At this point in time it’s pretty safe to say that ISIS has recently been pushed in a corner and is now on the brink of complete collapse. In fact, ISIS has so few forces left that is unable to launch any major offensive anywhere in the world. It’s losing people and resources pretty rapidly and there’s no escaping the situation.
Previously, the Islamic State would recruit supporters on the grounds that it was, well, a state, which gave it a long list of advantages over other terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaeda. However, now that ISIS has lost this advertising point it is getting incredibly difficult for its recruiters to enlist new radicals in its ranks. Instead, the Islamic States has become an organization that has failed to achieve its designated goals. It’s the beginning of the long road downhill for the terrorist group that has managed to shock the world with its televised brutality.
In period from January 2015 to today the Islamic States has lost 80% of its revenues, primarily due to the loss of the territories it controled. If in January 2015 the ISIS was in control of 56 thousand square miles of land, today it’s barely clinging to 20 thousand square miles. Like any large formation, the Islamic States has been living “off the land”, collecting taxes and fees from various activities that the population of those territories would undertake, with the only exception that it has made a long list of illegal activities pretty commonplace like, for instance, slave trade. The average monthly income of ISIS would shrink as it would keep losing ground, deteriorating from 81 million dollars made in the second quarter of 2015 to just 16 million dollars in the second quarter of 2017, that is, an 80% decrease. Thus, in the above mentioned period the average monthly income from oil trade decreased by 88%, while tax revenues dropped by 79%. At the same time, the Islamic State has pushed the tax burden that the population of the territories it controls beyond the limit a long while ago.
Although, from a geographical point of view, the terrorist group still controls relatively large strips of land, especially along the Euphrates river, the density of the population in those areas has always been relatively low.
The fall of Raqqa and Mosul would mark the collapse of ISIS as a state. When you no longer control large cities, it is difficult to persuade anyone that you’re actually a “state”, no matter how brutal you are.
The best evidence that ISIS has suffered complete meltdown over the last couple of years are the so-called “passports to paradise” that the terrorist group has been issuing, as it has recently been reported by the Daily Mail. Those papers, carrying no personal information whatsoever, fell into the hands of the Syrian opposition fighters during the battle for Raqqa. Such a passport would urge its holder to commit suicidal terrorist attacks with the use of explosive belts, thus obtaining a passage to the eternal paradise.
However, while the Islamic State has lost the best part of its territory, it doesn’t concern its forces. It’s no secret that ISIS seeks to destroy any life that does not obey its murderous totalitarian ideology. They divide people into true believers and infidels, while decorating their flags with such words as “eliminate” and “destroy”. They seek to split the society and plunge it into a never ending war, pitting Sunnis against Shiites, abd Muslims against the West.
The collapse of the caliphate as a semi-state does not mean that this strategy will no longer be applied in the future. Its leaders are looking for new territories to implement their designs, looking both at the Philippines and, quite possibly, Libya. But they would seek to undermine the unstable regions of the world, like Sahel, the Horn of Africa, Central Asia, Western Europe, the United States. Those are the areas that the battle hardened fighters would return to after losing the war in Syria, no wonder they’ve been carrying out terrorist attacks in those regions of the world.
But ISIS won’t stop just there as it’s been making activate attempts to recruit new terrorists in various countries of the world. They are looking for unsustainable people who haven’t attracted the attention of law enforcement agencies yet, including women and children. But ISIS is no longer demanding them to join the fight for the “Caliphate,” instead it recruiters are urging those individuals to launch attacks at home, notes the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Usually such attacks require little to no combat experience, training or a prolonged period of radicalization, only a rented car, a knife, a stolen truck.
The conditions that have become a catalyst for the emergence of Islamists, such as the civil war in Syria, religious contradictions have not gone anywhere: the region is still a source of radicalism that may soon spill across its borders.
Killing the self-proclaimed Caliph wouldn’t allow security agencies to call it a day and go home, since neither the radical ideology, nor the Islamists affected by it are going anywhere Therefore, it is important to carry on the liberation of Middle Eastern territories from the poisonous grip of ISIS, including Libya, while carrying on a war on the radical ideas of ISIS ideology.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”