ISIS’ most dangerous legacy

The military victories in both Iraq and Syria, and the collapse of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) “extremist caliphate”, did not bring about the end of the phenomenon. In addition, the group is still active and successful in Iraq and Syria east of the Euphrates, and it possesses significant personnel and financial resources. According to researcher Hassan Abu Haniyeh, there are several serious unresolved issues that are related to the organization’s “boom” in terms of propaganda and recruitment, as well as the fate of thousands of people who were attracted by the organization or who fell under its control during the “state” that it established.

Specialized Western and Arab experts and academics addressed these topics at the Institute for Politics and Society in Amman (in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation) seminar “The Future of ISIS After the Death of Its Leaders” a few days ago. Charlie Winter, a scholar, addressed a central question: how did the organization’s propaganda deal with its loss of territory and the termination of the well-known motto “remaining and expanding,” by demonstrating the significant shift in the themes that dominate its publications. As he contrasted the two stages of the state’s peak and collapse, he saw that, in the first stage, most of the propaganda centered on the “Utopian state” they claimed that they built. While following the collapse, the emphasis shifted to the military operations it was conducting out in order to promote its continuity and legitimacy. According to Winter, the organization, which shifted heavily (on social media) to “Telegram,” has become – according to its publications – more prominent and effective in Africa and Afghanistan, after the media had previously focused on the center (Iraq and Syria). According to Maher Farghali (a participating researcher from Egypt), ideological and jurisprudential divisions began to emerge, particularly between the hard-liners (Hazmiyyin) movement, Abu Muhammad Furqan’s movement, and the al-Binali movement.

The paradox evoked during the meeting by researcher Charles Lister is shown in his conversation with an American official involved in the war against terrorism. When Lister asked him how he planned to deal with thousands of individuals after the organization’s demise, he replied that they aimed to kill the as much as possible during the military campaign!

When it comes to anti-terror tactics, the level of concern for the future escalates. As the two experts, Saud Al-Sharafat and Muhammad Al-Athamat, point out, there are substantial flaws in it. While most researchers (at the conference) agree that the US is only concerned with its own interests and national security, they believe that Arab countries invest more in terrorism than they do in combating it, and use these groups to achieve security, political, and financial gains through what researchers call the “business of terrorism.”

As a result, everyone agreed that the conditions that gave rise to ISIS and its social incubators remain in place, and may even worsen, and that the war on terrorism has resulted in more extremism and violence, because it relied on solid military and security strategies rather than progress in drying up the real sources (political, social and cultural) as much as it went to the ideological aspect, which is a secondary factor and not a major factor with recalling the title of Hazem Al-Amin’s article “Look for the sociological reason before looking for the ideological” in knowing why ISIS rose.

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