Between the rules of extinction or staying which is governed by fire, Isis walks towards its second era after the collapse of its leadership formed from its first line and its absence from the Middle East conflict arena which is surrounded by the ambitions of the super powers specified by the ideology of the survival of the fittest.
In this report, we discuss Islamic State (Isis) and its strategic planes to survive and continue to exist in outcomes that come after the evaluation of its operational stance according to its control points in the right coast of Mosul and Raqqa in addition to Deir Ezzor nominated to be the last platform in the lines of protecting its coming future.
Isis, emerging and upgrading:
On the beat of the open conflict happening during the collapse of the government of the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq by regional and international powers on April 9/2003, Iraq entered a wave of violence and counter-violence which produced sectarian confrontations among the Iraqi doctrines and components which depended in their process on regional powers such as Iran, or on radical jihadist organizations which have a long experience in fighting within residential environments and civilian intensity such as the organization of Al-Qaeda jihad.
The Jordanian star Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh, AKA Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is killed in a US raid on June 7/2006, appeared as the most prominent -Sunni- figures that fight the US and the forces that belong to the Iranian influence including Mahdi army groups and the forces of Abu Deraa “Ismail Hafez Al-Lami” accused of crimes against humanity and who lives now in Sadr area in Baghdad.
The organization of Al-Qaeda jihad in Mesopotamia vanished from the events in Iraq after the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who wanted to establish an idea that competes al-Qaeda through “al-Tawhid wal-Jihad”. Al-Zarqawi disagreed with bin Laden a lot about the goals and strategies of Al-Qaeda organization; Al-Zarqawi was not interested in appealing to all Muslims. When he planned his strategy in Iraq, he found a chance to mobilize the Sunni support by exploiting the sectarian tensions and starting the fire. His efforts in conscription were enforced when he was cited by ex US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, by mistake as a focal point between al-Qaeda and the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein; this made him gain fame and followers.
This made the organization enter a state of stagnation or operational hibernation in favor of restructuring and finding alternatives that separate the organization from the mother Qaeda- Al-Qaeda jihad- and give the organization, which is Iraqi born- the ability to run the projects of his own continuity. All this made the arena ready for the control of the second line in Al-Qaeda jihad of Mesopotamia who were military and intelligence leaders who worked in the Iraqi government before the US occupation.
Below we mention the group of the important intelligence leaders who established the project/ Isis:
- Haji Dawūd, or Abu Abdul Salem Al Dulaimi, Abu Mohannad al-Sweidawi, was lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi general intelligence. Ismail Latif Abdullah, leader of control operations over Anbar in Iraq. He was al- Zarqawi military adviser, he was the center of gravity in the battle field. He was killed in 20 January 2014, as reported by federal police affiliated to the green area government, in Kartan, on the left bank of the Euphrates near Ramadi.
- Abu Ali al-Anbari, Brigadier general Abdulrahman al-Qaduli. He is the one who excelled in disguising and hiding the features of his real character which was not discovered except by some followers of the network of the previous Iraqi commanding officers and also the organization that announced his death in “Charge of the Righteous Upon the Infidel Peshmerga” displaying his photo with the organization and another photo while he was wearing the official outfit of the Iraqi intelligence during his service there. He was killed in a raid by the coalition planes on a mosque in Mosul, March 2016 according to the Pentagon announcement.
As for the idea of security structure in which the organization built itself, it depended on previous officers in Iraqi security and intelligence. The founder of this idea according to confidential documents the German newspaper Der Spiegel got was Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, better known by the nom de guerre Haji Bakr, a Colonel in Saddam Hussein Air Force Intelligence. He was killed in Syria in January 2014.
With this, the leaders of the first line, the founder in Isis, are over and they disappeared and only Al Baghdadi state exoskeleton remained. It was isolated and it became a heavy burden on the organization which is run without any centralism to protect its sides from fragmentation on the land that extends from Bashiqa, in northern Iraq, to the Libyan Sirte and the Egyptian Sinai and in between are the Syria Qalamun and the Syrian desert, the forthcoming playground and the background area of the exhausted organization.
The controlling and ruling security intelligence operation of Isis structure, however, was able to move safely from the form of a single organization led by shadow men to separatist groups which enjoy the ideological loyalty to the organization. It was led by figures who were influential in the controlled areas and with a tribal dimension, or even a financial powerful dimension, which enjoys technical and practical freedom on the ground, and in the financing sources which depended on sanctions mostly in black coming from oil and antiquities smuggling and from prisoners and women captives’ sanctions.
This was the exit the organization reached to break the crisis of losing its main leaders and the loss of many sites in Iraq and Syria. Accordingly, understanding the organization fighting and strategic stance on the ground is important to know the outcomes that led to moving from the first era- the finished one- to the second era which Isis has.
Evaluation of the Isis operational stance in the main points of conflict:
First: the right coast of Mosul:
Mosul is considered Isis first political capital because Isis head delivered his first speech in it announcing his state on July 5/ 2014, it is considered the main control point in Isis financial capabilities- Bayt Mal of Muslims/ the Mulims fisc/- and the political, security and military capabilities from which the decisions to appoint Emirs and the orders of the movements of the troops.
Mosul strategically (the Geopolitical position):
Mosul city is the center of Nineveh Governorate, the second largest city in Iraq after the capital in population; about 2 million people live in it. It is the biggest city of the north of Iraq and it is 465 Km away from Baghdad. The Iraqi state would not be complete without annexing Mosul in the twenties of the previous century. Mosul remained subject of controversy between France and Britain since WWI and between the mandate French authorities and Turkey which didn’t cede Mosul till the year 1926 after signing Ankara treaty.
Mosul (evaluation of Isis forces stance and the opposing forces):
It doesn’t look that Isis which was capable of extending the period of the battles in the left part- east- of Mosul has the same battle requirements in the right side- west- because the attacking forces overcome many of the mistakes made before which made them lose the attack balance on Isis which showed more balance and more steadiness in fighting at that time.
The attacking forces consist of:
A-governmental forces affiliated to the Iraqi army and teams of combating terrorism including the golden group supported by groups from the popular mobilization affiliated to religious authorities accused of sectarianism and loyalty to Iran.
B-Peshmerga forces which coordinate with Turkish forces working in Bashiqa, supported by a tribal mobilization named Nineveh Guards.
C-international forces that explore and support the attacking forces providing information and conducting fire sorties on sites believed to be Isis locations. As a result of this difference in the nature, kind and goals of the attacking forces, the left part was not taken for months in which the attacking forces suffered tactical stops and big losses for many reasons including: the field attacks Isis perpetrated depending on suicidal commando forces Isis throws behind the lines of its opponents relying on the intelligence gaps and the tactical mistakes in the plan of isolation and surrounding Baghdad government announced in addition to the poor implementation and coordination among the groups on the ground which suffered during the fighting because of the bad winter season.
The most prominent feature was the weakness of offering air support for the attacking forces, something that led to slowing the advance of the forces and the suffering of huge losses in addition to the bad weather and the ignorance of the air forces about the places of all the groups and the huge civilians’ intensity which impeded separating the residents from Isis members who became the most important pretext to destroy complete civilian areas on top of their residents, women and children.
After all the resistance Isis showed and which affected the strength of the central core of its forces, it was forced to evacuate the left part to strengthen the support points in its retreating lines in the right west side where Isis forces are under the danger of isolation and besiege from the opponent forces which in turn suffer from complexities that threaten the complete victory in the battle including:
Fixing, erecting and protecting the floating bridges designed to relocate the heavy and light forces across the river, the difficulty of separating civilians from Isis members, the danger of the air stance resulting from the close conflicting lines among the parties on the ground, something that impedes the strikes and the tribal differences which Isis relies on in its support on the land.
Raqqa is considered the second bastion for Isis which previously adopted the theory of going out of the neck of the besieged bottle in Iraq by extending towards the east of Syria. This was done through the help and planning of Haji Bakr (Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein air forces intelligence), the mastermind to break Isis isolation in Iraq, by annexing parts from Syria and by cancelling the borders between the two countries to give Isis battle and its existence sanctity and illusion that it is a different entity than the entities and the countries the west founded after Sykes–Picot Agreement.
Raqqa: strategically (the geopolitical position):
A city in the north of Syria, located at the east bank of Euphrates, 160 Km east of Aleppo. Since the mid-seventies, its economy depends on Euphrates dam, agriculture and the nearby oil fields. There is a small historical museum in Raqqa called Raqqa museum and the excavations discovered ruins that date back to the Abbasid era (750-1258). The old city also includes tombs of prominent Muslim figures including Companion Ammar ibn Yassir and Uwais al-Qarani. The population of the city exceeds 220000 people.
The reason why Isis chose Raqqa as a second capital is its similarity to Mosul in its important position bordering Turkey and the presence of a large water dam in it to provide drinking water and the irrigation of the plants in addition to the electricity generating turbines and the building size in it as it didn’t have battles inside between the regime forces and the free army when it was liberated by the latter. It was not exposed to battles and bombardment like Deir Ezzor for example. In addition, it was also completely liberated from all the regime forces shorty after Isis entered.
Thus, it was a beautiful civil attraction for migrants and Isis depended on its central position to run the Syrian wing to distribute its administration in Sham Wilayat. Isis founded in Raqqa the directorate of the main Islamic services/
Raqqa: (evaluation of Isis forces stance and that of the opposing forces):
Isis was able to control Raqqa city in January-February 2014 following a fight with Jabhat al Nusra and Islamic Ahrar al Sham which evacuated the city without fighting under the name of protecting Muslims blood, with this, things were stable for Isis in all the north and the eastern north of Syria except for Hasakah city which remained under the regime control and Qamishli city which was under joined protection of the Kurdish people protection units and the Syrian regime forces.
It is currently attacking Raqqa from three main axes and a sub-pressing axis which are:
- North eastern axis: led by forces affiliated to Syria democratic council (SDF) which depend on gathering members west of Khabour line and then moving them to tighten the siege on Isis east of Raqqa to force it to retreat to the west and to locate in the residential areas inside the city.
- A northern axis: led by SDF forces from Ayn Issa. Most of the members of this axis are from tribal components.
- A south western axis: it includes Kurdish forces affiliated to SDF with a US support and they succeeded in separating Raqqa from Tabqa city.
- A southern axis: the Syrian regime forces maneuver (Desert Hawks Brigade: semi regular militias affiliated to the so-called Suheil al-Hassan, nicknamed the Tiger. They are in charge of fighting Isis in al Badeya axes in northern Palmyra and the camp area, south of Raqqa.
Thus, Raqqa situation is not less dangerous than Mosul but the difference lies in the possibility of Isis finding alternatives in Raqqa that guarantees a controlled and gradual withdrawal of its forces before being besieged, isolated and destroyed , similar to what is happening in Mosul which is capturing this organization which is relying on one passage passing through Sinjar Mountains to secure the maneuver of its forces while its fires alleviate the pressure on its members inside Mosul. But the road was cut from the air by the fires of the coalition against terrorism and then on the ground it was cut by the Peshmerga of Barzani. This led to the besiege of Isis and the control of its lands till it was besieged in the right side of Mosul.
Isis alternatives, “fighting” locations and the gathering of forces on which it depends on in the foreseeable future:
Deir Ezzor: Isis fort and its economic reservoir.
Deir Ezzor is considered an important strategic governorate dur to the diversity of support sources it used to offer to the Syrian treasury as it is an important reservoir of gas and oil and there are huge facilities for the oil and gas sectors, in addition to its position on the shores of the Euphrates River, something that gives it a suitable environment to plant strategic crops such as wheat, cotton, maize and beets in addition to its geopolitical position connecting between Syria and Iraq through many land border crossing points. In addition, the governorate is considered the focus of attention of the super powers because of the gas transmission lines that pass from its lands from the Gulf through Tarbil desert and al Shaddadi fieldsm al Jibsa and Turkey.
However, the military situation in Deir Ezzor is different because of the presence of forces in part of Deir Ezzor city which form solid basis for the Syrian regime south west of the city (military airport, a number of areas, al Joura, Al Qusour and Harabish) and they don’t form more than 5% of the governorate area, it is totally besieged by Isis and no side could fully control it, whether the regime or Isis which exhausted itself and lost lots of its capabilities in the governorate to end the presence of the regime there.
That is why Isis is trying to cleanse the governorate completely to prepare it to inherit the previous capitals of Isis and to be the base of operations and control after loss of Mosul and Raqqa, by opening battles against the regime depending on the forces withdrawing from Mosul and Raqqa to participate in the battles of Deir Ezzor and gather the surplus in wider areas in the depth of the desert that link it with the Syrian capital, Damascus and secures deep conflicting fronts of Isis against any enemy in the Badeya that extents till Eastern Qalamoun.
Outcomes: Isis destiny and the possibility of adapting to the new era:
After presenting the previous points, it is clear that Isis has started to work according to the disconnected links after it has understood the shock of the centralized strikes that led to the loss of the leaders of its first line or those of the makers of the brutal administration in it represented by al Baghdadi without anyone behind him as it appears and after the Isis knives that showed in many publications that there is no place for humanity in this ideological concept built on the doctrine of death of anyone against it.
Dealing with Isis, regionally and internationally:
First: regional and Arab levels:
Because of entrenching behind sectarianism and the ethnic doctrinal case the Mediterranean Basin, especially in the areas surrounding the burning countries, Syria and Iraq, as a center of incubation for Isis, Isis doesn’t have alternatives of dealing except finding strong and balanced states that reimpose the prestige of the collapsing states. This choice is absent because there is no solution in the horizon that might lead to the settlement of the crises in the East which is suffering an internal conflict in which regional and international powers are involved. The world has not witnessed anything similar since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and the regent of its empire at the hands of a Serbian extremist on June, 28, 1914 which led to the eruption of WWI. That is why the region and the Arab countries which are head over heals in their problems lack the capability of dealing separately with an organizational phenomenon that has several financial economic ideological and intelligence arms, all these are gathered within a developed military structure.
The position on the Middle East in the international crossfire represented in the attempts to control and extend the influence is not new, but it dates back to the time before the foundation of (Israel State/ according to international literature) on the land of a displaced people whose blood and rights were vulnerable.
That is why the world cannot reach a solution that ends the ideological centers of any extremist organization without a just and comprehensive solution to the top cause and the hanger on which all the extremist organizations built their ideology, the Palestinian cause. It appeared only in the myths of the extremist ideology with no methodology to be replaced by the theories of loyalty and innocence or resorting to the judgement of what they call God’s law or the gubernatorial.
That is why any security or military solution on the ground is doomed to fail because the reason is still there together with its branches and the presence of dictator oppressive regimes which enjoy the protection of the super powers.
Isis and the entire world are before many scenarios including:
First: the extremist organization acceptance of the idea of its melting and surrendering to the gradual killing perpetrated by the allied powers aiming at limiting the organization locations in the Syrian Badeya and the Iraqi desert and then destroying it depending on the policy of fire containment and the concentrated air strikes and the limited landing operations which contribute to the fragmentation of the organization.
Second: depending on a counter plan to disperse the opponent (the allied against terrorism) and this is what Isis started actually some time ago in:
- Focusing on the theory of “separate wolves” through which it could achieve international considerable shock and horror that exceeded all media and technical abilities of its opponents. In addition, security failed to control this kind of operations built on individuality and acting according to the simplest deadly equipment whenever the chance arises.
- Working on the expansion of its cells in many places closer to Europe and the West, in the Arab Maghreb, the African desert, Afghanistan and the Russian regions in the Caucasus and Balochistan.
- Securing its economic resources by gathering its financial abilities by maintaining the oil and gas fields in the areas it controls, in the Arab east or West or in the African north.
- The attempt to preserve its fighting stance in the last populated areas, in Deir Ezzor which will be the platform for the advanced operations of its groups which will conduct maneuvers to exhaust the opponents depending on fast forces, in vehicles or on foot (similar to what happened in Shaer and Muhr fields, near Palmyra). These forces move freely on the land from Bu Kamal Badeya east of Syria to the areas of Bi’r Qassab, Qalamun and the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Thus, Isis closes its first era which expanded on the stages of foundation and expansion towards the Syrian East and ended in the killing and disappearance of the leaders of the first institutional line, and it starts its second era by exceeding the shock stage and finding alternatives to survive and developing its hierarchal shape from the solid central structure to the disconnected links which give the organization a jelly dimension which cannot be controlled or totally eliminated.