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ICC Note:

ISIS continues to demonstrate its ability to stage attacks in areas declared liberated from the militants, showing how it can exploit holes to continue spreading terror throughout the region even while it is losing territory. Some believe that ISIS will survive in Iraq since that is where it was created. In Syria, it may dissolve into other jihadi organizations. In either case, Christians will remain vulnerable. Christians in the Middle East were persecuted before ISIS, and the militants exploited that vulnerability. Unless those conditions are remedied, Christians will continue to be concerned about their future in a post-ISIS world.      

 

10/29/2017 Iraq (Reuters) –   Syrian and Iraqi forces closing in on the last scraps of Islamic State’s caliphate straddling the remote border area between the two countries have already witnessed the jihadists’ likely response.

While their comrades mounted last stands in their Syrian capital of Raqqa and the city of Hawija in Iraq, IS militants seized the Syrian town of al-Qaryatayn and launched its biggest attack for months in Ramadi late last month. That is the kind of guerrilla insurgency both countries foresee IS turning to.

“It is expected that after the Daesh terrorist organisation’s capacity to fight in the field is finished, its remnants will resort to this type of (guerrilla) operation. But for a certain period of time, not forever,” said a Syrian military source, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

The continued ability for IS to mount attacks in areas where it was thought to have been eliminated will hinder efforts to stabilise regions when the fighting wanes.

In Iraq, where Islamic State originated, it has a proven record of falling back upon local networks from which it can rise anew when conditions allow. So far, it has not shown it has the same capacity in Syria, and it might find doing so more challenging there than in Iraq.

The sectarian divisions on which it thrives are less pronounced in Syria, and it faces competition there for jihadist loyalty from other powerful militant groups.

“Daesh is in essence an Iraqi organisation, it will survive to some extent in Iraq. Syrian members will dissolve in other Syrian Salafi jihadist groups,” said Hisham Hashami, an adviser on Islamic State to the Iraqi government.

But in both countries it has shown it can exploit holes left by overstretched enemies to carry out spectacular attacks – the one in Syria’s al-Qaryatayn most clearly – that spread panic and tie down opposing forces.

It has also proved able to carry out bombings and assassinations in areas controlled by the Iraqi and Syrian governments, U.S.-backed Kurdish militias and rival jihadist rebel groups, signalling an ability to survive underground.

A jihadist from a Syrian rebel faction opposed to Islamic State said the group had won enough support among young men to give it a latent capacity to revive.

“I believe that it is possible, given that its ideology has spread widely among the youths, that something new will emerge,” the jihadist said, pointing to the highly effective propaganda machine deployed by Islamic State over the last three years.

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