As ISIS’s ‘caliphate’ crumbles, its ideology remains

Farah Najjar writes: Three years ago on Wednesday, ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood at the pulpit of Mosul’s Grand Al Nuri mosque, which was destroyed last week amid fighting between the armed group’s fighters and US-backed Iraqi forces, and announced the creation of a Sunni caliphate.

While ISIL proceeded to balloon in size – at its peak it covered territory across Iraq and Syria roughly equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom – it has lost nearly 47 percent of its territory since January, according to Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit, a security and defence observer.

Experts say that despite being seemingly on the brink of military defeat, the group’s widespread ideology will be much harder to erase and may re-emerge in other manifestations.

“The structure of ISIS is destroyed, but the underlying forces are not – they are being worsened,” Rami Khouri, senior fellow and professor at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera, using a different acronym for ISIL.

“The rise of ISIS is a sign of deeper problems,” he said.

Though it is unclear how ISIL may re-establish itself, some believe that poor economic conditions and volatile war-torn areas are the basis for the emergence of such groups.

Khouri said that unless underlying regional issues such as unemployment, human rights abuses and political repression are addressed, the group’s ideology will continue to attract the disenfranchised and politically excluded. [Continue reading…]

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