ISIS' Long Term Overall Strategy Imbedded within John Cantli’s 'Paradigm Shift'
Analyst and think tanks alike have been hard at work attempting to figure out the Islamic State’s long term strategy, its recruiting methods and its financing. The goal is of course is to find an approach to counter its expansion and ultimately defeating it. Thus far it would appear that no one really understands the whys and how’s of ISIS as facts on the ground clearly testify.
Early on when ISIS was beheading Westerners it was widely believed that those acts were acts of desperation. When the coalition air campaign started it was widely believed that ISIS was using beheadings as its last card in its attempts to discourage the aerial onslaught. It turned out that ISIS was doing just the opposite; it was daring the world to get involved. It was an act of defiance rather than an act of weakness.
When Tikrit was “liberated”, it was thought that the formula for defeating ISIS had been figured out but that was far from reality. It soon became clear that acts of brutality perpetrated by ISIS were intended to illicit vengefulness in its enemies in case it lost some areas or possibly intentionally allowing them to fall - I personally believe that the only battle that ISIS really wanted to win but ended up losing is that of Kobani because of its strategic value as a passage for new soldiers from Turkey- . True enough when the Shia Militias entered Tikrit, they committed acts of barbarism that made ISIS come across as the savoir in the eyes of Sunnis within Iraq and abroad. At the very least it made the militias come across as brutal as ISIS is.
Those atrocities committed by Shia Militias against Sunnis cleared the way for ISIS to start attacking Sunnis outside Syria and Iraq and that too was a well calculated and well timed move. Because large scale attacks against Shias outside Iraq and Syria took place after atrocities committed by Shia militias, violence against Shias in the region was now being translated by significant (not majority) number of Sunnis as acts of revenge on their behalf. Consequently, that manoeuvre which was too complicated for observers to foresee was yet another effective recruitment tool for ISIS.
The point is that ISIS is almost always ahead in its strategy that often those who have attempted to get into ISIS’s mind have failed and as such I cannot dare claim to know why the Islamic State Think Tank is taking certain actions at the moment. The reason is simply the fact that ISIS is taking so many actions at the same time. Actions that seem contradictory at times but enough time passes and ISIS’s stratagem start to unfold but by then it already has other hidden future plans. Analysts are thus thrown back to square one.
When, for instance, ISIS kills tourists in Tunisia, Attacks the Egyptian army and terrorizes France in the same week, it is almost impossible to figure out what the “group” is up to. What the world might see as chaotic attacks is in fact a well laid out strategy. One thing that can be ascertained is that ISIS doesn’t mind how its enemies view it but whatever acts of brutality it commits does seem to motivate its intended audience’s namely potential fighters and financiers. This week’s attack on a local market in Diyala that killed more than 200 people proves that ISIS cares less of what the world thinks of it. The scale of the violence is unthinkable and must turn majority of the world evermore against it. But what is important to ISIS is the message it intends to send to its present and potential supporters and that is the attack was carried out to avenge the massacre of Sunnis in Beiji.
John Cantli’s article titled Paradigm Shift is the only one where we can perhaps try to deduce an overall strategy for ISIS. In the article, Mr. Cantlie quotes Chuck Hagel who describes ISIS as a militarily powerful organization with a highly sophisticated media wing. He later on goes to suggest that ISIS is so powerful and growing in power that its enemies will reach a point where they would have no choice but to accept a truce with it. Of course what John Cantlie says has to be approved by ISIS before publication and as such the article itself must be portraying the “group’s” own view.
The main article itself hints of a long term strategy where it is suggested that a truce with ISIS is the only way the war would stop. The elaboration of the hint is in the Editor’s Note section. There it says that “A halt of war between the Muslims and the Kuffar (infidels) can never be permanent as war against the Kuffar is the default obligation upon the Muslims to be halted temporarily by truce for a greater Sharia interest as in the offer of truce from the prophet Swalla Allahu Alaihi Wassallam to the Mushrikiin (infidels) of Makkah in Hudaybiya”.
It is noteworthy that ISIS doesn’t talk much and doesn’t bluff and a great deal of what it says is what it means. As such the foot note drawing on events that took place during the prophet’s time are intended to show that ISIS is sticking to examples set by the prophet. Before the Prophet Swalla Allahu Alaihi Wassallam had amassed enough strength to impose a truce on the enemies he left behind, Quraish, he and his early companions had suffered much abuse from them in Mecca effectively forcing them to leave.
In Medina where he and his companions settled, he was received well and there he established himself and gradually reached the point of signing the Truce. The people who received him and his companions in Medina were called Al-Ansaar and those who arrived with the prophet were called Al-Muhajireen. These are the same terminologies used by the Islamic State to describe its original members and incoming foreign fighters respectively.
Many of ISIS’s fighters come from lands they believe are anti Islam and when they reach Iraq and Syria they are received by fellow Muslims who share their view and cause. Iraq and Syria is therefore representative of Medina and the rest of the world is representative of the lands of infidels that they immigrated from.
The initial goal of ISIS is therefore to acquire what is an essentially and figuratively speaking a modern time Medina by imposing on its enemies to accept it as a nation worthy of making a truce with and to achieve that end it will use all means it deems necessary. The prophet Swalla Allahu Alaihi Wassallam as we know eventually returned to Mecca with a formidable army. There was no war however as the former enemy was overwhelmed and simply surrendered to the will of Islam. Thereafter Islam was spread to the wider world and that is what ISIS openly says it wants to achieve.
In ISIS’s eyes, the land to return to and conquer before spreading Islam to the wider world is not limited to Mecca but the Arabian Peninsula as a whole and Saudi Arabia is the centre of it. In which case, ISIS would be in position to have an army of people purely believing in its cause or willing to live within it by its conditions. Thus ISIS’s first goal, it would appear, is to reach a point where the world has no choice but to accept it as a State rather than as a group. If ISIS achieves that then what happens next won’t be much different from what has been discussed above.