Only Partially Defeated, Islamic State Staggers On

Although it has lost all of its territorial strongholds in its former Iraqi and Syrian heartland, Islamic State (IS) still maintains cells and continues its activities in this area. Jonathan Spyer notes that there has even been “a sharp uptick” in the jihadist group’s attacks in recent weeks, perhaps as it seeks to take advantage of the general distraction caused by the coronavirus:

[T]he increase in IS activity is taking place across a broad but contiguous majority-Sunni Arab area of territory. The pattern of events confirms the continued existence of Islamic State’s networks of supply and support, through which the movement’s members can safely pass. This is the “ghost caliphate” in the territory that the movement once administered. Now it exists in clandestine form, striking at the successor authorities when opportunity presents.

The ongoing, slow-burning Islamic State insurgency in this area is proof that the “victories” in the wars in Syria and Iraq have resolved little. Neither the Assad regime’s crushing of the Sunni Arab uprising against it, nor the U.S.-led coalition’s destruction of the IS caliphate has settled the underlying issue that led to the emergence of both. This is the fact that both Baghdad and Damascus are dominated by non-Sunni ruling authorities with little interest in, or ability to integrate, the large Sunni Arab populations living under their rule.

For so long as this remains the case, Sunni Arab insurgency, latent or open, is likely to persist in the remote, poor and sparsely governed areas of both countries. The coronavirus offers a window for IS to increase the tempo of its activities. But with or without the pandemic, the “ghost caliphate” is here to stay.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Coronavirus, ISIS, Sunnis, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf