Dimninished and cornered, the terrorist group has lost its appeal for young Muslims
The last fighters are holding out, just. The leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is still alive but hiding somewhere in the desert. We have already had one “final defeat” of Islamic State. This came 18 months ago when the organisation’s capital, Raqqa, fell. Once, it held territory the size of the UK; now, it holds a square kilometre of the remote town of Baghouz in eastern Syria. Soon, it will no longer hold even that.
There is a strong argument for caution before anyone talks of “mission accomplished”. Many of the circumstances that favoured the rise of the organisation remain. In Iraq, these include the weakness of the state and security forces, the dominance of the Shia majority and the shortsightedness of its leaders, as well as the alienation and marginalisation of the Iraqi Sunni minority, long the extremists’ core constituency. Deeply rooted criminal networks don’t help, nor does the legacy of radicalisation and brutalisation of decades of violence. Syria remains an anarchic battleground of factions, militia and forces, where powers great and small, near and far, still seek advantage. So it should be no surprise that recent attacks in Iraq suggest that a new Isis-led insurgent campaign is well under way.