Middle Eastern Terror in Flux:
Mosul after Daesh, Daesh after Raqqa
Wolfgang Mühlberger & Olli Ruohomäki
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
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The US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011
coincided with the militarisation of the upheaval in Syria, preparing the
ground for Daesh to emerge as a transnational jihadist militia.
Daesh’s cross-border territorial gains
from 2014 continue to be reversed on multiple fronts in Iraq and Syria as major
military campaigns are being waged in Mosul and Al-Bab, and are under
preparation in Raqqa, the "capital” of the self-styled caliphate. Remarkably,
Palmyra, the only place recaptured by the Syrian military itself, was retaken
by Daesh in December 2016.
A huge number of actors, often with
conflicting goals, are involved in the anti-Daesh offensives: the Iraqi armed
forces, supporting militias and the Popular Mobilisation Units;
Kurdish-dominated armed factions; the Turkish military, Russia, Iran and the
multinational Operation ‘Inherent Resolve’ are all engaged in this fight.
As no terrorist movement can operate
effectively without a broad range of supporters, Iraq’s political arrangements
and the peace-building process in Syria will significantly determine the future
Sunni stance over extremist ideas and organisations, particularly Salafi-jihadism.
Furthermore, two main issues emerge with
regard to an assumed post-Daesh order: the reorientation of its fighters,
including foreign fighters returning to Europe and the capability of inclusive governance to roll back sectarianism.