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Terrorism Report for 2016!

Interesting Article: "The biggest signs that Isis will be weakened in 2016" by Armin Rosen, Business Insider / 30 December 2015
An interesting article mentioned that Isis might have proven its ability to wage complex attacks around the world in 2015. But in the heart of its "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, the group suffered at least one important setback: losing a substantial portion of its oil-exports income, according to the Iraq Oil Report. Without the major source of revenue and foreign currency, the group might have a reduced ability to maintain the appearance of state-like services and functions inside the caliphate, potentially harming its ability to hold on to territory as global efforts against the group intensify. Here is a look ahead for ISIS in 2016.





From the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris the first week of January, to the Paris attacks and to the San Bernardino shootings in December, the kind of self-inspired, small-scale brutality the Sunni Muslim Islamic State group has seeped into the cracks left by a Western security apparatus hardened around preventing a 9/11-style massive attack.

A new year beckons, with the  Syrian civil war entering its sixth bloody year, the Iraqi government needing to  prove it can protect all of its people, not just the Shiites, and Muslims worldwide coming under greater scrutiny by a fearful public, all of which hinge in part on the future of the Islamic State group.

The Islamic State group has proven frustratingly adept at lingering in areas it once held. It repeatedly attacked the key oil hub at Beiji, Iraq, in the summer of 2014, losing and retaking territory in protracted skirmishes with government forces. Fighting continues there, requiring strikes from U.S.-led coalition aircraft as recently as late December.

The Islamic State group has proven frustratingly adept at lingering in areas it once held. It repeatedly attacked the key oil hub at Beiji, Iraq, in the summer of 2014, losing and retaking territory in protracted skirmishes with government forces. Fighting continues there, requiring strikes from U.S.-led coalition aircraft as recently as late December. In Sinjar, reports emerged that the Yazidis who had been targeted by the Islamic State group as heathens had subsequently began executing Sunnis in an act of retaliation. Similar concerns abound regarding the highly effective Shiite militias partnering with government troops, known as popular mobilization forces, and whether they will exact similar violence on Sunnis after clearing extremists out. Unfortunately, that kind of uncontrolled retaliation will only drive Sunnis back toward extremist forces like the Islamic State group or whatever replaces them if the Iraqi government doesn’t focus its attention on establishing the rule of law after the fighting ceases.

We also need to look at Libya; multiple terrorist organizations around the globe have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, from Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the only place military officials believe the Islamic State group has direct connection beyond its symbolic homeland in Iraq and Syria is Libya, with its eyes on even shinier prizes nearby.

The Islamic State group prioritizes Libya and its chaotic smokescreen because of its geographic position at the apex of all major smuggling routes in Africa, providing it with an alternative flow of resources as Western agencies try to choke off it off in Iraq and Syria. Libya also serves as a potential staging ground for attacks on Europe, and for strengthening the Islamic State group’s presence in volatile Tunisia, from which thousands of fighters have joined its extremist movement. It’s also a pathway to Egypt, where an established Islamic State group presence among existing extremists in the Sinai would be a great win for the terrorist network. A foothold in Libya could only bolster the Islamic State group’s existing presence in Syria and Iraq to maintain that premise, not replace it, or serve as a “Plan B” if some leaders need to flee to relative safely.

One of the largest obstacles to victory against the Islamic State group in Syria is the country’s porous border with Turkey, and convincing Ankara to become more involved in the fight. Kurdish fighters from groups like the peshmerga in Iraq or the YPG in Syria have proven themselves the most capable fighting force for retaking ground from the Islamic State group. But the Turks have a wary view of the Kurds, particularly those it believes are aligned with groups it considers terrorist organizations at home. Finding some sort of unity between the two, and assurances that empowering the Kurds would not necessarily lead to their attempting to form a breakaway state, is key to closing off the Islamic State group’s borders and rallying those who must help destroy it.

One of the extremist network’s greatest successes has been its use of propaganda, both to control those under its rule but even more potently to recruit disenfranchised young people from overseas, who continue to flock to its homeland.

The solution, however, cannot come from the U.S., as that would be too easily dismissed by extremist leaders who see America as the living symbol of everything they oppose. Instead, finding a solution must come from one of the other greatest holes in the anti-Islamic State group strategy, which is greater support from Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

ISIS AND THE HOMELAND

The U.S. has so far been spared from an attack on the U.S. coordinated by the Islamic State group headquarters in Syria, as authorities suspect happened with the shooting in Paris in November. The attacks in San Bernardino, California, were carried out by a married couple who were reportedly inspired by the Islamic State group. But investigators currently do not believe there was any direct connection either through planning or sharing of resources. It would be a major leap, particularly in public perception, if an attack arose that was orchestrated by terrorist masterminds overseas, and undercutting what has become the chief focus of American intelligence agencies since the 9/11 attacks.

Yet those limited-scale attacks with a loose connection to the Islamic State group may be enough for them to maintain their version of success. Its brand of diffused leadership makes the group less vulnerable to the kind of “decapitation strategy” the U.S. has employed against al-Qaida.
ISIS is planning to provoke a final battle with the West by killing thousands of people in a new atrocity. The warning, made by a respected analyst, comes amid heightened security across Europe amid fears of a New Year's Eve terror attack.

ISIS MIGHT BE DEFEATED

The Iraq Oil Report's 28 December story is one of the most detailed accounts of the jihadist group's oil infrastructure that's publicly available. It's based on interviews with over a dozen people living in Isis-controlled areas, including anonymous oil-sector workers. The story also includes descriptions of documents from the nearly 7 terabytes of data seized from the compound of Abu Sayyaf, the Isis oil chief for Syria killed in a US Special Forces raid in May. The report contains one piece of evidence that the Middle East may be well past the heyday of the Isis oil economy. Isis's once formidable oil-export economy, which used to produce $40 million in revenue a month for the group, has all but evaporated.

As the story recounts, Isis oil exports were once a highly centralized operation, with middlemen like tanker-truck drivers paying about $10 to $20 per barrel at the point of sale.


Isis would then recuperate the apparent discount on the barrel of oil through a series of tightly imposed transit taxes. The oil would hit the Turkish market through truckers or Isis officials bribing officials in either Turkey or Iraqi Kurdistan.

The caliphate's oil industry was staffed using 1,600 workers, most of whom were recruited from around the world. Because of global disruptions to the oil industry, even an illicit non-state group like Isis didn't have trouble running an international recruiting drive for skilled labor, as workers were "enticed with 'globally competitive' salaries at a time when the oil industry was undergoing waves of layoffs."

US airstrikes have destroyed hundreds of Isis-linked tanker trucks and cut into Isis's refining capacity. Low global oil prices have made smuggling a losing business proposition as well, especially in light of fuel shortages within the caliphate itself.

It's unclear what kind of impact the sustained absence of oil-export revenue will have on Isis in the coming year. The group lost approximately 14% of its territory in Syria in 2015 and was reportedly dislodged from the center of Ramadi, about 75 miles away from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, earlier this week.

The bottom line is that reduced exports cut off Isis's access to foreign currency and reduces its ability to provide social services to people living under the group's control — something that undermines its claim to ruling over a state-like political entity. It's highly unlikely that Isis will ever reconstitute the $1 million-a-day-type revenue streams it was able to establish by mid-2014.

Looking back at 2015, how come Isis – or Islamic State, or Isil, or Daesh – has Western governments in such thrall? Some reasons were sound. There was the impressive speed of its advance over the past two years. There was the strength of its ideas. And there was the ruthless genius of its propaganda, which used modern technology to shock Western opinion by means of gruesome videos of beheadings. There was its offer, too – which appealed to some young Westerners – of a cause that demanded sacrifice, in return, perhaps, for an eternal reward.

Isis prospered in Iraq, largely as a result of Western failures. The US and UK left widespread disorder after they toppled Saddam Hussein; Isis moved in offering security, albeit of a primitive kind. The US and UK dispossessed the once-dominant Sunnis; Isis offered them a way back. Similarly in Syria and elsewhere, the appeal of Isis, such as it is, reflects a quest for order and revenge quite as much as a religious idea.

Which suggests where the limits of Isis’s power might lie. If it cannot keep order, if it cannot delegate power when it moves on, then its authority may wane. Military force is not necessarily the key to its defeat, just as it was not the only key to its victory. When Mosul changed hands in 2014, it was reported to be largely by consent. 

However, even if Isis is past its peak, the West is not out of the woods; nor indeed is Russia. So much of a bogeyman has Isis become, that it is now almost an indispensable component of foreign policy. It has given a host of outsiders a pretext for intervention in the Middle East – the real purpose of which is less to defeat this detestable, and still morphing, movement than to keep a stake in the unresolved power-play in the Middle East.

Overall, ISIS isn’t going away anytime soon, with or without Baghdadi. The level of ISIS’s destructiveness, to force confrontations across the world, indicates that 2016 is likely to be more chaotic than 2015. ISIS is an airborne disease and still remains robust as the movement enters into a new combative and aggressive phase. While many of us see the change of year as “turning over a new leaf,” ISIS may do the same. The threat is real, and the requirement for international, regional, and local cooperation is truly necessary and will be tested again and again in perhaps unexpected places in 2016.

References:
http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015-12-28/5-things-to-look-for-with-isis-in-2016
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/isis-planning-2016-slaughter-europe-7095973
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/12/29/ISIS-leader-s-latest-threats-reveal-plans-for-2016.html

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