All signs point to the fact that the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last stronghold of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria a.k.a. Daesh, is going to be defeated shortly. This naturally gives rise to the question of what is going to happen after that long-awaited moment.
When approaching that question, it is important to differentiate between three factors: The organization, its members, and its ideology.
The organization will, in all probability, be defeated and destroyed, lose the vast territory it has overrun and have its short-lived regime assigned to the dustbin of history. However, many of its members are dispersed in other places, carrying with them the untarnished identification with the justice of their cause and a desire to wreak revenge on all those who attacked them (such as the US and the members of the anti-ISIS coalition) , all those who stood on the sidelines and failed to come to their aid (the Muslim countries of the former USSR) or those who helped them at the start of their campaign and later turned their backs (that being Turkey and the Saudis)
These people are now spread all over the world. Some have established “ISIS cells” in places such as Sinai, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, the Philippines and more, adjusting the structure and activities of each branch to its surroundings. Variables include the existence of an effective government or its absence, the presence of a supportive population or the lack of one, the existence of local organizational infrastructure to which one can connect or not, etc. A similar situation resulted in Afghanistan when al Qaeda was eliminated in late 2001 and its Iraqi branch joined the Sunni population and the remnants of Saddam’s army, later turning into ISIS and taking advantage of the deteriorating effectiveness of the Iraqi regime starting in 2003 and then of the Syrian one in 2011.
Each cell, however, is prey to the same fundamental problems found in all radical Islamist organizations.
Every organization is riddled with internal conflicts over religious laws and their practical applications, whether to try to define sovereign territory or remain a-territorial like al Qaeda, what punishments to mete out to transgressors, the limits of their leaders’ authority, what to call him (caliph?), relations with similar organizations, status in the organization (Arabs vs. non-Arabs, Muslims from birth vs. converts), to name just a few.
Organizations that bear similarities to ISIS are generally intensely disliked by the local population over which they wish to rule, whether or not it is Muslim.
The organizations are generally looked upon with hostile eyes by their surroundings. This can be expressed as disapproval but sometimes finds expression in a war to the finish.
Another question regarding ISIS’ fall is the effect of the end of the resurrected Caliphate dream on the Islamic world. This is a complex issue because ISIS’ fall will strengthen the position of anti-Islamists, especially with regard to ISIS connected political echelons. It is quite possible that the weakening we are witnessing on the part of Hamas, such as its agreeing to improve relations with the PLO and PA is a result of the general anti-Islamist political atmosphere spawned by ISIS’ imminent fall.
The fact that ISIS is Sunni, on the other hand, empowers the Shiite axis. The slow crawling of Sunni leaders (read Turkey and the Saudis) in the direction of Iran is evidence of Shiite strengthening at Sunni expense. Trump can nip this in the bud if he takes significant steps against Iran on the nuclear deal, ballistic missiles and exported terror.
Most significant, the idea of an Islamic Caliphate is not dead because it lives on in the sacred books, textbooks, Friday sermons, internet sites and in the hearts of many, many millions. It may be a theoretical hope today, but it can easily rise again like the phoenix, shaking off memories of today’s defeats. There will always be people who dream about returning the glory of yesteryear, of bringing the days of the “founding fathers” back to life – the period of Mohammed and his companions whose pure and ideal lives are an always relevant example of how to choose the right way to live, even if based on beheading traitors, cutting off the hands of thieves, stoning women suspected of infidelity and burning enemies to death.
What is absolutely clear is that the struggle against the permissive and heretic, hedonistic, materialistic, drugged and doped up West will continue by way of individual terror acts or those carried out by small groups. The non-Muslims in Europe, America, Australia and the USA will continue to suffer from ramming attacks, knifings, shootings, rape and violence against women and youngsters, destruction in public places and other forms of struggle on the part of Muslims against everyone else.
ISIS will cease to be an organization, but the spirit of the Islamic struggle against the “other” which it fanned over a four year period will mean that the world continues to feel the bad vibrations that ISIS intensified. ISIS did not create those vibrations but it enlarged them to monstrous proportions from whose reverberations the world is going to suffer for many more long years.
Translated from the Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, Arutz Sheva English Site Senior Consultant and Op-ed editor.