Sunday, March 15, 2015

ISIS’ Crumbling Credibility

ISIS could very well be facing an ‘inconvenient truth’ about itself, the crumbling credibility of its so-called military might, fighting ability and more importantly, refusing to face the Iranian backed Shiite militia face-to-face in Tikrit, an important urban area. ISIS’ so-called earlier military victories were the capture of huge swaths of territory. In The initial huge land grabs by ISIS encountered minor resistance against lightly defended, poorly-equipped, disorganized opposition and dispirited Iraqi army troops.

After months of egging on potential sophisticated adversaries, ISIS is learning why it should have been careful what it wished for with respect to facing well-equipped and highly motivated Shiite militias. These Shiite militia forces are essentially (disposing of the diplomatic niceties) a group of bad-ass fighting troops in a tough neighborhood, themselves not necessarily nice guys, in battle for power.

Beyond the current glowing news reports of the imminent defeat of ISIS at Tikrit, the nagging question is what class and component of ISIS fighters were defending Tikrit and are they representative of those defending a large urban area in Mosul? Were these indigenous war veterans, foreign fighters and what class of officers was leading them? How does this defeat impact the morale of the Mosul defenders: the leadership, indigenous and foreign?  Perhaps this was a genuine military victory for the Shiite militias.  Then again it could have been a tactical retreat by ISIS to defend a more difficult target in Mosul as a method of consolidation. ISIS’ credibility is on the cusp because a collapse in Mosul will mean its demise as a powerful menace in the region.

The demise of ISIS will not mean the demise of other militant groups in the region. Rather it will simply serve as a playbook for future militant groups on why they should maintain a lower profile and eschew overly ambitious territorial expansionism. Future militant groups will continue to capture the minds of the disenchanted, anti-western youth worldwide through more sophisticated propaganda through social media. This tactic supports a diffuse leadership in which there are few if any hard military targets. This new model makes recruitment even easier as malcontents can safely remain in the comfort of their home countries relatively safer than in the Middle East, North Africa or sub-Sahara Africa.

This, of course, makes life possibly more difficult for law enforcement because of still reasonably decent privacy protection laws. Nonetheless those laws are rapidly fraying every year after each threat as governments try justifying new legal surveillance methods to protect society. More frightening are privacy laws that are deliberately broken with the courts failing to duly punish law enforcement, especially against targets that were found to be innocent.

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