Only Partially Defeated, Islamic State Staggers On

April 21 2020

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.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jerusalem Post

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

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship