Last week, you may have come across some seemly monumental news articles triumphantly declaring that ‘the end of Daesh’ is nigh. It seems as though the hype has all stemmed from Iranian President Hassan’s decision to conduct a live broadcast on state TV in the last week of November, announcing the end of the caliphate.
However, given that civilians in the so-called Islamic State have been rejecting Daesh since the day they arrived (and we think they deserve more credit than Iran are trying to take) we thought we’d take a closer look.
So, in the interest of challenging our rusty brains, clearing up any confusion about what ‘the end’ actually means, and preventing you from spending your hard-earned savings on a premature celebration party, we thought we would try and break the situation down a bit.
Is this really ‘the end’?
Territorially, it does seem like Daesh are on the way out; their ‘brand’ has been historically linked to their having a physical functioning ‘state’, and as their territory diminishes so too does their ability to even try and claim that this is the case.
The loss of territory has been rapid and dramatic; pro-government forces have recently retaken Albu Kamal, the last significant urban area held by Daesh in Syria, just one month after a US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters seized control of Raqqa ending three years of Daesh rule in the city.
Daesh no longer hold any territory in Iraq (a crucial part of the ISIS acronym), and what they have in Syria is now limited to small towns peppered along the Euphrates.
This territory loss is clearly positive news for all those who have either lived under, or been affected by, the brutal Daesh regime. Rejecting Daesh whilst being under their rule is not an easy thing to do, though countless civilians have tried, and as their territory diminishes with the help of military victories, there is hope that we will finally see total territorial liberation.
Should we treat ‘the end’ with caution?
Away from the frontlines of war, ‘the end’ is a far less distinct juncture. The progress in Syria is a significant step towards territory loss – and the defeat of Daesh’s original attraction as a ’brand’ – but as long as this type of hateful viewpoint continues to spread across certain sections of social media, Daesh will continue to be a threat.
Extremism is fueled by ideology, and while individuals who believe in Daesh’s proposition are still operating, whether online or in their last remaining bits of territory, it would feel strange and slightly premature to celebrate ‘the end’.
So what does the future hold?
While the decline of Daesh spells hope for the people of Iraq and Syria, their crumbling influence in the Middle East could lead to even greater benefits on a global stage. For a once notorious terror group to be so resoundingly defeated, in terms of firepower and territory, lends credibility to the notion that their capacity to attract new members will dwindle.
However, we cannot eradicate terrorism without addressing the factors that lead to extremist views. And this requires far more than military might. The solutions to tackling radicalisation are too numerous and complex to pin down in a list, but if societies across the world put a focus on education, understanding and tolerance, perhaps fewer people will search for the answers in dangerous ideologies.