Extremist Movements and Loss of Purpose: The Fall of Daesh
There is no doubt that Daesh, having taken large segments of land and key cities in northern Iraq and Syria in 2015, poses a powerful extremist threat. Daesh (Islamic State), a Sunni extremist movement, has dominated in Syria because its Sunni majority population is ruled by an oppressive Shia regime in Bashar Al-Assad.
Additionally, Sunnis in Iraq have been pushed north of Baghdad subsequent to the US invasion where Daesh dominates major cities like Mosul.
Daesh has strategically built up the base of its land operations around a major Iraqi oil infrastructure in Mosul and produces 38,000 barrels of oil per day from large Syrian deposits like al-Tanak and al-Omar fields which together produce 78% of Daesh’s oil and provide them with an additional source of revenue and financial stability as they continue to impose their ideology in the region.
Why is Daesh about to fall? It is falling victim to the same historical outcomes as other Sunni groups like the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Like most Sunni extremist groups, Daesh emerged with the clear purpose of creating an Islamic State, and when the message is lost the extremist group crumbles from within.
For instance, the PLO and Yasser Arafat were moderate Sunni Muslims that both fought and attempted to work with Israel to revive the Palestinian government in Gaza and the West Bank. In July 2000, when the two-state solution talks broke down at Camp David between Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and President Bill Clinton, the current uprising and tension between Palestine and Israel began. Fractions within the PLO encouraged frustrated Sunni Muslims to join terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The purpose or goal of the PLO was vanquished, and the group was dealt its final blow with the passing of Arafat. After Arafat’s death, Hamas and random acts of terror towards Israel were the norm and a legitimate Palestine has yet to be established.
Another example of the rise of extremists was the Taliban in Afghanistan, following the Soviet insurgency from 1994-1996. After 1996, the Taliban formed a government in Afghanistan and were supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. During the Taliban rule, 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, set up shop in the country. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda established a new safe haven where they could work with the Taliban to recruit fighters, build training camps, and plan international terrorist attacks. After the 9/11 attacks, the US vowed to remove the extremist-inspired Taliban from power. The US did so swiftly and brutally and forced the Taliban and Al-Qaeda out of the Afghan government. The Taliban lost their sole purpose, the power to govern. Since then, the Taliban has struggled to re-gain power and have resorted to generating fear with a focus on suicide bombings and random acts of terror.
Daesh is heading down a similar road. Daesh’s goal was the creation of a Sunni ruled Islamic State that would free Sunni Muslims from the oppression of Shia governments and promise fighters that they would start an unstoppable movement as they continued to take large areas of land. Now, as Shia and Kurdish militias take that land back and major countries like the United States, Russia, and France have launched major air bombing campaigns, Daesh is losing ground. With the help of US airstrikes, Iraqi forces finally took full control of the city of Fallujah in June, 2016. The success in Fallujah is considered to be a test for the readiness of the Iraqi army to take back Mosul, Iraq.
Daesh’s response has been a campaign of major international terror in Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, France, Egypt, Belgium, Turkey, and possibly Bangladesh. Daesh’s purpose is slowly transitioning from an Islamic State to just another terrorist group similar to Al-Qaeda and Hamas. Daesh is likely re-focusing on international terrorism to deflect from the loss of an established Islamic State, or in a hopeful effort to recruit desperately needed fighters.
Daesh will likely conduct several acts of terrorism on the international stage, some may be grandiose but most will likely be foiled. These random acts of terror and an absence of a master plan will deter recruits from joining Daesh which will continue to lose peripheral land around Iraq and Syria and their leaders will slowly join one of two distinct groups, radical terrorists or moderates. The radicals will continue to inflict fear but with dwindling financial backing and popularity. The moderates may continue to govern in small tribal groups and may, perhaps, work with international players to establish a legitimate and recognized sovereign state perhaps within a state like Kurdistan. This will likely take decades, but history suggests that Daesh and its Islamic State will fall as have the rest.
This article was originally posted in Geopolitical Monitor.