Many reasons combine together to explain the continuity of the Islamic State organisation (known also as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — ISIL), and even when it is weakened it will continue as an idea and ideology for some Islamists and the sympathisers of the Islamic Caliphate. ISIL succeeded in establishing a glimpse of the Islamic nation they believe in. Al-Qaeda failed to apply its ideology in occupying land and implementing Islamic laws, as ISIL has done. This article will highlight the reasons behind the continuity of ISIL in the foreseeable future.
The difficulty in ending ISIL
Tuesday ,18 November 2014
First, the air strikes led by the US cannot defeat ISIL and there have been calls for ground troops to intervene to stop the civilian causalities and make effective progress in facing the threat of this organisation. The Turkish government refused to launch a ground war against ISIL in Kobani "Ain Alarab" and Turkish President Erdogan said: “I am telling the West dropping bombs from the air will not provide a solution.” Turkey asked for a no-fly zone, a land buffer zone and training for moderate Syrian rebels, namely the Free Syrian Army. In addition, the Turkish foreign minister said it would not be fair on his country to take sole responsibility to launch a ground attack against ISIL in Kobani. The US and other members of the alliance against ISIL are reluctant to have boots on the ground, but rather speak of training for Kurdish and Iraqi forces. The only way to defeat ISIL is local forces and not foreign ground troops. The Sahawat (Awakening) forces that achieved a victory over Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2008 are a striking example that can be replicated for the current crisis.
Second, the perceived injustice and discrimination aainst Sunnis in Iraq, even after composing the new Iraqi government, is another main factor that consolidates the presence of ISIL in Mosul and other areas in Iraq. Those Sunni forces supported ISIL's bid to have a stronghold, especially in Mosul. Without taking the demands of Sunnis into consideration, it will be very difficult to push ISIL out of Iraq.
Third, ISIL has become a brand and magnet that attracts some Muslims and Islamic groups to declare allegiance to it. For example, Jund Alkhilafa (The Soldiers of Caliphate) in Algeria, which defected from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, announced its allegiance to Omar Al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIL. It replaced Al-Qaeda as an icon for some Muslims to establish the Islamic Caliphate. This could explain the recent military activities of Al-Qaeda in Yemen and its fighting the Houthis. The Pakistan Taliban called for support for ISIL and other Islamic groups will follow suit to declare allegiance or support to this organisation.
Fourth, the difficulty in draining the sources of its financial support is a crucial factor. The US secretary of the treasury said it would take time to block ISIL's sources of income, especially from selling oil and ransom money. It seems that ISIL is more organised and sophisticated in comparison to Al-Qaeda, so the task this time is more difficult and will take years, the treasury secretary added. ISIL has billions of dollars and it gets money from different sources.
Fifth, after the failure of the Islamic project to rule the Arab world following the "Arab Spring", the US is not clear about the shape of this region. The US was taken by surprise at the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its negative effects on the rest of the Arab world was swift and unexpected by the US administration. So, the presence of ISIL for years might help the US to draw a new map for the region. The evidence of that is the ability of the US to destroy the heavy weapons taken by ISIL from the Iraqi army when they controlled Mosul easily. But there was intentional delay in stopping ISIL and it was easier to weaken ISIL when they displayed tanks and other advanced weapons on the Internet under the eyes of the world.
Sixth, American hesitancy to arm the Free Syrian Army and the weakness of this army in comparison to Al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda in Syria) and ISIL is adding to the difficulty in defeating this organisation.
Finally, ISIL attacked Hizbullah and killed some of its soldiers. It has some support in Lebanon and some factions are happy and supportive of any attack against Hizbullah. This adds to ISIL's presence in another country. In this context, the thousands of jihadists from Western countries that have joined ISIL and have tremendously contributed to its continuity, especially on the Internet, should be mentioned. These Western radicals add to the threat of this organisation, even in Western countries.
In the end, some might think that negotiation and not war is the way to put an end to this horrible nightmare. The Northern Ireland scenario could be brought up to support this argument. In this context, Jonathan Powel, the chief British negotiator of the Northern Ireland peace deal, said "terrorism can never be defeated by military means alone." However it is very hard to apply this example to ISIL for many reasons, especially that the dream of the Islamic nation did not exist for the Irish.
The writer is an expert in Islamic movements and a lecturer in Middle East politics.