Challenges and Opportunities in a Post – ISIS Territorial World

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An Ongoing Global Menace*

Ozer Khalid**

*Opinions expressed herein are a collation of thoroughly researched empirical and expert views, and do not necessary reflect the author`s nor Criterion Quarterly`s editorial stance.

**The author is a geo-strategist, a senior management consultant, a development sector specialist and a journalist. Twitter follow @ozerkhalid; e-mail – ozzerkhalid@gmail.com

Abstract

(A few years back ISIS unleashed a Fourth Reich, a Pandora`s box on our planet evolving from a Paper State to a “Caliphate.” 1 Now that they are territorially banished a whole host of challenges and threats unleash and unravel in the flammable tinderbox that is the Middle East, a historical haven for war after war. – Author)

Life after ISIS – The Need for Cautious Optimism

In June 2014 ISIS unleashed a Pandora`s box on our planet, a veritable Fourth Reich, by evolving from a Paper State to a “Caliphate”. Much has changed since then, as ISIS is being dealt definitive territorial blows in a now liberated Mosul, and as Kurdish 2 troops valiantly reclaim Raqqa 3 from the tyrannical clutches of IS terrorists.

Though the “physical” war against ISIS, by and large, has been won, on a geographical and territorial basis, the “ideological” war to be waged on the battlefront of “ideas” must ensue for generations to come if we are to render radicalism`s ideological appeal intellectually defunct and unappealing. Ideological ideas are, after all, bullet-proof and take generations to quell, contain, weed and filter out.

This intellectual challenge, against extremism is the real “ideological war after the physical war” that besets us all. It requires the international community to evolve from solely deploying “hard power” of military might towards exploring the suasion of “soft power” against extremism. By course of necessity, deploying “soft powerin counter radicalization involves sensitization, rehabilitation, education, community resilience, refugee repatriation, civil society push-back and inter-faith bridge-building.

The forces which territorially unraveled ISIS were the historical Fatwa 4 of the main Iraqi Shiite Leader, Ayatollah Sistani, overwhelming support by Iran, aerial attacks by Russia followed by the U.S. and allies, Kurdish military campaigns by, inter alia, the YPG and Peshmerga, the great uprising of the Iraqi nation, the White Helmets, and Syrian fighters against IS, especially the SDP and the controversy laden Nusra Front.

The military victory over ISIS hinders the terrorist`s recruitment prowess. IS spewed a ruthless, deadly and ambitious narrative of momentum and military might. Now aspiring radicals are reticent to enlist themselves with perceived “losers”. IS`s cheap sloganeering of ‘expansion’ ignited misguided passions in many vulnerable, maligned and marginalized youth who bought into IS baloney. As the faux “Caliphate” crumbles, that same zest and zeal to join their ranks isn’t present. IS`s potency and call-to-arms and action has irreversibly diminished.

Even though many IS members now lack faith in IS, as many have defected or surrendered, still, careful and cautious optimism is counseled. What we are likely to now witness are the most virulent battle-hardened brain-washed IS zealots eager to execute an aggressive covert guerilla insurgency in Syria, Iraq and in an expansive international theater.

The noteworthy territorial victories vis-à-vis ISIS, will not deter many remaining IS fighters to venomously worm their way into far-flung lands under the Machiavellian guise of posing as “refugees,” even manipulating children or widows to repatriate to the EU or other safe havens, to unleash fresh hell.

A territorially squeezed ISIS will increasingly seek safe sanctuary and hide-outs in Northern Africa (already a terror hotbed), and Central and South Asia, 5 whose arteries are deeply clogged and congested with existentialist extremist threats, as Sehwan Sharif, Quetta 6 Parachinar 7 and Lahore`s horrid 24 July 2017 Ferozepur Road suicide bomb 8 massacre gruesomely attest. An instructive and alarming case in point is the new formation of al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent (AQIS).

Hammering the Final Nail in IS`s Territorial Coffin – Complete Evisceration once and for all ?

Despite momentous victories over IS in Mosul, Raqqa 9, Tabqa, Manbij and al-Bab 10 (as exhibited below), especially in the country’s north-east, it is unwise to immediately celebrate the demise of ISIS. The next plan of action must include militarily recapturing the strategically quintessential Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria 11, the last remaining urban bastion of ISIS dominance in Syria.

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Assad and his cronies have been elbowing in to target Deir Ezzor and mount a stealthy assault against IS, inching Assad strategically closer to Iraq`s border — a paramount prerogative for Iran, his prime ally. Assad`s proximity to the Iraqi border is untenable for the Trump administration, which seeks to counter Tehran`s regional heft. The bitter truth is that for many short-sighted politicos, ISIS always was a “neutralizing” force against Iran`s Shiite influence. Even many in the West deployed superficial anti-IS Orwellian double-speak 12 non authentic language when secretly they saw IS as a counter hegemonic force against Iran.

An ISIS defeat in eastern Syria`s Deir Ezzor is a final nail hammered in the “territorial” coffin of ISIS. The SDF are reticent to attack Deir Ezzor since Washington`s allied Free Syrian Army factions in southern Syria are now enfeebled and incapable of mounting a major offensive — leaving Assad and his allies (Iran and Russia) as the sole plausible contenders.

Thus, in the instant aftermath of IS`s territorial loss in eastern Syria, the up-and-coming victors will be the Syrian regime and their allies in Tehran and Moscow. The continuing agreement with the Kurds in Raqqa 13 and Manbij is fleeting for now and is likely to crumble, spawning continued insecurity in Syria with viral spill-over effects into Iraq and the broader Middle East. While it is improbable that IS will have any territorial execution capabilities in Syria after the current campaign, the unending challenges of seething ethnic and sectarian tensions will keep fuelling the flames of radicalism, possibly even paving way for the next reincarnated mutation of IS to re-emerge in Syria and Iraq and further afield.

ISIS` Strategic Reorientation and a Digital Caliphate – 2017 and beyond

It was under Mosul’s 14 iconic al-Hadba minaret at al-Nuri Mosque, that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with delusional fundamentalist frenzy, declared his “Caliphate” — and now it has been demolished by IS itself in the context of the Iraqi security forces’ assault.

Although its endeavors in state-building have ceased, ISIS will carry on existing, terrorizing and wreaking havoc: maybe under a new guise, brand or umbrella. Its hedonistic hell of death and destruction, of blood and butchery will become more sinister as IS goes under the radar. A reorganized and rebranded covert ISIS that does not dominate territory presents a plethora of unforeseen challenges.

As ISIS operatives go underground, they are alarmingly becoming less traceable to intelligence and law enforcement through deployment of fluid guerrilla warfare maneuvers 15 and fifth generational asymmetrical tactics contingent upon deep deception. Such tactics are likely to involve geographically dispersed attacks against civilians on a vulnerable densely populated planet. Therefore “war after the war” against IS will not only be ideological but also an intelligence security based one.

ISIS has ample resources, strategically evolving toward mafia-esque techniques. Laundering and “white-washing” its copious cash reserves through deceptive legal businesses such as currency exchanges that act as “fronts”.

There are alleged reports that the self-appointed and self-deluded “Caliph,” Al-Baghdadi, is dead. However, hearsay is a hazardous game in geo-politics. Reports had similarly declared Taliban`s Mullah Omar to be dead and it took a tenuous two years to receive actual confirmation. Even if Baghdadi is dead, remember that bullets cannot kill ideas, which remain bullet proof. For instance, the death of Bin Laden did not end al Qaeda, au contraire these terrorist groups are Hydra-headed snakes, in that one dies and multiple more spring up from the woodworks.

The death of Mullah Omar, for instance, did not end the Taliban, they are in fact gruesomely emboldened in South Asia, most recently taking credit for the stomach-churning suicide bombing near Ferozepur Road on July, 24, 2017 in Lahore.

Another key example of an ISIS strategic reorientation can be seen from their poisonous propaganda media outlet, Dabiq, 16 now rebranded as Rumiyah (denoting Rome) which is where ISIS are intending to take the battle toward (Western cities). Rome, being the historical heart of Western civilization (invoking the medieval Roman Empire of yore), and other cities will now become prime targets.

Such propaganda force-feeding to lure ripe new recruits will take place via online recruitment and social media radicalization. ISIS will keep exploring new sinister depths of depravity, to shock and awe humanity. They now encourage many fighters to “camouflage” themselves as refugees 17 and snake their fangs back to safer shores, to other countries in the Middle East, Turkey and the EU (their Rumiyah), who are likely to target “soft civilian targets”. Orphans and widows whose husbands died on the daunting battlefields of Iraq and Syria are especially vulnerable.

ISIS are not even sparing children. They are grooming and raising these children like the blood-diamond child soldiers of Sierra Leone. ISIS is deliberately forcing children (up to 50,000 according to numerous statistics) to the frontlines in the heat of battle. Children and women, whose fathers/husbands fought for ISIS and have since died, are being used as “covert weapons of war.”

Hauntingly, a British four year old, Isa Dare 18, the son of a “Jihadi bride” from London, was shown in an IS propaganda video with his hand on a detonator blowing up a car with three men to smithereens. Isa, was taken to Syria by his mother, Grace “Khadija” Dare, and egged on to join IS` delusional depravity. Isa was seen clad in combat fatigues and a black headband. There are thousands of Isa`s worming their way back to their countries of origin, waiting to unleash a harbinger of hell on earth.

Parenthood must immediately be revoked from such so-called “guardians” like Khadija. What happens to these children? ISIS has segmented an entire new child-based radicalized faction labelled “Junior Jihadis” 19 or ISIS “Cubs.” At their unhinged Al-Farook Institute, orphaned children and widows are conditioned, with Pavlovian 20 precision, brain-washed into memorizing global Western landmarks, taught how to reintegrate back into society, especially Western communities, and thereafter wait a few years only to blow up these “infidel pagan symbols” (tourist landmarks).

Such gruesome incidents involving tender children whose youth has forever been stolen from them, and women have been happening for quite a while. A dozen teenagers were caught in Belgium plotting terror in 2016 and a 12 year old boy in Germany last Christmas was caught red handed trying to detonate a bomb. Many of these children are below the age of “criminal responsibility” in strict legal terms. Lawyers will need to decide whether these children should be treated as “victims” of grooming, child soldiers or criminals. Such challenges will pose legal and policy conundrums for legislators accepting these child soldiers onto their soil.

Large swathes of IS sympathizers, though notionally abandoning IS, are trickling into Turkey 21 – an exodus with a proclivity to wreak havoc in South Eastern Turkey. Turkey is where the memories of Suruc, the Istanbul Airport attack and the Ankara train station terror are still painfully raw in our memories. Via Turkey, these IS sympathizers will also spill-over into Europe and spew radicalization, especially in vulnerable sanctuaries such as prison cells, where alienated “prey” disillusioned with life and living can be swayed over to the dark side.

This is exactly why deradicalization in civil society as well as in the most sensitive of institutions, prisons, schools and sanctuaries of worship remains paramount. International donor funding can be of great use. It can be placed to resourceful counter-extremist efforts from rehabilitation to grievance counseling to cultural sensitization to peaceful picketing.

Many IS militants who joined the Godless death cult since 2013 have now contacted their embassies seeking to return “home”. Police and law enforcement will vet each case and seek to determine the extent of criminality.22 Many may face life in prison. Many others will require grief counseling and rehabilitation. Many, however, ideologically firebrand members may still, despite counseling, pretend to be “cured” but camouflage their true intentions just to “fit in” in order to exact a ruthless IS revenge, avenging the crumbling “Caliphate” and terrorizing soft civilian target strikes on the continent as was recently the case in Sweden, Manchester and London Bridge.

The characteristics of the battle against IS will strategically alter into an intelligence war. Keeping closer surveillance on former IS members who surrender themselves or present themselves at their embassies of country of origin is a must. This, however, must be done without alienating minorities, especially the broader Muslim moderate majority community – a tightrope to tread in the best of times. The hazard foreign fighters pose upon returning to their nations should never be underrated.

Herein lies perhaps the most sensitive counter extremism challenge of all – how to monitor offenders without turning society into an overbearing Orwellian 23 police state. Where to strike the balance between civil liberties and national security? To what extent will the catchall convenient phrase of “national security” be used as a state ruse to silence critics and breach human rights, especially in developing countries? A lot of legal sagacity, human rights advocacy and soul- searching is needed to answer these seemingly intractable queries.

Western intelligence authorities affirm that well known radicals of IS’s external operations wing teamed up with IS from numerous European countries, including Germany, Britain 24, Belgium, France and Australia. A minimum of 300 ideologically driven foreigners are estimated to have been smuggled, via Turkey after crossing a now tightly controlled Turkish Syrian border, to Europe from late 2014 until mid-2016. 25

Turkish law enforcement conducted arrests in 2017 that they assert dislocated hitherto established smuggling routes, some via Bulgaria and others through Greece. Regional intelligence officers, however, suspect that certain of those routes remain operational in spite of the clamp down. A globally stricter intelligence apparatus around people smuggling needs to take root, with vital co -operation between Interpol, Europol and the “Five Eyes”. Europe, therefore, must keep its guard up 26 as the IS infiltration menace is likely to get worse before it gets better over the next few months as the territorial strain on IS heaps on.

Though territorially contained, many more similar sinister incidents are likely to unfurl as ISIS, prima facie, aims at socially engineering new recruits and converts to their cause. A key IS initiative will be online grooming via a “digital 27 Caliphate” – an idea ISIS top brass have had to reconcile to – which is where the next frontier in the battle against terror will be waged.

IS already demonstrated their cyber stealth when in 2015 they hacked British servers. Though the ISIS “state” crumbles like a cookie before our very eyes, it`s sinister ideology will be passed on and it will thus remain a terrorist group in the “hearts and minds” of potential recruits – ripe for the plucking, from the forgotten fringes of society. Such recruitment will intensify online, on the deep dark cyber web.

Hence the importance of “ideological stealth” campaigns against online extremism through better digital surveillance, cyber security teams as well as social media advocacy and online peace activism such as Australia`s “I will ride with you” hashtag and similar forms of digitally inclusive advocacy must gain funding, policy attention and donor traction. After all, there is only so much that military might can achieve, there are tangible limits (not to mention devastating humanitarian implications) to the ravages of warfare.

It is from warfare and botched invasions in the meaningless pursuit of climate destroying fossil fuels that social dislocation, power vacuums, political upheaval and theological radicalization are born. Alas, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

It is within this context of historical tragedy and farce, with painful irony, that many post-ISIS future terror outfits are being, advertently or inadvertently, funded by the Western coalition and NATO forces, to combat ISIS itself. The controversy surrounding the money trail leading to Nusra Front 28 (al Qaeda 29 in Syria and Iraq) bear this out. Moscow`s recent “talks” with the Taliban and Chechen rebels to assault ISIS strongholds (including in Afghanistan) are another case in point. Granted, politics makes the strangest of bedfellows, however such misguided momentary distinction of “good” extremists versus “bad” extremists is exactly what lead to APS Peshawar and many other genocides.

By bank-rolling the Nusra Front for instance, Western powers are pouring money into the hands of former al-Qaeda fanatics. Filtering between “good” extremists and “bad” extremists as the “lesser of two evils” is short-sighted myopia with historical amnesia. A deceptive anesthetic. A deadly maneuver.

Iraq And Syria Post-ISIS – Competing And Conflicting Regional Interests

Post ISIS, to prevent manifold tensions resurfacing in Iraq, Syria and the broader region, requires pro-active U.S., allied coalition forces and UN peacekeeping engagement focused on averting escalation, reducing sectarian strife and improving sustainable governance models, especially in areas recently liberated from ISIS.

The situation in Syria is even more fragile and fragmented than in Iraq. Festering social war-torn wounds of Syria remove any easy formula for piecing together that fragile fragmented broken state back into a nation. It has become a Dickensian 30 inferno of dirt-poor, deeply disturbing rubble and squalor. Humanity`s wasteland. A living breathing Dystopia, if there ever was one.

A post-ISIS nation-rebuilding calculus would involve ground troops as well as peacekeeping missions. Over the medium haul, American, Arab and Russian diplomats must enter a deep dialogue, strike compromise and seek policy realignments to figure out how `spheres of influence` and strategic interests can best converge to mutually accommodate competing interests. This must crucially involve violence lowering measures so that refugees can safely be repatriated home with the key assistance of the UN Refugee Agency, Crisis International, Red Cross/ Crescent and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Post-ISIS international coalition`s main concern must be tasked with brokering peace amongst various warring factions, sects and tribes in Syria and Iraq (admittedly never an easy challenge), repatriating and reintegrating refugees, revitalizing democracy and institutional nation building over the long haul. The absence of a truly representative and accountable government in these “failed states” will ensure their withering decay. In the absence of the above, attempts at nation-building are doomed to futile failure.

Competing powers must, at all costs, avoid propping up puppet tin pot dictators (again), who serve narrow neo-colonial interests, rather than their populations at large. Such tyrants see themselves less as “men” and more as “messiahs”, surrounding themselves with obedient “yes men” 31. It is such leader “gurufication” that unraveled Iraq and explains Syria`s unforgivable strife.

Whilst easy to recommend on paper, the above are extremely tough to implement in practice as such seminal challenges are immersed in conflicting and competing priorities and internecine national self-interests. So for the foreseeable future, even after ISIS, in the Middle East, it will tragically be “business as usual”. Let us explore why.

For multiple anti-ISIS international coalition partners, sadly, the war against ISIS was never a main priority. Securing regional interests, resources and raw materials, however, are. Even as Western countries stated that this civilizational struggle against ISIS was an international priority, the coalition countries (for the most part) toed the line – repeating its alarm, making hefty declarations and drafting fancy “paper tiger recommendations” – often diverting their gaze the “other way”, as “red lines” were being breached with reckless abandon. It is only when the attacks repeatedly struck EU soil and since Trump`s Presidency that a sense of “urgency” forcefully now drives the global Counter Terrorism (CT) agenda.

A most bitter irony is that the counter-ISIS campaign or the “war against terror” mutated into a “war of terror.” Such duplicity remains an imperfect “mask” hiding the more sinister self-interests steeped in power jostling, interest muscling and mineral resource grabbing. With ISIS now in the rearview mirror, naked self-interest will increasingly unveil herself.

The Struggle for Syria

As ISIS territory recedes, Washington and Tehran-linked forces in Syria might turn their guns on a faulty perception of the most imminent threat remaining — each other. However, a whole raft of conflicting geo-political interests and complex dependencies, relationships and money trails mire prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East post-ISIS.

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The Russian air force is restructuring its aerial advances in Syria to prompt Washington into partnership with Moscow 32 as the Kremlin knows all too well that Uncle Sam cannot single-handedly decimate militants, counter Iran`s ascendance and establish parameters for a palatable peace settlement. In June and July 2017, Russia launched high profile airstrikes, cruise missiles 33 and bomb runs against ISIS in Homs, eastern Hama, and Deir ez Zour to bolster war-criminal Assad`s iron-fisted regime.

This is all part of the Kremlin`s design to seduce the Trump administration to cede to a “de-escalation zone” in Southwest Syria. Washington agreed to this on July 7 following a meeting between Trump and Putin. Russia masks its strategic intention cloaked as a dependable anti-ISIS ally for the U.S. in Syria. Trump`s decision to terminate support for certain anti-Assad factions 34 will inevitably catalyze Moscow`s greater authority over the Syrian conflict and circumscribe U.S. clout in Syria.

What further complicates the equation is that the Washington led campaign against ISIS is contingent upon an improbable stakeholder in Syria, notably the People’s Protection Units (YPG). This army formation has intimate ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a radical outfit constantly inflicting terror on Turkey – a vital NATO member hosting the strategic US airbase at Incirlik.

The YPG controls Washington 35-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF 36), which support Assad`s regime, reign over much of northern Syria, and leverage their relationship with the White House to shield themselves from attacks by a mighty Turkish military. If Washington prematurely withdraws from Syria, the YPG, especially their PKK terrorist cohorts, pose an existential menace to regional Turkish stability.

Simmering tensions between Turkey and the YPG could further throw the region into disarray, strife and social imbalance. The YPG 37 banks upon the White House to shield and shelter them via legal and military “guarantees” which would solidify their independence in territories under YPG autonomy within a possible forthcoming federally apportioned Syria.

This risky gambit makes the YPG prove their “worthiness” to Washington 38 by combating ISIS in Raqqa and further afield, far away from its Kurdish strongholds. However, the rich irony being that victory over ISIS would offer Washington an “exit strategy” rendering the YPG exposed. Syria’s Kurds, anxious of being negated by the U.S. once their utility in the anti-ISIS combat ends, position themselves as long-term safeguards countering Iranian and Turkish influence — while Ankara 39 paints those same Kurds with a broad terrorist brush.

Favoring Turkey might seem desirable to a Trump government seeking to lower foreign expenses and avoid further denting its strategic relationship with NATO 40 allies in Ankara.

For Ankara, what matters most is to combat the Kurds, especially their deadly terrorist PKK partners. For the Kurds the concept of self-determination remains key. PKK`s terror in South Eastern Turkey, especially in cities like Diyarbakir, are well documented. The YPG must, at all costs, influence the PKK to unequivocally renounce violence, which, given the PKK`s track record, is wishful thinking.

After the souring of relations between President Trump and Rouhani, the Geneva talks and diplomacy now imperiled and a possibly jeopardized nuclear deal, the intensified Iranian hegemony in northern Syria is prominent factor to be weighed in. If the White House seeks to retain influence in Syria vis-à-vis Iran and Russia, while avoiding explicit confrontation, it may envision a “strategic interest” in continuing to bankroll the YPG and possibly other unsavory militants.

Post-ISIS, another hindrance to regional stability is that Tehran and Riyadh are at perennial loggerheads, as usual, in their regional rivalry for spheres of influence where Shiaphobia 41 and genocide keeps growing. Recently appointed hawkish monarchs in Riyadh indicate that the Saudi 42-Iranian rivalry is set to simmer. As if that were not enough, within the Sunni Arab world itself, more hardline conservative governments such as Qatar and Turkey 43 are asserting influence over more liberal governments like Egypt 44 and the United Arab Emirates; among Iraqis, a sectarian and ethnic thirst for post-war spoils bear primacy.

A Game of Thrones in the Gulf

A weighty roadblock for regional stability is how Saudi Arabia and Qatar 45 are at each other`s throats. The Qatar crisis is actually about taming the one Gulf monarchy with the wherewithal to outperform the Saudi kingdom and determine the conclusion of the Syrian war.

This Qatar “crisis” empowers the Saudi former defence minister, and now Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), to control the GCC to do his bidding.

Qatar, has increasingly mounted a proxy assault on ISIS by playing a pivotal role in the Syrian conflict. Doha retains a discreet relationship with Assad (assisting to liberate held hostages by Nusra in Syria) and bears intimate ties with the Lebanese intelligence agencies. What sorely irks Riyadh is that Doha made proxy overtures with the pro-Assad Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon whilst also bankrolling the Sunni Palestinian Hamas.

Qatar recently announced its aim to raise liquid natural gas output by 30 per cent, augmenting production from its Northern Field which it shares with Iran. Iran, as oil tycoons know all too intimately, is content with augmenting output on its side of the North Field. It is little wonder the Saudis are fuming. A post-ISIS conflict-rived Syria may allow Qatar to run a pipeline across its land onto the Mediterranean and into Europe, reducing Russian oil and gas dependency and routes. Qatar, therefore, now (momentarily) sees more strategic utility with Tehran than it does with Riyadh.

So masquerading with allegations of “terrorism”, the Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and Egyptians have turned against this — for them— very “lethal” little Emirate. How can the Saudi Monarch maintain a conflict with the Shia of the Middle East — especially Yemen — if Qatar is bed-fellows with Tehran, Nusra and Assad? In addition, Qatar is assisted by Kuwaiti “negotiators” – who themselves are no enemies of Tehran – and the Omanis who are sending vital assistance to Qatar and who engaged in naval exercises with the Iranians in March 2017.

For the rest of the world, the Gulf “crisis” solely shames the Arabs. The palestinians are forgotten (as usual) as the conflict in Syria (and Iraq) rages on and the world is naively transfixed by the infantile and tribal quarrels of some of the wealthiest Monarchs on earth 46.

Such age-old hegemonic “Games of Thrones”, bitter rivalries and Machiavellian monarchic maneuverings are anathema to Arab stability and serve as a calculated distraction against real counter terrorism efforts. Saudi Arabia and Qatar will eventually reconcile, as is always the case. Such bilateral spats often occurred in the past. Doha`s recent rapprochement with Tehran 47, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood will (selectively) be forgotten by Riyadh.

Such deep-seated rivalries and bitter competing interests over spoils, dominion, influence, power and authority illustrate that nation, institution and identity building in a post-ISIS Iraq and Syria will be an uphill long-term generational struggle.

Salting such wounds further, the Arab League, OIC, GCC 48, D8 and ECO need to reform and evolve from “paper tiger talking shops” to direction-setting organizations of effectiveness and enforceability. These organizations often contradict each other, lack the wherewithal to catalyze change and are not as pro-actively involved to stabilize Syria and Iraq and the Middle East as they can and should be.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE`s mistaken war against Yemen`s Houthis further distracts and delays urgent counter terrorism efforts. Saudi Arabia, via back-channel diplomacy, sold the Yemen war to the international community as pushback vis-a-vis Iran along with an urge to bring Doha to its knees. Such an illegal blockade 49 violates Qatar`s sea-routes and air space (view hereunder) and contravenes Article 33 of the Geneva Convention.

Saudi Arabia justifies such illegal blockades as an attempt to curtail Iran`s sphere of influence. Egypt, the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood, also deceptively frames its arbitrary bigotry of many religious people as a holy combat against terrorism and jails “suspected” terrorists without due process.

Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UAE and Egypt all officially welcome U.S. intervention under Trump which was lacking during Obama’s perceived passivity, though, unofficially, they are all positioning themselves to cater to latent deeper-seated agendas. They know their target audience. They play to it.

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Under such layers of deception, the rational realpolitik for Washington is not to take sides in intractable intensified conflicts over which Washington ultimately has scant say. Unnecessary partisanship is likely to let loose sectarian strife and anarchy from which IS was born and on which it not only survives but thrives.

Washington should aim to de-escalate proxy wars 50, swiftly mediate the Saudi-Qatari crisis, staunchly insist for a culmination to the slaughtering of Yemenis, retain a balanced stance toward political Islam, and, very importantly, reduce enmity between Riyadh and Tehran — indeed, between themselves and Iran also.

The above recommendations are not what Washington’s regional allies seek. Yet, if they genuinely yearn for vision and direction, better to lead them where the White House believes they should go rather than where, obstinately, they are already headed.

The trigger-happy war lobby is too swift to attack yet too premature when pulling out, leaving power vacuums and irreconcilable warring factions to fight tooth and nail, as radicalism takes root and society rots. Such rot gives birth to the ISIS`s of our world. Genuine intervention is scarcely ever justified unless intervening forces are willing to stay the course, liberate the people, build institutions, repair societies and allow the seeds of democracy to ripen.

The Next Wave of Terrorism – Radicalization in a Post ISIS World

The demise of ISIS in no way signals a weakening of transnational Salafi terrorism worldwide. It could be that the damage inflicted upon ISIS catalyzes al Qaeda`s 51 regional reassertion as an unchallenged leader of Takfiri terror. It could even be that al-Qaeda and forlorn IS terrorists (momentarily) shelve their disagreements and collaborate to fuel the flame of terror.

It must be cautioned that al-Qaeda, whilst now being a former shadow of its original self, is still highly capable of absorbing smaller militant factions with a discreet approach of attracting populations who waver on the precipice of doubt and subverting local conflicts to its own ill-begotten ends. Al Qaeda still commands considerable sway over a network of partnerships stretching from Northern Africa to the South Asian sub-continent.

Al-Qaeda`s recently ruptured ties with its most influential affiliate, Syria’s Nusra Front (now rebranded Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as radicals inevitably always do), is a hedonistic example of a winning `hearts-and-minds` strategy but has cost both insurgents dearly.

The Nusra Front cut the umbilical cord from their mother organization, salting the previous wounds of al Qaeda’s having lost its former Iraqi partner in crime, the former `Islamic State` of Iraq, which went on to rebrand 52 itself and declare the notorious `Caliphate`. None of this exemplifies long-term strategic thinking. However, no analyst can ever rule out that these militants, even discretely behind the scenes, may reconcile their differences, forge mutually beneficial momentary alliances, collectively plan new attacks and operationally consolidate techniques – thus remaining a force to be reckoned with.

Militants have a sinister capacity of regrouping and rebranding. After all the Mujahideen metastasized into the Taliban and then into al-Qaeda, which in a dark Kafkaesque 53 manner metamorphosed into IS.

Post IS, Al Qaeda’s zealot Zawahiri perversely perseveres with the poisonous propaganda that attacking the West remains a key imperative. However, recent attacks such as Manchester and London Bridge prove that logistical wherewithal to pull off heinous attacks still reside with ISIS – ever-more sinister since they will now go underground.

There is no love lost between ISIS and al Qaeda. These terrorists and their sycophants revile one another. Al Qaeda adherents dismiss ISIS as “extremists,” “Kharijites” and “takfiris.54 ISIS, in turn, retaliates by labeling al Qaeda devotees as “the Jews of Jihad” and disciples of the “Sufi” sacrilegious Taliban. 55 Such divergence remains rooted in deep-seated religious differences dating back to decades.

Al Qaeda, Nusra Front, ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah will remain deeply divided. Each will, however, continue to hatch plans for dominion, death and destruction in their respective spheres of influence – ISIS being the most fluid of all due to its non-territorial lack of traceability. Many smaller militant factions will be co-opted and absorbed by these larger terrorists. ISIS, if not by “name” then certainly by “nature,” has been around in previous incarnations since 2006 and will most certainly keep plotting, planning and dividing communities against each other as they frightfully go underground, where they may not merely “survive” but “thrive”.

The power/control vacuum left behind by ISIS will be filled up by eagerly awaiting radical bastardized off-shoots, of which there are many in Syria and Iraq. Militant resurgence from ISIS` predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, vividly exemplified how radicals can rebound quickly if fundamental threats to social stability are left unaddressed.

In any case the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front, (an al Qaeda offshoot in Syria and Iraq), LeT, Boko Haram, Jamat ud Dawa, Jamat Al Ahrar, AQAP, Al Shabab, Al Muhajirun and other terror misfits will not vanish into thin air. If and when their expiry date approaches they will regroup and reform in an increasingly saturated, ever consolidating global terrorist marketplace operating as new Multi-National Terrorist (MNT) organizations, who ironically in a very capitalist manner cultivate blind adherent loyalty and marketplace control.

Premised on the aforementioned, it is fair to state that ISIS`s territorial setback is a Pyrrhic victory at best – a deep deception at worst. A nominal victory that raises a myriad of queries about the stability of Arab states and the very future of the Middle East, per se.

A pressing concern remains as to how to ideologically curtail the ultra orthodox, misguided and politically motivated Takfiri Khawarajite misrepresentation and political distortion of Islam which drives ISIS type outfits. As long as the intractable sectarian Sunni Shia divide burns, the flames will bedevil the entire Middle East and reverberate in South and Central Asia and in the world in general. 56

Such terror flames will burn fiercer and ignite further due to mass migration, rampant rabid Islamophobia on the rise in the West (witnessed recently with horrid European-wide acid attacks on innocent Muslims and the targeting of mosques such as UK`s Finsbury 57 Park Mosque) and the rise of Far Right Fascist 58 populism. Western arm-chair audiences are psychologically conditioned, with almost Pavlovian precision, to feel satisfied with hackneyed half-hearted assurances from politicians, whilst millions of refugees risk life and limb, kith and kin and yet remain languishing at the precipice of Europe’s ever-closing borders.

The rise in anti-minority hate crimes in the aftermath of Brexit is also apace with alarming alacrity. Such hatred undermines the West’s moral authority as ‘lesson-givers.’ Media coverage purposely underplays hate crimes when it comes to Muslims, which is a move beyond bias towards pure propaganda.

Iraq`s Future Conundrums

As the Iraqi army’s operation to reclaim the final bastions of ISIS in Iraq 59 are underway, political actors, both inside and outside of the war-torn sectarian-straddled country, gear up for a post-ISIS Iraq. As the common cause of trouncing ISIS takes a back-seat 60, seething conflicts amongst Iraq’s multiple political stakeholders may tip to boiling point. Simmering disagreements over territory in Northern Iraq are likely to flare up.

The top echelons of Shia Arab and Turkmen paramilitary organizations aligned with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), indigenous community leaders, Iraqi Kurdistan, Sunni Arab tribal insurgents, and regional actors will fiercely compete for intensified influence in crucial hotspots such as Nineveh, Kirkuk and towns strategically straddling a now porous Iraqi-Syrian border.

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In Baghdad, an internal Shiite supremacy struggle between PM Haider al-Abadi, former PM Nouri al-Maliki, and the Shia Imam Muqtada al-Sadr sets to split open. The intra-Shia rivalry bears geo-strategic ramifications for the dynamics of the US–Iran relationship in Iraq. Tehran and Washington will not see eye to eye regarding what is in Iraq’s `best interests` 61.

Washington and Tehran`s objectives openly clash here: Iran (with tacit Russian approval) will endeavor to bolster Maliki and high-level PMF leaders like Hadi al-Ameri, Qais Khazali, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, whereas, Washington will seek to fortify Abadi. The Abadi-Maliki-Sadr power struggle is catalyzed by a growingly distressed populace that now believes corruption, rather than sectarianism, is the main reason for ISIS.

Sectarian strife will remain the heaviest burden. The casualty, as always, will be innocent civilian lives, just as in Syria. Iraq’s Kurdish leaders have their own scores to settle and spheres of influence to secure. They primarily concentrate on leveraging sway and legitimacy within the Kurdistan Region 62, instead of forming a robust Iraqi state. The Sunnis, on the other hand – lacking any strong political party to forge forward their interests – bear scant influence in Baghdad and must accept more confined, limited and local resolutions.

For Iraq to surmount these challenges, it must reinforce local and federal state institutions to take on the muscle of vicious non-state actors and seek a consensus on local power sharing. Only then will Iraqi institutions tackle the root causes for the ascendance of ISIS and strive to transform contemporary army victories into long-term political agreements to assure that Iraq is not destined for yet more bouts of extremism, sectarianism and militancy.

The upcoming national and provincial Iraqi elections in 2018 represent a renewed opportunity to cease the cycle of collapse and chaos that dilutes national unity initiatives and provides a chance at reclaiming citizens’ faith in government institutions. 63

The mood in Iraq right now is one of understandable skepticism, despair and cautious conservative optimism. Although Iraqis view state institutions more favorably as compared to the Saddam era, they are deeply concerned that the root causes giving birth to IS have not satisfactorily been tackled. They are right.

As such, officials must focus not only on vanquishing IS but on countering corruption via the tenets of successful state-building and good governance. The latter is witnessed in the breadth and intensity of the reformist, cross-sectoral protest initiative.

Iraq`s Shia power brokers are likely to be in control after 2018, however, internal fissures will further fragment them. As already discussed above, the three major political stakeholders have palpably diverse interpretations of statehood: Ex-PM Nouri al-Maliki – intimately linked to the Popular Mobilization Forces – positions himself as the ‘strongman’ required to bring about a robust state; his long-time nemesis, the populist Imam Muqtada al-Sadr, is leveraging the protest movement to promote strong and stable institutions; whereas, the serving PM, Haider al-Abadi, often entangled in political maneuvering between and against al-Maliki and Sadr, has invested his reputational capital in amplifying state security. 64 All will hastily claim credit for the `liberation` of Mosul from ISIS.

It is doubtful that one sect or party will win by a landslide in Iraq`s 2018 election 65. The effort for authority over main ministries, and the future of the constitutionally mandated independent commissions is likely to be an indispensable indicator of the potential power balance and roadmap for state building (nation building itself being a longer-term aspiration).

As the military branch of ISIS draws its last gasps in Iraq, the ideological ISIS perilously hovers over a deeply divided region. Till its last breath ISIS will leave no stone unturned to further destabilize an extremely distracted, internally conflicted and territorially non-contiguous Middle East, where blood and brutality will remain visible for the foreseeable future. Thus far, only two million displaced Iraqis have returned to their houses. Safely repatriating millions more remains a daunting challenge for the UN and INGO`s.

The Next Frontier – the War after the War – An Ideological Battle

National unity and reconciliation in Syria and Iraq and peaceful coexistence amongst warring sects have to be preserved and protected to contain and neutralize the specter of cross-border transnational terrorism (let us be very realistic: terrorism can never fully be eliminated but at best curtailed and contained). A new Social Contract with the people must be forged. Moral pressure by the Gulf, Washington, Tehran, Moscow, Ankara and Doha, can lead to a constructive role in regional and global conflict resolution, relying on their respective standing and spheres of influence in the region.

ISIS` Salafist Takfiri ideological core extremism amply nourishes itself on the rise of Fascist White Supremacy. Both mutually reinforce each other. Both need to be rendered defunct through civil society, social outreach, education, cultural sensitization and community-building initiatives coupled with inter-faith resilience.

It is easier to address the “symptoms” of terror through hard power and military might. It is much tougher to deeply probe and counter the long-term “root-causes” of terrorism via soft power, which includes setting up more counter extremism think-tanks which are more representative of Islam rather than merely peons of agenda-laden vested interests.

Soft power 66 lobbying, genuine grass-roots education, asserting liberal peaceful verses of the Holy Quran, founding Sufi spiritual peace-driven institutes, hosting inter-faith cross-sectarian delegations, youth activism at university campuses, prison reform, curriculum updating, peacefully inclusive Islam and social media online activism and hashtag campaigns driven by bloggers are just some of the ways with which to render radicalism`s appeal as defunct as racism fifty years ago.

The voice of moderate Muslim majorities must be amplified from the tongues of true statesmen, scholars and students. Muslim youth have very few moderate role models to look up to. Branding new non-clerical mainstream modern role models is something international donors, Islamic Relief, the OIC, GCC, ECO and Muslim majority countries have to start carefully considering and campaigning toward.

Change in the Middle East, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenge is possible. Any society worth it`s salt, is judged by how it treats and upholds the inalienable rights of its minorities. These rights were detestably violated under IS reign, who left not an iota of moral legitimacy during their tyranny. No matter what the future power constellation in Iraq and Syria (post-ISIS) holds, it is their minorities and refugees who deserve the foremost humanitarian attention. Just as they did during the life of the Benevolent Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

In the short-term institutional state building followed by longer-haul nation rebuilding must intensify. This was previously proven woefully wanting and lackluster due to a premature departure of monitoring and peacekeeping troops. Long-term post-conflict nation-building in Syria (with a minus one formula: the minus being chemical war criminal Bashar Assad in this case) is imperative 67.

The territorial physical victory over ISIS should not end Western involvement in the Middle East. 68 Western presence, development aid, institution building and, most importantly, empowering indigenous Syrian and Iraqi civilians and institutions will be needed.

Armies on the ground would have to be retained to ensure a peaceful transition. New elections with international oversight bodies and enforceable monitoring mechanisms must be present.

A “ war after the war” has to be waged by mentors, well-meaning community leaders, humanitarian advocates, teachers who can act as role-models in class-rooms (both physical and virtual), online and blogger forums and university campuses. This war has to be waged from the grassroots and not from the bully pulpits of Presidential and Monarchical Palaces, nor from the microphones of hardened clerics and certainly not from dubious shady think-tanks acting as “fronts” for rabid militants. Only then will fundamentalism, one day, become as intellectually unpopular as other historically haunting “isms” such as Nazism or racism.

After the victory in Deir Ezzor, the warfare against IS enters a new phase. A phase that I refer to as the `triple I` phase – a war of intelligence, intellect and ideology against militants worldwide. Spiritual support by peaceful community elders 69, the restoration of self-confidence among Iraqi and Syrian forces and inclusive economic opportunities are the way forward. Failing to achieve this, unemployed anguished citizens are likelier to fall into the arms of IS reincarnations, whatever name and nomenclature they go by.

Today, as ISIS has evolved into an ideology from an army, soft power such as diplomacy and civil society engagement becomes more urgent than ever before. It is during such times of `transition` that societies are made or broken. International conflict resolution panels can be involved to reconcile regional problems and power struggles. We also need social, economic, academic and political mechanisms.

Europeans and Western nations, following the inclusive Canadian or Scandinavian template, should also cautiously, on a case-by-case basis of course, become more accommodating with their borders, whilst balancing surveillance with civil rights and security with human rights. Such delicate balancing acts over the long haul will counter the radical menace and narrative.

Whilst not exhaustive, I have listed suggestions (below) to ideologically counter the appeal of radicalization in 2018 and beyond through soft power on the most important battlefield of all: that of intellectual ideas. Through the implementation of these, threats may become opportunities and challenges may evolve into long-term intellectual victories.

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References

  1. A turn of phrase conceptually borrowed from Cole Bunzel (2016) a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and the author of “From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State.”
  2. «Kurdish-led forces capture new district in Raqqa city, kill scores of ISIS militants”. ARA News. 19 June 2017.
  3. “US expands air base in northern Syria for use in battle for Raqqa”. Stars and Stripes. 3 April 2017.
  4. Islamic juridical scholarly ruling.
  5. Ozer Khalid, of Criterion Quarterly, in Volume 12 Number 2, exhaustively documented the presence of ISIS in South Asia rebranded as Daesh al-Khorasan for how the terrorists are making inroads into Pakistan and Afghanistan consult: Khalid, Ozer (2017) ISIS in Pakistan & Afghanistan: From Rhetoric to Reality. Criterion Quarterly, Vol 12 No. 2 June 22, 2017.
  6. In June 2017 right before Eid lives countless lives perished in Quetta For more on Quetta related terrorism review Tanveer (2016) “93 mourners dead after bomb explodes at hospital in Pakistan”, Metro UK, 10 August 2016.
  7. In Parachinar a blast kills at least 21 in Pakistan vegetable market in January and then again during Eid in JUne 2017 a terrorist assault occured targeting mostly Shias. For more Afzal, Hussain (2017). “Carnage at Parachinar market; 25 killed, 87 injured”. Dawn newspaper.22 January 2017 and Agencies & Ali Akbar (2017). “Blast in Parachinar vegetable market kills 25”. Dawn News. January 21, 2017.
  8. Several Islamic scholars have rendered Fatwas (scholarly juridical rulings based on Shariah principles) declaring suicide bombings as being totally against the very tenets of Islam. Dr. Tahir ul Qadri, a Canadian based cleric of Pakistani origin`s 500 page Fatwa against suicide bombings in 2010 springs to mind.
  9. “Great War for the liberation of Raqqa begins” (2017) Hawar News Agency. 6 June 2017. View also Swinford, Steven (2017) “Operation Raqqa: British RAF pilots to switch bombing raids to ‘the heart’ of Isil”. The Daily Telegraph. 16 January 2017.
  10. Recaptured by Turkish-allied Syrian troops in July 2017.
  11. Josie Ensor (2017). “Islamic State launches major offensive to take Syrian city”. The Telegraph. 16 January 2017 and Raydan, Noam; Alakraa, Nour (2017). “Islamic State Gains in Remote Syria Outpost” – via Wall Street Journal. 17 January 2017.
  12. Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. A novel. London: Secker & Warburg.
  13. As attacks to counter ISIS gain momentum in the main urban bastions of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, ISIS intensified the use of drones as surveillance equipment to drop air-based bombs on attacking troops. Sophisticated armed drones have been a prominent feature of the Isis defence of Tabqa, to the west of Raqqa, a battle which has now culminated given the victory of US-backed Kurdish forces. The very fact that ISIS got their stained hands on such drones is cause for alarm and concern.
  14. Gul, Ayaz (2017). Mostafa, Mohamed (2017). «Islamic State drones, rockets kill 11 civilians, including school kids, in eastern Mosul». Iraqi News. 20 February
  15. Similar tactics to those deployed by the Fidayin in Palestine and the FARC in Colombia. In Colombia`s case, Santos` agreement with the narcotics mafia has brought FARC to the negotiating table.
  16. Dabiq is a Syrian city, which according to IS sycophants is where the Apocalyptic battle to mark the end of ages would be waged.
  17. Official sources state that up to 30,000 foreign fighters reached Syria to take up arms on behalf of Isis. The US government estimates that 25,000 of them have since died in combat. That still leaves 5000 fighters who will join other terror networks or camouflage their way into other countries and exact revenge.
  18. Dearden Lizzie (2016) Isis propaganda video shows British four-year-old Isa Dare ‘blowing up car’ with prisoners inside in Syria, The Independent, 11 February, 2016.
  19. The term is itself a misnomer ss the word Jihad, in its true essence, denotes an internal struggle against the egotistic self, a journey of renewal and constant inner growth and challenge.
  20. Social psychologist Ivan Pavlov carried out well documented experiments on how living entities can be conditioned (Skinner believed this also) and behavioral patterns can be `learnt` leading to “psychic reflexes” of alertness based on external stimuli. For more on this fascinating topic cast a gaze upon: Pavlov, Ivan P. (1927) Conditioned Reflexes. Trans. G. V. Anrep. London: Oxford University Press.
  21. Accentuated further given the porous border between Turkey and Syria which in 2017 has become more closely monitored and guarded after all the terror incidents of Turkey in 2016.
  22. In the UK for instance those tried under the Terrorism Act could face life imprisonment.
  23. Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. A novel. London: Secker & Warburg
  24. Circa 900 British fighters have joined IS or other radical entities such al-Nusra Front and in some cases the war against the regime of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad. It is believed around half of these fighters have returned to the UK and around 200 have died.
  25. These figures are according to Britain`s Guardian newspaper reporters.
  26. As per Shiraz Maher, deputy director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, University of London.
  27. «Europe – France’s TV5Monde targeted in ‹IS group cyberattack›». France 24. View also «France probes Russian lead in TV5Monde hacking: sources» Reuters. 10 June 2015 and Safi, Michael (2015) “Isis ‘hacking division’ releases details of 1,400 Americans and urges attacks” the Guardian. and Perry, Keith. “ISIS hackers intercept top secret British Government emails”.
  28. Time Magazine (2012) “Interview with Official of Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s Islamist Militia Group”. Time Mgazine. 25 December 2012Hudson, Valerie (2017) The Hillary Doctrine. Columbia University. p. 154. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  29. Tomson, Chris (2017) “Islamist rebel group joins Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria”. Al-Masdar News. 21 May 2017.
  30. Most of Charles Dickens` novels are steeped in dark and desolate despair, from dirt poverty to squalid living conditions.
  31. This is, of course, not just confined to the Middle East. Stalin, Kim Jung Il, Kim Il Sung, Pinochet, Pol Pot and the military junta in Myanmar are but a few examples of how the tyranny of dictatorship is a disease that afflicts our entire world, irrespective of age, society or geographical location.
  32. Eichenwald (2017) “”The only possible means by which Trump could have come across the misattributed quote was purposeful collusion with the Russians, and that the Wikileaks documents themselves had been altered” from its website after settling a “defamation and libel” lawsuit with Sputnik editor Bill Moran NewsWeek (2017-07-21) and Baldor, Lolita (2017). “Mattis: US not ready to collaborate militarily with Russia”. ABC News. Associated Press. February 16, 2017.
  33. Launched from the Eastern Mediterranean.
  34. Haberman, Maggie (2017) “Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack”. The New York Times. July 21, 2017.’
  35. Daniels, Jeff (2017). “Pentagon delivers plan to speed up fight against ISIS, possibly boosting US troops in Syria”, 27 February, 2017.
  36. “Warplanes carried out a massacre in the stronghold of the “Islamic State” organization and the Syria Democratic Forces continue advancing in the eastern countryside of Al-Raqqah”. SOHR. 20 February 2017
  37. Bonsey, Noah (2017) Syria’s Kurds Gamble on Washington’s Staying PowerForeign Policy, July 10, 2017.
  38. “US expands air base in northern Syria for use in battle for Raqqa”. Stars and Stripes. 3 April 2017 and “US deepening involvement in Syria’s war against ISIS”. 23 March 2017.
  39. Deniz, Sinan (2017) “‘Raqqa’s fall will bring the end of Erdoğan’”. ANF News.26 January 2017.
  40. Haberman, Maggie.(2017) “Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack”. The New York Times. July 21, 2017.’
  41. Shiaphobia is a term coined by this author especially in light of the Shia genocide in Yemen and the never-endingly gruesome Hazara and Parachinar attacks. Yazidis and Christians have also been targeted, of course, in the Middle East with reckless abandon.
  42. 5 “Car filled with explosives rocks Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province”. Iraqi News. 1 June 2017. 4 June 2017.
  43. “Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claims ultimatum issued to Qatar is ‘against international law’”. The Independent. 25 June 2017.
  44. “4 Egyptian personnel killed in bomb blast”. Middle East Monitor. 1 June 2017. 3 June 2017.
  45. J.O (2017). «Self-defense fighters join Wrath of Euphrates». Hawar News Agency 5 February 2017 and «Doha’s Actions May Destabilize the Region: Saudi Minister». Newsweek ME. 14 June 2017 and «Iran sends five plane loads of food as Kuwait says Qatar ‹ready› to listen». 11 June 2017.
  46. Fisk, Robert (2017) Qatar crisis has verything to do with war in Syria, The Independent, July 8, 2017.
  47. “Iran: Hassan Rouhani condemns ‘siege of Qatar’”. Al Jazeera. 26 June 2017.
  48. The Gulf Cooperation Council, the GCC is an amalgam of six Gulf Arab nations, nursed into life by the United States amid two previous crises: the USSR`s invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution.
  49. Gaza too suffers from an illegal blockade.
  50. Pakistan is often a victim of Saudi and Iranian remote controlled proxy power plays.
  51. Antonopoulos, Paul (2017) “Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader killed in Idlib drone strike 26 Febuary 2017 and “War On Terror: Who Is Abu Khayr al-Masri? Al Qaeda Second In Command Killed In Drone Strike In Syria”. 26 February 2017.
  52. Tomson, Chris (2017). «Islamist rebel group joins Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria». Al-Masdar News. 21 May 2017.
  53. Kafka, Franz (1912) The Metamorphosis.
  54. Both being uber orthodox Wahabi Salafist brands of religious inkling.
  55. Even though former ISIS combatants in South Asia entered into a “marriage of convenience” with the Taleban, so such acrimony is never set in stone.
  56. Lusher, Adam (2017). «What is the truth behind claims Muslims are being targeted by right-wing acid attackers in London?”. The Independent 13 July 2017. Bulman, May (2017). “East London acid attack suspect John Tomlin smiles and blows kisses in court”. The Independent.13 July 2017. Lusher, Adam (2017). «What is the truth behind claims Muslims are being targeted by right-wing acid attackers in London?”. The Independent. 13 July 2017.Siddique, Haroon; McKee, Ruth (2017). «Acid attack on two Muslim cousins in London being treated as hate crime». The Guardian 11 July 2017.
  57. Dewan, Angela; Jordan, Carol; Halasz, Stephanie; George, Steve (2017). «London mosque attack suspect named, according to media outlets». CNN. 20 June 2017.Berlinger, Joshua; Masters, James. «London mosque attack: Latest updates». CNN.19 June 2017.Dodd, Vikram; Taylor, Matthew (2017). “London attack: ‘Aggressive’ and ‘strange’ suspect vowed to ‘do some damage’”. The Guardian.. 24 June 2017.
  58. France`s National Front, Britain`s UKIP, Golden Dawn, Austria`s Freedom Party being but a few cases in point.
  59. ISIS is the third generation of al-Qaeda terrorist group in Iraq.
  60. In July 2017 ISIS controls a mere 4 percent of Iraq. Whereas in 2014, IS occupied 40 percent of Iraq.
  61. Mansour, Renad (2017) `Iraq’s Power Struggles Are Just Beginning`, Foreign Policy, July 10, 2017
  62. An independent Kurdistan runs contrary to Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish national self-interests.
  63. The previous opportunity to achieve this presented itself momentarily in 2008– 2010, only for transient piecemeal success to wither away in 2014, when IS captured a third of Iraq’s land.
  64. Mansour, Renad (2017) “Iraq After the Fall of ISIS: The Struggle for the State”, Chatham House, April, 2017.
  65. Much like the recent British elections where Theresa May barely held on to her majority.
  66. The Chinese are exerting soft power through their multiple Confucius centers to rebrand themselves and make their way of life more globally palatable to discerning political and media savvy audiences.
  67. Although for now the Trump administration has ceded to Kremlin back-channel diplomacy of retaining Assad the tyrant who is akin to Tyrion Lannister in the Game of Thrones.
  68. Abrams, Elliott (2017), The United States Can’t Retreat From the Middle East, Foreign Policy, July 10, 2017.
  69. Known as Jirgas in Pakistan.

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