risk death and flee their home.
For almost three years, the family -
comprising of a mother, father, and two teenage sons - experienced the harshest
of lives under the Islamic caliphate. Every aspect of their life was
controlled. For example, the mother had been struck because she wasn't
"covered" properly. They couldn't trust anyone, not even their
Islamic State's rule has been a bloody one.
And the battle to retake Mosul, Islamic State's golden goose and major urban
stronghold, has been even bloodier. Here, life is not a guarantee, it's a game
Prior to the liberation of eastern Mosul,
families could pay for the right to escape by paying 50,000 to 75,000 Iraqi
dinars per person - approximately NZ$65. But not now.
"The situation on the west side is
very desperate, with no drinking water, fuel, or even food," Ahmed, 25,
whose sister remains stranded in her home across the river, told Middle East
"People there are literally on the
verge of starving to death."
On that fateful night, the family made the
decision to flee, weeks after the Iraqi army announced the liberation of east
Mosul on the left bank of the Tigris River.
Their only option was to leave the city
under the cover of darkness, hoping to escape detection while dodging a
gauntlet of bullets from the enemy. But they were spotted - and the chase to
They joined thousands of other desperate
refugees attempting to cross the deadly divide, which separates east and west
Mosul. Miraculously, they made it.
"They said it was terrifying every day
because your neighbours could do you in for something - even if it's not true -
they would come along and arrest you," said Shannon Sedgwick, who spent
six years with Australia's elite paratrooper unit and now works as a private
risk consultant in areas like the Middle East,
Last week US envoy Brett McGurk said what
was left of Isis-held territory was surrounded by Coalition forces and the
group had lost more than 60 per cent of the territory it once claimed in Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still reported to be inside the city,
despite reports of Islamic State fighters attempting to escape with their
But this is exactly the Coalition's
Prof Barton said the risk lies in factions
of Islamic State breaking down into smaller cells, making them harder to spot
Additionally, defeated fighters out of
Syria and Iraq will return to their home country and potentially commit jihad
in their home countries - Europe, North America, and Australia are all at risk.
Coalition forces fear Isis will revert to
Al-Qaeda's strategy of guerilla or "asymmetric" warfare, including
bomb attacks. Clever for the fact that attacks can occur anywhere at any time.
"Islamic State is a global insurgency.
It may well be they will never be as powerful or enjoy the presence they
currently have, but it will be a very long time before this group is completely