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Debate: ISIS’s advance is calculated - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Controlling territory and establishing a state has always been the dream of terrorist leaders and their followers. The final ambition for these organizations is to establish a political entity subject to their control and beliefs.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has realized that there are two ways through which they can achieve this dream: the first is to seize power in a country and use it to change the nature of the nation and its society, in order to conform to the group’s beliefs and perceptions. The second is to take over specific regions of a state, or multiple states, and establish a political entity in which the doctrines of the extremist organization can be applied. ISIS has followed the latter option with the establishment of its “Islamic State” in adjoining parts of Iraq and Syria.

The Al-Qaeda organization, which began the process of direct confrontation in 2003, was not just a terrorist organization in the sense that its mission was to carry out terrorist attacks. The group’s true goal was to seize power in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and convert it into a nation subject to their doctrine. Evidence confirms that Al-Qaeda cells could be found across a wide geographic area of Saudi Arabia. Yes, Al-Qaeda carried out terrorist operations, but this was all a means to achieve the group’s true goal: to seize power. We can only thank God that the Kingdom was able to survive these evils and eliminate this group from its territory.

It is not just Saudi Arabia where Al-Qaeda has pursued this tactic. The group sought to create a stronghold in Afghanistan. Then the dream developed into one of controlling Yemen, or at least large portions of it. Al-Qaeda then moved on to another continent altogether, to Mali, in pursuit of its dream of a state.

The dream of establishing an “Islamic State” has been one that terrorist organizations have always pursued, particularly those that follow the Al-Qaeda ideology. However, the concept of a state under international law requires the presence of basic factors, the most important of which is control over a piece of land and enforcing sovereignty over that land and its residents.

The previous incarnation of ISIS had previously sought to establish an Islamic State in Iraq prior to a government crackdown that forced it to abandon its plans. The group had sought to eliminate all competing organizations, Islamist and otherwise, employing coercion and intimidation and seeking to completely destroy any and all rivals. While that group’s efforts ultimately ended in failure, ISIS is today following the same methodology.

Despite the failure of ISIS’s predecessor, the group has worked tirelessly over the past decade. ISIS is seeking to build its momentum and do everything in its power to ensure the success of this long- desired state. ISIS will continue to work to expand the territory under its control, both in Iraq and Syria, and perhaps even beyond.

The organization had a clear strategy to impose control on the ground as a prerequisite to achieving their ultimate goal: establishing this “Islamic State” based on its beliefs. ISIS hopes that this statelet will serve as the nucleus of a broad project to establish a regional empire subject to the organization’s rule and extremist doctrines, encompassing all parts of the Islamic world.

What is happening in parts of Syria and Iraq today must be taken seriously; there is no room for complacency or inaction when dealing with ISIS. The establishment of an Islamic State has been the group’s overall objective, and they will not shy away from defending it.

The counterpoint to this article can be read here.

Mustafa Alani

Mustafa Alani

Mustafa Alani is an Iraqi writer and academic. He is the Senior Advisor and the Director of the National Security and Terrorism Studies Department at the Gulf Research Center.

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