Summary: Remember the hysteria in 2014-15 about the Islamic State? Our geopolitical experts debated whether they would be stopped at Cairo, Paris, or Chicago. Fast forward to today, where Stratfor predicts the rapid decay of ISIS. But even after it fades to irrelevance, a Jihad 3.0 will arise.
The Islamic State in 2017: Rotting From the Outside In
By Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 12 January 2017.
The Islamic State has entered into a slow decline that will continue throughout 2017. After its inception, the group energized the jihadist movement and drew thousands of enthusiastic foreign fighters by announcing the creation of a caliphate and assuring its followers that the end of the world was near. This enabled the Islamic State to rapidly amass manpower and capabilities — at least at first. But both time and geography have worked against the organization since its initial proclamation of a caliphate and an impending apocalypse.
Despite the Islamic State’s frequent and pointed criticism of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group has roughly followed the plan al-Zawahiri laid out in a 2005 letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was then the head of the Islamic State’s predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq. Nevertheless, there are significant differences between the timeline al Qaeda and the Islamic State have set for that plan’s execution. As we noted last week, al Qaeda argues that the caliphate can be established only after the United States and its European allies have been defeated so thoroughly that they can no longer interfere in Muslim lands, having lost either the ability or desire to do so.
The Islamic State, by comparison, has adopted a more urgent approach based on the belief that the time for taking, holding and governing territory is now. But this strategy hinges on being able to use the territory conquered, resources captured and fighters recruited for greater expansion. This sense of immediacy explains the Islamic State’s decision to quickly trumpet the foundation of a caliphate after it seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria. The group’s message to the Muslim world was plain: The caliphate is a historical fact whose spread cannot be stopped, and all Muslims should migrate to it to help support the Islamic State’s rise. The group thought that it could leverage its initial success to quickly conquer more territory in much the same way the Prophet Mohammed and his followers did.