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The Daesh of 2015 is bigger and stronger

Clearly the global coalition fighting the group needs to do more, with failure putting the extremists on track to capture Baghdad and Damascus by next summer

Despite the best intentions and efforts of nearly 20 states that have joined the global coalition lead by the US, the beast called Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) looks much bigger and stronger and more threatening than the Daesh of 2014.

Almost a year ago this summer, Daesh came to the world’s attention with a big bang, declaring itself as the State of Iraq and the Levant. A few months later it transformed its identity to a more transnational entity called the Islamic State. While everybody was taken by surprise, many were puzzled about what Daesh was, where it had come from, who had created it, where did it get its funding from and how it has survived a year of bombing and ground war.

Many were also totally dismissive of Daesh. They kept saying that it was neither Islamic nor a state. We have learntthe hard way not to be dismissive of Daesh. Still others decided to go on the offensive and declared a war on Daesh saying that it was the biggest threat to regional and global security since Al Qaida. The biggest threat is today bigger even more deadly.

US President Barack Obama committed himself publicly to degrade and defeat Daesh in 2014. In the summer of 2015, Daesh is still around neither degraded nor defeated. Obama is yet to admit that the relentless air strikes have not been affective.

Daesh has survived as the richest and strongest terrorist group in history. Clearly, the global coalition to degrade and defeat Daesh is not working. The Paris conference last week was supposed to revisit this failed strategy. But the US was in denial saying that Daesh is steadily losing territory and the coalition did not have the guts to admit the failure of the current strategy.

Just likely everybody else they do not know what to do about Daesh, which has doubled its population and tripled the size of land it has seized in one year. It now controls 60 per cent of Syria, almost half of Iraq and rules over more than 10 million people.

As of this summer, nearly 50 per cent of Syria’s GDP is under its control. Major oilfields and vast agriculture land in Syria and Iraq are completely run by Daesh. It is also in control of major water resources in Syria and Iraq and is using water as a potent weapon. Beyond its birth place Syria and Iraq, Daesh is now operating in 10 countries including Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia where it claimed two explosions a week apart, killing more than 25 people last month.

Just as alarming, Daesh has cleverly exploited social media, expanded its virtual reach and has morphed into a huge global terror network operating through 2,600 sites that are actively promoting its perverted messages to millions of its followers around the world. No one seems to be able to dismantle Daesh’s virtual empire. Young men and women from 70 different countries are fighting with Daesh, hundreds keep coming every month from as far afield as the US, Europe and Australia.

The 20 states that met in Paris reaffirmed their determination to fight and defeat Daesh. Each claims to be doing its share to fight terrorism. The Arab Gulf states have branded Daesh a terrorist organisation and introduced laws against funding and joining Daesh. They are very strict about sending any money to any organisations in Syria. Above all, they sent some of their best men and women to join the fight against Daesh.

“Daesh will continue to flourish until the Iraqi government takes the legitimate demands of its Sunni population seriously.”
-Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, Professor of Political Science and Chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences,
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Turkey claims it finally has full control over its border with Syria and has stopped the flow of foreign fighters to Daesh. Russia has declared Daesh a threat to humanity. The US is conducting daily air strikes against Daesh positions in Syria and Iraq and has killed 13,000 of its fighters and destroyed 1,000 sites. It claims to have spent $4 billion (Dh14.69 billion) in tax payers’ money for this campaign so far. Even Iran keeps saying it is combating Daesh through its forces and militias fighting on the ground.

Yet ironically Daesh keeps growing by the day. Which raises the question: Why? Daesh must be feeding on something much deeper. First, there is Bashar Al Assad and his atrocities. Simply put, as long as Al Assad is around, Daesh will not go away.

The Haider Al Abadi government in Iraq is the second driving force. Daesh will continue to flourish until the Iraqi government takes the legitimate demands of its Sunni population seriously.

Fear of Iranian regional hegemony is the third driving force. The sectarian Iran, it’s meddling in Arab affairs and its arming of non-state actors, are the fertile ground for sympathy with Daesh among large segments of the Sunni population.

Daesh will continue to flourish if nothing is done about the current sectarian divide in the region. Needlessly religious fundamentalism has always been the major contributor to Daesh’s growth. This deep rooted drive is yet to be methodically addressed by moderate scholars of Islam.

A much deeper political cause for extremism is the six-decade long Israeli occupation of Palestine. Daesh and the other extremists will not last for too long if the longest regional conflict in the world is not resolved peacefully.

Lastly, there is the US. Both America’s action in Iraq and its inaction in Syria are mainly responsible for the creation of Daesh. Some have already noted that it is during the last six years of Obama that the level of violence in the region has been at its highest level in 50 years.

Clearly, the global coalition fighting Daesh needs to do more. Failure to do so simply means that Daesh will not only grow bigger, stronger and more threatening but it will also capture cities like Baghdad and Damascus come the summer of 2016.

Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla is professor of Political Science and Chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, www.theacss.org. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Abdulkhaleq_UAE.

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