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Islamic State May Be Losing Territory, but It Won’t Give Up on Winning It Back

Since Islamic State (IS) has lost nearly all of its territory in Iraq and been driven from its major urban redoubts in eastern Syria, many observers have predicted it will reinvent itself as a global terrorist organization. As such, it is said, the group will focus its energy on staging attacks on civilians rather than taking and holding territory. Robin Simcox is not so sure:

So long as IS wants to keep on fighting—and clearly, it does—it has little choice but to revert to guerrilla tactics. However, it would be a mistake to think of this as anything other than a temporary tactical pivot. The terrorist group’s overall strategy will not change. IS still aspires to hold territory, govern, and ultimately restore a caliphate—with an appointed caliph—ruled by sharia law. This is integral to the raison d’être of not just IS but Islamist groups generally.

The creation of a caliphate is a key tenet of Islamism. In 1938, Hassan el-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, stated that the Brotherhood believed “the caliphate is a symbol of Islamic Union and an indication of the bonds between the nations of Islam.” For that reason, he said, its “re-establishment [is] a top priority.” . . .

Beyond the political and theological motivations, IS has a host of practical reasons for seizing and holding land. Controlling large amounts of territory allows it to create safe havens from which to plan terrorist attacks outside its immediate sphere of influence—such as the IS-directed Paris attacks that killed 130 innocents and wounded hundreds more in November 2015.

Moreover, territorial control allows control over people—and not just those already living in the occupied area. The 2014 announcement of a caliphate led tens of thousands of Muslims to move there. And controlling more territory and people also means a larger cash flow—provided in the 2014-17 caliphate via taxation, extortion, and selling oil, antiquities, and the like. Therefore, Islamic State cannot . . . restrict itself to hit-and-run raids, car bombings, and trucks mowing down pedestrians. The need to govern is real.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Iraq, ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, War on Terror

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy