Caliphate no more?

Iraqi forces celebrated a significant military victory as it announced that it had recaptured the Grand al-Nuri Mosque from the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Mosul. This is a significant development as it is the same historic mosque where ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi..

Iraqi forces celebrated a significant military victory as it announced that it had recaptured the Grand al-Nuri Mosque from the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Mosul.

This is a significant development as it is the same historic mosque where ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had stood upon in 2014 and declared a “Caliphate”.

Background

Built sometime during late 12th century, the mosque was built by Nur ad-Din Zangi, who reigned over the Syrian province of the Seljuk Empire as a member of the Turkish Zengid dynasty. He is a revered figure in the region with tales of his battles against the Crusades regarded as legendary victories.

In 2014, ISIS took over large parts of the city of Mosul and effectively drove away the Iraqi army. The mosque holds significance with ISIS as its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first and only public appearance in that location and declared a “caliphate”.

However, since 2014, ISIS has lost much of its money and its hold over Iraq and Syria. In May 2017, the US Defense Intelligence Agency announced that ISIS has lost 65 percent of its land in Iraq and 45 percent in Syria.

Analysis

The country was shaken on June 21, 2017, when reports emerged that ISIS had destroyed one of the most revered landmarks in Mosul. While the militant group had wreaked havoc on a significant portion of the city when it initially took over in 2014, the mosque was left unharmed until now. Perhaps ISIS reasoned that allowing the Iraqi army to capture the mosque as it stood would have been too much of a moral victory for the Iraqi forces.

That’s because since October 2016, the Iraqi forces have launched one of its most aggressive attacks against ISIS. The offensive called Operation We Are Coming, Nineveh has been largely successful in combating ISIS forces.

Assessment

Our assessment is that with depleted resources, ISIS does not have the military wherewithal to continue fighting the Iraqi forces backed by Western allies. However, this may not mean the end of ISIS. It is likely to find new ways to resurrect itself and establish the relevance of its crusade to its followers worldwide.  

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