It was the 29th of June, 2017, when Iraqi Prime Minister declared that the victory in Mosul marked the “end of the Daesh state of falsehood”. And to some extent, it is true. It was in the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul that the chief of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the establishment of the heinous Islamic State, effectively transforming a cruel terror organisation into a terror state. The Battle for Mosul has been going on since June 2014, when insurgents from ISIS robbed control of the city from the Iraqi government. The victory in Mosul is a sure sign of progress – Mosul was the largest city under IS control and was the group’s headquarters – but it is too early to say whether the triumph in Mosul is the fall of the horrific organisation.
One of the reasons for this caution is the fact that the Syrian city of Raqqa is still a virtual fortress for the organisation; and as long as the group has presence on the ground, it can always mount another offensive on vulnerable city. Thus, even though the group is facing severe losses in Iraq, it still maintains extensive offensive military capabilities in adjoining Syria. Effectively, the Islamic State still controls area the size of Belgium!
Secondly, even though the US led coalition has tried its best to stop funding to the group, it has failed to do so effectively. The Islamic State still gets revenues to the tune of $16 million per month, from operating the Taqba dam, and by selling oil in the black market to undisclosed countries (probably Turkey). This continued revenue stream is the very basis of ISIS’ sustenance – it is impossible to defeat the group without targeting its revenue and finances.
Thirdly, even if the Coalition forces are able to finish off the very existence of IS in the Middle-east, what is stopping the Islamic State’s leaders from spreading propaganda all over the world and effectively brainwashing the vulnerable and alienated sects of the Muslim society in the Western countries? To understand this phenomenon, look no further than the exponential rise in terror related events in cities like London, Paris, Munich, and Berlin. The Islamic State is virtually shifting the battleground – it is bringing its ‘jihad’ right to the doorsteps of the West.
Adding another problem to the mix is the antagonism between the US on one side, and Russia and the Assad – led Syrian regime on the other side. Currently, the U.S. is fighting two battles in Syria – the battle to defeat the Islamic state, and the battle to topple Bashar al-Assad’s government. In the same way Russia is using its military might to support the Syrian regime. And guess who is benefiting from all this? The Islamic State. Unless and until both Russia and the U.S. work together, ISIS will continue taking advantage of the rift and will continue resisting its own destruction.
Thus, while the current momentum of the anti-ISIS forces is laudable, the Islamic State is going nowhere for now. It still controls vast swathes of land in Syria, it still receives millions in revenue each month, and its oppressive global ‘jihad’ is at its peak. The defeat of ISIS requires consistent efforts and unity on the part of all the parties involved – which include Russia and the Syrian regime as well. The need of the hour is a fundamental understanding between the U.S. and the Russian establishment – both of which need to realise that the real enemy they face is the Islamic State, and not each other.
Note:- All the opinions stated in the above article are the author’s own.