Martin Chulov reports: It has been a bad few months for Islamic State (Isis). For the first time since the terror group laid claim to much of Iraq and Syria, it no longer has a direct path to Europe. Black flags are no longer flying over towns and villages near the Turkish border and the militants of the so-called caliphate are on the run. If the decay continues, Isis will soon lose much of its remaining foothold in Syria. Its last bastion will be Raqqa and the north-eastern deserts, where it all began for the group’s latest incarnation in April 2013, and from where much of its subsequent rampage was plotted.
Since mid-July, Isis has been methodically pushed from towns and villages it controlled near the Turkish frontier by the most concerted ground advance of the past two years. The jihadist group now looks to be far less of a threat to the regional order than when its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaimed his rule over a swath of eastern Syria and western Iraq in mid-2014.
But little about what comes next is clear. The group’s loss of territory has shifted geopolitical ground in ways that could not easily have been predicted. And, in the eyes of many European governments, its danger has metastasised into a global threat that a loss of land won’t mitigate. A military victory over one of modern history’s most savage band of marauders may yet prove pyrrhic. [Continue reading…]