20 July 2016

Is ISIS Really 'On the Run,' as Kerry Says?

By Ben Rosen, Christian Science Monitor

As the self-declared Islamic State (IS) has carried out or inspired attacks in Nice, in Istanbul, and in Orlando, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday they show the militant group is “on the run.”
These attacks “are the desperate actions of an enemy that sees the noose closing around them,” said Mr. Kerry, in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “People are acting out in various places. But they are not growing in their ability to do things. They are shrinking.”
Kerry’s interview with Mr. Tapper, in which the host challenged Kerry’s logic, raises questions about what a victory against IS would be. Is it a defeat of its territorial claims of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria? Or is it an end to terrorist attacks it executes or inspires in Iraq, western Asia, Europe, and the United States?

“We tend to have a static view of what IS is,” Shiraz Maher, deputy director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalism (ICSR) at King’s College London, told The Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson “If you are a Parisian drinking in the Marais, it’s a terrorist group that guns you down when you are socializing with friends on a Friday night. If you are another Syria rebel … it’s an aggressive and annoying insurgency that is acting against your interests. And if you are in Raqqa [IS headquarter city in Syria], it’s a proto-state.”
“The idea that it should be one or the other is wrong,” added Mr. Maher. “It’s a kaleidoscopic movement that can be all of these things at the same time.”
Kerry, on Sunday, referred to the group’s large territorial losses in Syria and Iraq. He said the territory IS once laid claim to in the two countries has decreased 40 to 45 percent.

One of IS’s key losses, in the eyes of Iraqi forces, the United States, and their allies, is Fallujah. Once a stronghold for IS, the city was recaptured by Iraqi forces that on June 26 declared it "completely liberated." Iraqis and Americans hope to capitalize on this momentum, as well as other recent gains, to retake Mosul, Iraq, the largest city IS holds. Iraqi forces seized an airfield40 miles outside Mosul July 11, and President Obama announced the day after he will send 560 more troops there to support an Iraqi attack on the city. 
But as IS has lost territory in its self-declared caliphate, it has increased the frequency and carnage of attacks it has claimed responsibility for in the Muslim and western worlds…

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