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ISIS, the “Fish Strategy” | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Broken windows of the terminal at Brussels airport are seen during a ceremony following bomb attacks in Brussels in Zaventem, Belgium, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yorick Jansens/Pool

Threats by violent extremists and terrorist groups have been shrinking lately, mainly those by ISIS which has been marking its draconian presence across the world. However, the field regression of this organization will not be the end, especially with the ongoing crises in Syria, Iraq, and other countries that led to its creation along with other extremist groups who have the same ideology.

ISIS has succeeded in coping with the war launched against it till December 2015; it fought in 20,000 battle fields against official and non-official hostile parties, during which it killed at least 6,000 people.

The organization also succeeded between June and December 2015 –after the announcement of its so-called Caliphate and the launch of international combating strategies- in implementing attacks in about 18 countries, which killed more than 1,100 people and injured 1,700 others, according to the Global Peace Index issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

However, with international efforts to combat ISIS ever since November 2013, following attacks that struck Paris and other European cities, in addition to the coordination among different parties aiming at eradicating it, ISIS and other extremist groups like Al-Nusra Front –before it has become “Jabhat Fateh al-Sham”- have been obliged to withdraw in the conflict’s peak.

But while “Nusra” has been pushed to split from Al-Qaeda on 29 June, ISIS maintained the adoption of the “fish strategy” by moving from one front to another, like from the Middle East to Europe, and vice versa.

Regression but not Defeat

No one can say that ISIS’s regression will lead to its total defeat given that it is the most dangerous organization in the history of extremism; but apparently the extremist group has been witnessing a state of imbalance, advancement and withdrawal, which has been emphasized by the shrinkage of field control and increase of suicide bombing operations.

Although many Arab and Western countries have significantly contributed in the war against ISIS following the proliferation of its attacks like in Paris, many factors still enhance the scene of extremism; the political, economic, social, and sectarian crises have paved the road for the extremist organizations and allowed it to renew its presence with many obvious alterations:

First: the transformation of global terrorism concept from random attacks and operations to the invasion and control of large areas in Syria, Iraq, and Libya and the announcement of the Islamic Caliphate on 29 June 2014.

Second: exploiting the sectarian discord after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011; and the ruling crisis in Iraq and politics of sectarian marginalization practiced by the regime of Nouri al-Maliki against Sunnis.

Third: success of organizations like ISIS in recruiting logistics and financing capacities in 2012-2014.

Global war against ISIS

To combat ISIS, the International Coalition has lately focused on main dimensions that can be outlined as below:

1. Targeting ISIS’s core in Iraq and Syria (stronghold of the fake caliphate).

2. Targeting international networks (networks of foreign terrorist fighters, funding, and communication)

3. Targeting sleeping cells and recruited members from different nationalities.
The International Coalition knows well that any successful campaign to confront ISIS should consist of these three dimensions along with integrated efforts. But, the intellectual and ideological confrontation of these extremist movements requires more efforts so it can convoy the security proactive efforts and fulfill the set targets.

In 2015, ISIS has revealed a new strategy known as “the fish strategy” to cope with the international war that aims at eradicating it; the strategy depends on absorption of crises, swift displacement from an area to another, and distraction of the other party; the organization has been implementing it in Syria, Iraq and other countries.

Due to the increasing pressure on it, ISIS has withdrawn from many areas it controlled like Fallujah, and has directed its members to adopt strategy of individual operations known as “lone wolves” such as the recent attacks in Europe.

Finally, observers suggest that ISIS and other terrorist organizations will remain a source of fear and anxiety for the whole world. Much more international and regional decisiveness are still needed to end these crises, especially in Syria and Iraq; the world should stand to support legitimacy in Yemen and Libya, and to put an end to the sectarian interventions of the Iranian regime aiming at drain ISIS’s resources and stop its growth.