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What Is (Who Are) the Islamic State? (13A of ?)

December 8, 2015

Profiling the Islamic State“, by Charles Lister, is the first item on the HuffPost list of 10, and it’s the first that I turned to. A long “analysis paper” for the Brookings Doha Center, it begins with an excellent “Executive Summary,” which I read; and then I decided to save the entire paper for last.  And now here we are, and here are some salient points:

Sunni jihadi militancy” has exploited regional instability to establish a wealthy terrorist organization and a proto-state with significant military power and the allegiance of like-minded groups in other countries. ISIS roots go back to at least 1999 in Jordan and Afghanistan. It is now (11/14) opposed by a US-led coalition of intrntl, regional, and local forces—which it is capable of defeating.

Unlike al-Qaeda, the “impressively managed, almost obsessively bureaucratic” IS can gather internal funds, now totaling approx. $2 million per day (total assets of approx $2bil), from multiple sources incl “oil, gas, agriculture, taxation, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, black market antique selling, and other illicit trades.”

The key to undermining IS’s long-term sustainability…is to solve the socio-political failures within its areas of operation,” and more immediately by countering its ability to fund governance and social services, neutralizing its military mobility, exploiting intelligence re. senior leadership and military control structure, weakening its use of media for recruitment and information operations, and stabilizing Syria and Iraq.

Part I addresses, in detail, the 15-yr evolution of “baqiya wa tatamadad (lasting and expanding):” with the help of many local organizations, from Jordan to Afghanistan to the Iraqi Sunni insurgency against the Shia (with Zarqawi’s ideal of eliminating the Shia, so that Jews and Christians could be successfully attacked); through tensions with al-Qaeda; setbacks during the local “Sunni Awakening” (because of bad governance by ISI); rapid “restructuring and recovery” during 2009-11, as a centralized terrorist organization that emphasized the “legitimacy of their Islamic state project;” the move into Syria and consolidation of the IS capital in Raqqa; major conquests in Iraq; and the declaration, not just of an Islamic state, but a Caliphate for all Muslims, world-wide.

Part II describes the current IS, which, “due to the scale of geographic spread of its operations, the extent of its territorial control and influence, its improved policy of governance, its vast wealth and revenue capacity, the professionalism of its information operations, and its continued global recruitment…will pose a serious threat to regional and international security for many years to come.”

It has American weaponry and it is professionalizing and training its military personnel. It sustains momentum by using urban cells for terrorist operations, while it conducts larger campaigns of attrition of opposing forces. The conquest of Mosul, for instance, was prepared with several years of covert actions within the city. ISIS has the capacity to launch multiple coordinated local attacks to pave the way for assault by light infantry.

Whatever the locale, IS can design and implement “a multi-stage strategy of attrition with extreme brutality” so as to create a power vacuum” and “become locally dominant.” It also forms alliances with Sunni factions to extend its influence over larger territory.

{2 B cont.}

{Page 1 of this episode; page 13B, page 14}

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