Greater disagreements within the caliphate are marked by recent territorial losses. The jihadist group fed on marketing its strategy of terror online, but has begun to crumble when faced with its first real battles. Yet, far from disappearing, the movement is reorganising to continue the fight. Deadly attacks can be expected as it renews itself.
Raqqa (AsiaNews) – Dissent is growing inside the infamous Daesh-led Caliphate, the so-called Islamic State (IS), as evidenced by continuous territorial losses and the failure to gain to conquer new land.
In recent days, the sound of gunfire was heard in Deir Ez-Zor where IS leaders live. An anonymous local resident reported hearing gunshots without knowing the cause. No other armed group operates in the area.
This raises the question as to what is happening to the most destructive terrorist religious organisation known in the Middle East?
Daesh began as an offshoot of al Qaeda, capable of bringing together smaller Salafi groups or cells in Iraq, led by Jordanian Abu Mosab Zarqawi with the blessing of the Saudi Bin Laden. It was a criminal organisation created and run by non-Iraqis.
For a time, its leaders debated whether to cross into Syria or stay within Iraqi borders to fight and resist Shia and Iranian hegemony.
In the end, the choice to internationalise the ideology of a Sunni Islamic state by crossing the borders had the upper hand as the first Daesh militias crossed into Syria under the name of al Nusra Front.
The group has left behind a long trail of blood and destruction, inspired by ideological texts and manuals of what subsequently came to be called Daesh.
Al Nusra Front’s victories in Syria allowed its leaders to pick the name ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, in short Daesh, an acronym in an Arab culture that traditionally does not use acronyms.
The acronym raised suspicions about the foreign non-Arab nature of the organisation, whose purpose was and is to restore an Islamic Caliphate in Abbasid and Umayyad lands (Iraq and Syria).
The rise of the Caliphate, underreported in the Arab world, was front-page news in Western media, turning a paper tiger into a terrifying enemy. The marketing of terror was amplified by local people, very attentive to Western reactions so as to escape without resisting the advances of Daesh.
There was total failure against a group that later showed itself capable of killing defenseless Christians and Muslims, burning places of worship, destroying Christian and Muslim cemeteries and tearing down the cultural and historical heritage of two of the great monotheistic religions, but crumbled as soon as it was countered with a minimum of force.
Daesh quickly became a financial empire by selling oil and engaging in all kinds of illegal trafficking with the West via Turkey. For the Russians, Daesh "opened the way to the invasion of the allies who claimed they were fighting it."
This aspect became clear especially in northern Syria, where the Islamic state pulled back without a fight from advancing Turkish troops.
This was repeated in recent days when Turkish troops and "Syrian" armed Islamic opposition created by Turkey, entered the city of Al Bab, from where Daesh had just pulled out even though the town was surrounded on all sides.
Daesh lost its territorial base, i.e. the Caliphate’s raison d’être, and is now entering a new phase, which according to many experts will be characterised by a return of its members to civilian life. Indeed, in areas liberated from Daesh occupation, some people jokingly note that "local barbers have never been so busy than at present.”
Going underground among the civilian population seems to be the start of a transitional phase for the fundamentalist chameleon, with tens of thousands of sleeper cells.
At the same time, terrorist attacks like car bombs, suicide bombers and bombings appear to be its future form of warfare. This was the case last week with attacks in Al Bab and Homs, at a few hours’ interval.
In his last broadcast speech, "Caliph" Al Baghdadi, who fled Deir Ez-Zor for Bu Kamal according to Iraqi intelligence sources, urged his followers "to be united to resist in Mosul."
His call for unity comes at a time of rising desertions as well as recruitment with the Caliphate’s ideologues calling for a temporary pullback from this stillborn goal.
Daesh now finds itself having to choose between saving what can be salvaged and ideological reconstruction.
However, far from disappearing it survives thanks to its initial tactic, namely operating in small groups under various names with seemingly different affiliations, but all part of the same mould.
Thus, Islamist-Salafist terror will continue to sow death through the usual deadly attacks, waiting for the right moment to rebuild. (PB)