Analysis: Is ISIS done for?

The defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq has not ended the barbaric organization's ability to sow death and destruction.

Tags: Syria Iraq ISIS
Yochanan Visser ,

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand by the bodies of ISIS terrorists killed near Kirkuk
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand by the bodies of ISIS terrorists killed near Kirkuk

Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion.

The United States and Iraq celebrated the defeat of the Islamic State on the Sunday after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the Jihadist organization had been driven out of the country.

"Today, our troops were able to purge islands of Nineveh and Anbar in full, and they (the forces) are now fully controlling the Iraqi-Syrian borders,” al-Abadi said on Saturday.

“These victories are not only for the Iraqis alone, though the Iraqis were themselves who achieved such victories with their sacrifices. But the victories are for all Arabs, Muslims and the world alike,” the Iraqi leader added.

“Honorable Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated, the flag of Iraq is flying high today over all Iraqi territory and at the farthest point on the border,” according to al-Abadi who declared Sunday a national holiday.

The U.S. State Department followed suit with spokeswoman Heather Nauert issuing a statement congratulating the Iraqi people and “the brave Iraqi Security Forces, many of whom lost their lives heroically fighting ISIS."

Nauert cautioned, however, that the victory in Iraq doesn’t mean the war against terrorism and even Islamic State in Iraq is over.

A day after she issued her warning ISIS suicide bombers tried to attack the Iraqi city of Rashad but the assault was foiled by the Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias which killed 10 Islamic State terrorists.

It didn’t prevent al-Abadi from organizing a military parade in Baghdad with soldiers of the Iraqi army marching through the center of the city while helicopters and warplanes were flying overhead.

The announcement about the final victory over ISIS in Iraq came two days after the Russian army declared victory over the barbaric group in Syria.

Both statements seem to be premature, however, and an Iraqi MP even accused al-Abadi of electoral propaganda by declaring victory over Islamic State at this point.

Hushyar Abdullah, a member of the Iraqi security and defense committee, wrote on his Facebook account that ISIS is still able of creating new battle fronts in Iraq.

“Domestic and foreign reasons that led to the emergence of ISIS still persist in Iraq and the region,” he added according to The Baghdad Post.

Abdullah said the political failures in Iraq are “at their worst level,” but didn’t elaborate.

Experts agree with Abdullah and warn a repeat of al-Qaeda’s resurrection in Iraq, which led to the founding of the Islamic State group, could happen because “the earth on which IS flourished” has not dried out.

“The jihadists have been deprived of oxygen and defeated militarily but the womb from which they emerged remains fertile.” Karim Bitar a French Middle East expert warned.

He meant economic and social problems as well as marginalizing minorities and widespread corruption in the central government in Iraq.

Another huge problem is that in Iraq a whole generation has grown up knowing only cruel war and being brainwashed by Islamist ideology.

To understand why it is premature to celebrate victory over the Islamic State group one should take a look at the broader picture of the war against ISIS.

Take, for example, what is happening in Egypt and Libya, as well as countries in Asia, Africa and the Western nations.

In Egypt Islamic State is on the rise despite a four-year-old campaign by the Egyptian military and continues to expand its destabilizing activities in the country of 90 million.

Wilayat Sinai, the local ISIS branch, which began its activities under the name Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has roughly 1200 fighters in the Sinai Peninsula, 80 percent of them foreigners according to the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The Jihadist group carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s history at the end of November and has expanded its terrorist operations to the densely populated Nile Delta and to the desert in western Egypt all the way up to the porous Libyan border.

Via that border, ISIS terrorists who fled from Syria and Iraq are now regrouping in Libya - that thought it also had routed the Jihadist group after the fall of its local capital Sirte.

Then there is Gaza where ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror groups are more and more challenging Hamas rule over the enclave in southern Israel and who are reportedly behind the renewed rocket attacks on Israeli cities and communities in the vicinity of Gaza.

Islamic State also has a presence on the Golan Heights where it operates under the name Khalid ibn al-Walid Army.

Channel 2 in Israel reported in October on several senior ISIS commanders who fled from Iraq and Syria and were recruiting local youth who were receiving military training in camps a few kilometers from the Israeli border.

Farther away in Africa Islamic State’s ideology is leading to the formation of new terror groups which joined their brothers of Boko Haram in Nigeria, an Islamist group that swore allegiance to ISIS in 2015.

In Niger and Somalia ISIS’ affiliates have already staged deadly terrorist attacks which aim to destabilize the countries to the point the regime collapses.

In the middle of October the ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shahaab killed at least 276 people when a truck bomb flattened the center of Mogadishu in Somalia.

Pakistan and Afghanistan in Asia have also proven to be fertile ground for Islamic State’s radical Islamist ideology and have witnessed a number of devastating terror attacks committed by local ISIS affiliates.

Further east in the Philippines ISIS founded a new branch which operates under the name Al-Shabaab and committed a massacre in the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi, leaving more than 200 people dead this summer.

Then there is Europe where returning ISIS terrorists are increasingly staging so-called lone wolf attacks on Westerners and are forming local terror cells which, like in Spain, are able to wreak havoc.

Some 1,200 Islamic State terrorists have returned to European countries and Andrew Parker, the director of the MI5 British intelligence service, warns that the threat they pose is evolving rapidly.

“That threat is multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly, and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before,” according to Parker.

The United Kingdom tops the list of countries which are harboring ISIS terrorists, with 425 individuals who fought in Syria and Iraq.

The threat Islamic State poses to the world now tops the list of worries among the public.

A Pew Research Center report from August 2017 showed that 61 percent of people interviewed in countries across the globe said Islamic State remains the greatest threat worldwide.