Ali Najat – Writer and researcher specializing in Middle Eastern affairs and Islamic movements.
The emergence and rise of the Islamic State in 2013 marked the beginning of a new jihadist era, as the group declared a far-reaching goal of establishing an Islamic state, or caliphate, based on intensely extremist interpretations of Islamic law, making it more than just a terrorist organization. ISIS’s strategy for survival and growth relied on many factors: (controlling and expanding territory as a means of attrition, attracting foreign fighters, using ideology and media as a tool to control people, recruiting fighters, collecting money, and developing a central military strategy).
Meanwhile, a vital strategy for ISIS is to control a wide geographic area. For this reason, one of the main factors in ISIS’s global fame was its control over vast areas of Iraq and Syria. In 2014 and 2015, ISIS managed to occupy numerous areas in Iraq and Syria. However, ISIS has become weak since 2016, especially since it lost its occupied lands in Iraq in 2017 and its occupied lands in Syria in 2019. Iraq declared in December 2017 the final victory over ISIS and the recovery of all the cities that it imposed its control over during the events of June 2014. In March 2019, the Syrian Democratic Forces confirmed the complete elimination of the terrorist organization ISIS, six months after it launched a large-scale attack, with the support of the US-led international coalition, on the last enclave of the organization in eastern Syria.
Although all Iraqi governments have made a lot of efforts to prevent the resurgence of ISIS in recent years, the Syrian government is unable to deal comprehensively with the sleeper cells of ISIS in the desert areas of this country because of the global crises.
For this reason, ISIS was able to make a major turn through the processes of adaptation and restructuring. In terms of field, military, and security tactics, and terms of media and political discourse, ISIS began rearranging its priorities according to regions. According to Abu Bakr Naji’s book (Management of Savagery), the current stage in which the organization lives is the stage of (the thorn of spite and exhaustion), which is represented by working to exhaust the enemy through continuous operations. In the second phase, the organization relies on new paths to elude the security and intelligence agencies, as ISIS adopted a new approach to carrying out its terrorist operations, focusing on the strategy of demolishing walls.
The terrorist organization ISIS – since the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023 – has made intensive efforts for the third resurgence in Syria, which is a serious and fundamental threat to Iraq. Because ISIS has constantly shown that it uses the “double arms” strategy, based on this theory, the movement must be continued in two parallel areas. The aim of these parallel measures is to prevent the concentration of any military effort on one front so that each front will work independently to exert pressure in favor of the other front.
This analytical paper seeks to answer this main question, how could the resurgence of ISIS in Syria pose a great threat to Iraq? To answer this question, the structure of the research was divided into three parts. After analyzing the efforts of ISIS for the third resurgence in Syria, the conditions of ISIS forces in Iraq will be addressed, and in the end, the security repercussions of the return of ISIS from Syria to Iraq will be studied.