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

December 9, 2015

“At its most basic level, IS is a ‘revolutionary actor’ whose entire modus operandi is to ‘project a goal of radical political and social change.’ For precisely this reason, IS operates as tightly controlled and bureaucratic organization.” For instance its governing body is organized with a cabinet of ministries, headed by highly capable professionals, and below that are extensive, and well-funded, military and civilian bureaucracies (the paper provides extensive details of operations), functioning in a region in which many civilians are desperately poor.

IS has been very successful with its extensive use of media, internally and internationally (again, many details in the paper).

Declaration of a state and restoration of the caliphate “made IS’s ability to rule and govern the determinant of its success.” IS has managed not only to sustain efficient governance but to expand it, using standard form of “municipal administration…and aid-based services…but with more intense oversight.” The article details sharia law, and explains how non-Muslim monotheists are given a “protective” relationship to the state—a second class of citizenship enforced by the sword.

Upon capturing a municipality, IS moves quickly to establish law and order; provide social services including charities, health care, and education; control industries and utilities for more equitable distribution; subsidize the prices of staples; and cap rents. Within a region of severe instability and insecurity, IS provides the opposite—a factor that is “key to IS’s survival or demise.”

Part III: Outlook. IS is very capable. “The most significant challenge that remains is to successfully consolidate and govern what could now amount to a proto-state without falling victim to its own ideology.” Military strikes against it have driven it underground in some areas that it controls, but have not rendered it incapable of shifting to “a strategy of consolidation.”

In Iraq IS will exacerbate the Sunni sense of being under attack from both the Shia-led national government and foreign governments. In Syria it will move to consolidate its territory in the northeast with its territories in northwestern Iraq, and it will continue offensive operations.

IS has support groups in other countries of the region, but is likely to patiently apply its strategy of slowly undermining local opposition and then exploiting instability (details in the paper).

Approx. 11% of foreign fighters who returned home became active terror threats. “Meanwhile, individuals outside Syria and Iraq are equally liable to attempt to demonstrate their loyalty to IS by carrying out attacks at home. This is especially true since Adnani’s September 22 statement in which he called on IS supporters around the world to attack citizens of countries involved in airstrikes against the group.”

Policy Recommendations: “Counter-terrorism practice but also…aspects of economic, political, diplomatic, social, and religious policy. Effectively countering IS will take a long time an, crucially, will require local actors taking the lead with the support of Western states, not vice-versa.”

There follow 5 dense pages (41-45) of detailed recommended actions, grouped under efforts to suppress revenue, disrupt manpower and resources, target leadership, counter IS media presence, and stabilize Syria and Iraq.

[Update on military progress, 7-11-16.  This article seems plausible.]

{Page 1 of this episode, page 13A, page 14}

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