Islamic State losing caliphate but not jihadism

The Islamic State (IS) is gradually dismantling its “caliphate,” but such a process of “de-sanctuarization” of the movement is likely to make it more decentralized and active in jihadist terrorist activity throughout the world, according to recent reports. The Terrorism Monitor (July 22), published by the Jamestown Foundation, reports that the Islamic State’s own leaders and analysts increasingly see its serious losses on the battlefield as the end—for now—of its having a stronghold in the Middle East that can serve as the Islamic caliphate. It might take some time to recapture key IS cities, such as Mosul and Raqqa, but already other strongholds including Fallujah and Ramadi have fallen. It may be the case that there will be conflict between the Sunni, Shiite, and Christian groups once they resettle previously IS-controlled areas, as sectarian tensions have remained, Wladimir van Wilgenberg writes.

Not only intelligence analysts but also the public messages of the IS have acknowledged that the core structure of the IS in Iraq and Syria has been under serious attack and that such military setbacks will likely mean the group could lose all its territorial holdings, according to the Washington Post (July 12). From proclaiming a glorious new epoch of Islamic rule and power only two years ago, IS leaders are now preparing to go underground and assume an identity as a “shadowy and diffuse network with branches and cells on at least three continents,” writes Joby Warrick and Soud Mekhennet. “Where al-Queda was hierarchical and somewhat controlled, these guys are not. They have all the energy and unpredictability of a populist movement,” said Michael Hayden, the retired Air Force general who headed the CIA from 2006 to 2009. But IS leaders continue to insist that their vision of a caliphate is viable, even if it may be moved to North Africa or elsewhere from the Middle East.

(Terrorism Monitor,