Liberation of Syria’s border city of Bukamal from ISIS on 19 November marked an end to the self-proclaimed caliphate of the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
A week before receiving its final blow in the Syrian city, the terrorist group had sustained ending strikes in the Iraqi city of Rawa that made it lose its last remaining stronghold in Iraq.
Such losses in practice and on the battlegrounds mean that ISIS has been practically finished in the two countries as the primary hot spots of terror wave that hit the region, and only remnants of terrorists still hide in some of their shelters in the desert areas on the borders between Iraq and Syria.
Despite the fact that ISIS defeat was good news to the region, some regional and international actors were unhappy with that. Washington and Riyadh, which themselves created and sponsored a litany of terrorist groups– including ISIS–, are expectably not delighted to see stemming of the terrorism in the region as they find a state of regional peace as not serving their interests. With this in mind, they will struggle to prop up ISIS at any expense to use it to destabilize target countries and regions. ISIS staying alive will be useful to them. Here is how:
Disputing Iran’s announcement of ISIS downfall
The initial official statement of defeat of ISIS was made by General Qasem Soleimani, the chief of the Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force. Then the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an address stated ISIS defeat in the region, adding that Syria and Iraq now stepped into the post-ISIS period.
The American officials had repeatedly made estimations about the terrorist group’s stay in the region at least for the next two decades. So, Iran’s declaration of ISIS defeat has challenged the American claims about long ISIS life.
Therefore, aiming at dismissing the statements made by the Iranian as well as the Axis of Resistance’s officials, the Americans insist that ISIS is still strong in the region. The media propaganda is part of this effort. Three days ago, the Voice of America (VOA) website, an outlet belonging to the American government, maintained that despite the Iranian claims of ISIS loss, the US-led military coalition is still combating the terrorist organization in some parts of Syria and Iraq. This stance by the state-run American news service lays bare the fact that opposite to Iran, the US is reluctant to announce ISIS has been overwhelmed militarily in the region.
Justification for continued regional military stay
Certainly, the US Department of Defense has been allowed to dispatch forces to northern Syria under the excuse of fighting ISIS. It was also under this guise that washington further expanded and equipped its military bases in Iraq. If US accepts ISIS end, then it will be stripped of excuse to already-illegitimate occupation of some parts of Syria. Therefore, Washington does its best to steer clear of losing the pretexts for which its forces were deployed to Syria.
Although last major ISIS-held cities of Syria and Iraq were recaptured and the terrorist group was declared neutralized, the Washington Post quoted the American officials as saying that they plan to maintain US troop presence in northern Syria — where the Americans have trained and assisted the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the ISIS— and establish new local governance, apart from the President Assad government, in those areas. In this case, the top Washington justification for continuing its illegal presence in Syria and Iraq to pursue political goals is sporadic ISIS activities in the two countries. This is a strong drive behind the American leaders’ resistance to the fact that ISIS is over in the two countries.
“Rescue breathing” to terrorists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
While declaration of ISIS end in Syria and Iraq was supposed to usher in a period of extensive concentration on post-ISIS peace and reconstruction, the terrorist group has made some moves in the Sinai in northern Egypt, signaling that it is still alive in that region and very likely the neglected Egyptian Peninsula and North Africa are next destinations of choice for some of the ISIS-affiliated terror factions now that terrorism is dealt a fatal blow in its primary strongholds Iraq and Syria. This, especially after the Friday mosque attack in Egypt that left over 300 dead and was claimed by ISIS affiliates, is described by some analysts as rescue breathing to ISIS in the Egyptian territory after its death in Syria and Iraq.
ISIS reorganization in Egypt’s north can keep the region still a hub of terrorism presence. On the shadow of ongoing regional insecurity and instability, Tel Aviv, as the closest ally of Washington, will keep on being on the safe side. So, destabilization of Sinai not only serves terror cells and provides justification for American regional presence but also offers to Israel safety margin.
On the other side, the fundamentalist groups’ endangering of northern Egypt comes with an aim to stimulate the Egyptian government’s iron fist against the Muslim Brotherhood who are seen as an enemy to Tel Aviv. This situation appeals to leaders of Saudi Arabia, another partner to the sham anti-ISIS coalition. After all, they are anxious to see activities of Islamic groups, and specifically Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Definitely, intensification of terrorist and radical groups’ presence in northern Egypt will automatically persuade Cairo leaders to tighten the noose on Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic movements in the country. This is quite in accordance with the Saudi aims to impair the moderate Islamic organizations, with Muslim Brotherhood being in focus.