According to experts, the Islamic State is accumulating strength for revenge
Four and a half months after the defeat of the “last stronghold” of IS in Syria, the military, diplomats and experts on the Middle East are increasingly expressing doubts that the Islamists have really been defeated. According to many observers, the terrorist group is not only not destroyed – it is gaining strength for its “renaissance”.
James Jeffrey, the US special envoy to Syria, warned of this back in late March, when Syria celebrated the defeat of Baguz, a small village in which thousands of Islamists have entrenched. Jeffrey then said that “this is not the end of the battle … It will continue. This [will] be a different type of struggle “.
A series of new reports, which draws on data from the secret services of UN member states and sources in the Pentagon, indicate that IS is very well prepared for victory in this battle..
“As long as they make a profit, they will be in danger,” says the report “Comeback and Expansion?”, Released Thursday by research organization Rand Corp. The authors of the report studied the financial situation of the “caliphate” and the prospects for its revival after the defeat of the “IS” in Syria.
Rand experts estimate Islamic State’s financial assets at $ 400 million (as of early 2019). The authors of another report, compiled on the basis of intelligence data, indicate that even after the fall of the “caliphate,” the Islamists have at least $ 300 million at their disposal..
“They still have money that is more than enough to survive for a long time,” Howard Schatz, one of the authors of the Rand Corp. report, told Voice of America. “This is an organization that is financed from its own fund. Its expenses must be supported by income. We saw no evidence of depletion of its reserves, or signs that spending exceeded income, ”says Schatz..
Despite ongoing attacks against IS leaders in Syria and Iraq, the group’s infrastructure and finances have suffered little, researchers say..
According to US estimates, between 14 and 18 thousand members of the Islamic State now remain in Syria and Iraq, many of whom are active militants. Although many have gone underground, some of the militants continue to operate, organizing the assassinations of key politicians and public leaders in Syria and Iraq, as well as setting fire to crops in an attempt to organize riots..
Specialists participating in the US-led Operation Unwavering Determination to fight the Islamists also warn about the strengthening of IS on the territory of Iraq. Military and diplomats say IS has retained support among rural Iraqis that stretch south of Mosul all the way to Baghdad.
In Syria, there is also a “resurgence” of Islamists who have seized large camps for displaced persons, for example, in Al-Khol. Despite attempts by the Syrian Democratic Forces to protect Al-Hol, representatives of the coalition warned the US Department of Defense Inspector General that thousands of IS supporters were able to spread their ideology among the camp residents..
“We made it clear that there was still a lot of work to be done. ISIS is prepared to work underground, ”says Pentagon spokesman Sean Robertson..
Key IS leaders are taking part in the renaissance, including the self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to a recent UN report. “This process is more active in Iraq, where Al-Baghdadi and most of the leaders of the Islamists are based,” the report says..
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi
Coalition forces characterize the current terrorist strategy as “strategic calm”.
“While their leaders are hiding for self-preservation, some militant groups are trying to create safe havens,” a coalition spokesman said in a statement to Voice of America..
On Monday, IS published a new video on social media in which Al-Baghdadi addressed followers, urging them to avenge the defeat of the so-called “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. In recent months, several more videos have been published showing militants now in Africa, East Asia, the Caucasus and elsewhere, all swearing allegiance to the “caliph” al-Baghdadi.
“The so-called ISIS caliphate was destroyed. However, the ISIS brand continues to live on around the world, ”says Nathan Sales, State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator..
Researchers fear that IS may have another card in its hands that terrorists may try to play in their favor – detailed records of the inhabitants of territories that were once ruled by the “caliphate”.
“We know that during the Caliphate, the Islamic State collected financial information about the people living on its territory,” says Rand’s Schatz..
“I don’t think this information has disappeared,” he says, adding that the group “will know who to put pressure on at the right time” in order to get money from them for its development..