18 May 2016
It has been
more than four years since Daesh first appeared on the scene in Iraq and later
in Syria, making spectacular territorial gains in both countries and presenting
itself as a powerful radical organization that posed an unprecedented
geopolitical challenge to the region and to the world.
used sectarian infighting to its advantage in Iraq; finding refuge among
disgruntled Sunni tribes who had suffered under the pro-Iran Baghdad government
and the confessional system that the US had imposed after its 2003 invasion.
Born out of Al-Qaeda, it quickly replaced it and was able to wage a cyber
recruiting campaign that attracted thousands of militants from Europe, North
Africa, central Asia and elsewhere.
Daesh was able to occupy large territories in northern and eastern Syria,
turning Raqqa into its de facto capital with land links to Mosul, which it had captured
two years ago. The radical group committed atrocities against religious and
ethnic minorities and soon began to establish footholds in countries such as
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. It sent suicide attackers to spread terror in
Europe. At one point in time the group appeared invincible even as a US-led
coalition began to wage an air campaign against it in Syria and Iraq.
more than two years of concentrated bombings and special operations targeting
key Daesh leaders, signs of a crushing defeat of the group are nowhere to be
seen. Even as the US declares that Daesh’s territory is shrinking, the group is
able to reach the heart of Baghdad and is wedged in areas not far from
Damascus. Recently it has managed to occupy fresh territory in Homs, including
oil fields, and is yet to be defeated in Fallujah, Rutba and other areas in
Anbar province in Iraq. The battle for Mosul promises to be hard, long and
costly, hampered by a political stalemate in Baghdad. And in the past few days
Daesh has carried out a number of suicide attacks in and around the capital of
Iraq, taking advantage of the political turmoil that has crippled the country’s
away, Daesh affiliate in Sinai has been locking horns with the Egyptian Army
for more than two years without a sign that it is on the retreat. Fears that
the radical group will move operations into the Nile Valley were realized when
Daesh claimed responsibility for a lethal attack against police in the Cairo
suburb of Hilwan last week. The war against Beit Al-Maqdis group in Sinai has
drained Egyptian resources.
also taken territory in Libya, close to the borders with Tunisia, in addition
to the city of Sirte. It is being backed by local tribes opposed to the Tripoli
government and parliament in Tobruk. It has used the political vacuum— and
groups’ infighting — in Libya to its advantage and while its threat is
contained, for now, there are reports that it might be looking to expand into
So far the
international military campaign against Daesh has not extended into Libya. But
some European countries, like Italy, are worried that unless the group is
targeted it will continue to be a source of threat to European southern shores.
France is also worried that the Libyan branch of Daesh is trying to build
bridges with Boko Haram, the extremist group that is wreaking havoc in Nigeria
and neighbouring African countries.
recently in Yemen Daesh left its bloody mark in Mukala where suicide bombers
attacked regime forces killing many. As Al-Qaeda militants retreat they are
being replaced by Daesh fighters in Yemen.
not the only radical group on the scene. The fight against Al-Qaeda and its
affiliates continues in Afghanistan and Syria. And reports say that Al-Qaeda is
now trying to branch into Syria through Al-Nusra Front. It is often difficult
to draw a clear line between so-called moderate militants and those who are
labelled as extremists. But what is clear that radical fundamentalist groups,
both Sunni and Shiite, continue to evolve in many regions of the Muslim world
phenomenon is complex and sometimes difficult to explain. But what is clear
today is that combating this phenomenon requires regional and international
effort, both on the military and ideological fronts. What is also clear is that
crushing Daesh will not necessarily defeat the reasons for its existence.
Political instability, sectarian violence, foreign interventions, official
corruption and economic inequity are among the many factors for the spread of
radical ideas in the name of religion.
perhaps why Daesh remains a regional and international challenge even as its
infrastructure is being degraded. A solid regional and international coalition
against Daesh, and others, requires that both the US and Russia move beyond
their disagreements on Syria, which has become a polarizing case for the region
and the international community.
regional problems need to be resolved from Syria to Iraq and from Yemen to
Libya. At this juncture this looks like an impossible task. But it’s the only
way to contain and suffocate radicalism in this part of the world. The task is
daunting and will take time to achieve.