Top 5 Ways Daesh/ ISIL is Losing, as it lashes out like a Cornered Rat

By Juan Cole

Daesh is what ISIL is called in the Middle East by the vast majority that doesn’t like it. It has not had a good month, suffering substantial setbacks in Iraq and watching with concern as the Damascus regime of Bashar al-Assad looks set to retake the major northern city of Aleppo, to the immediate west of Daesh’s territory in al-Raqqa Province. As its leadership panics, it turns to brutal images such as another beheading as a way of trying to calm down its terrified allies. Here are some of the setbacks:

1. On November 7, the leader of Daesh, Ibrahim al-Samarra’i, was wounded by a US airstrike on his convoy near Mosul. While he is not irreplaceable, as I argued at the time, his ignominious wounding surely lowered morale in the organization.

2. The Iraqi military is maintaining that it cleared Daesh elements from the oil refining city of Beiji, north of Baghdad. Since the organization makes some money by smuggling refined oil products, this loss hurts them in their bottom line.

3. The Iraqi military and its Shiite militia allies, along with some Sunni tribes, say that they have retaken from Daesh a key dam in the eastern province of Diyala:

4. In late October, the Iraqi Army and allied Shiite militias took Jurf al-Sakhr, a Sunni Arab town of some 80,000, away from Daesh, depriving them of a base south of Baghdad from which they could menace Hilla, the Shiite Shrine Cities, or Baghdad itself.

5. In Syria, the army of dictator Bashar al-Assad has regained the momentum in the past 18 months, and now seasoned Syria observers are actually contemplating the possibility that the army will take Aleppo back from the rebels there. That would put pressure on Daesh’s chief base, of al-Raqqah Province. Until recently the two sides have largely avoided closing with one another but they won’t have that option if Aleppo falls.

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16 Responses

  1. Daesh recklessly overextended themselves and is paying the price for such foolishness. Perhaps, American air power and Iraqi forces will be able to keep pushing hard and collapse ISIS lines before they can be stabilized.

    What’s bad for ISIS is also bad for the Republican hopes of starting a bigger conflict in Iraq and eventually with Iran. The Republican “ISIS now, Iran later” war plan just hit a big bump in the road.

    Plan B time for the Republicans.

  2. Considering these beheadings teleologicaly, it appears possible the ISIL objective is to provoke the US etc. into a boots on the ground invasion. The West is in economic meltdown, the populations are dead against more wars, elected leaders are far from popular. A spanner of Damocles suspended over the works?

    • “the populations are dead against more wars”

      It’s never difficult for Republican politicians to convince their followers of the need to fight at least one more war. Most of them still think invading Iraq was the right thing to do and George was a misunderstood war president.John McCain and many Republicans believe we had the war in Iraq won until Obama withdrew all of the troops.

      They’re easy.

  3. “Iraqi military and its Shiite militia allies”, i.e., the Shiites of Iraq, assisted by USA and Iran. America does not need to be involved in this religious war between Shiite and Sunni. It never ends, and this is exactly what Israel wants, with the US committed forever, against our vital interests. We could save so much taxpayer money by staying away, but Big Oil and the Israel lobby have other plans.

    • We are involved in this religious war anyway because the Sunni terrorists get their blood money from the oil sheikhs, whom we owe trillions to. The sheikhs are showing by their support for ISIS that they don’t mind any crime whatsoever to eliminate the Shia everywhere in the Islamic world; can you prove the same of the Shia?

  4. dave lavack

    glad to hear someone in US finally calling them Daesh. we should really stop calling them IS anything. they’re not Islamic or State

  5. It takes a while for the Narrative to catch up with the Dialogue… especially with all the echoes inside our Imperial Bubble…

  6. The key in 2006 and remains today – the Sunni Tribes. And the promised willingness of the Shia to truly share power. Such outcome did not occur while US withdrew and afterward (2009-2014). Much depends on decisions taken in Tehran and Riyadh (and Washington).

  7. They made a serious mistake by associating themselves with a particular territory. Their military capability is not to be ignored, but they don’t have nearly the firepower to take on the U.S. and allies in the business of controlling geography. That is the conventional powers’ strong suit. They have set themselves up to be embarrassed.

  8. Glad to find a website about the mid-east with a few calm polite intelligent people.
    I wonder sometimes how much or if even all of the turmoil in this region is the result of U.S. manipulation. There is no doubt it is the direct result of British and U,S. actions in the past so that we could control oil supplies, at the cost of millions of lives and many many millions of impoverished and devastated people living under our regimes or regimes that were a response to our actions. The buzzards are coming home to roost finally for the USA and we are going down internally….so sad, but what happens when a nation has no moral foundation.

  9. While they may not have the firepower to overcome the US and its allies, the sheer will of Daesh to restore a united Islamic state seems to be enough motivation for them to persevere despite suffering great losses. This could likely be the reason why they prefer to be called the “Islamic State” as it refers to their intentions to restore and unite the land that was promised to be part of the Arab State following World War I. Some interpret this fight as both a religious war and a territorial war, an attempt to regain the land that was supposed to be part of the post-WWI Islamic State. Meaning, they are operating on a foundation of not only beliefs, but also avenging their betrayal.#MES20

  10. It is necessary to note the changing current perceptions of ISIL in the Middle East right now. Firstly, they are perceived as weakening, as more and more tribes and forces are coming under the Iraqi leadership to oppose the group. Secondly, they are unpopular among not only Shiite Muslim but also a majority of Sunni Muslims, a good number of whom would not be killed otherwise in ISIL’s march to conquer the region. ISIL’s slim hope of ruling a unified Muslim population in the Middle East is long gone as their perceived support base (consisting of Sunnis) is nonexistent, due to backlash at ISIL’s actions and/or fear of ISIL by the base itself. Other recent developments contributing to this change are the success of America and Iraq in wiping out major ISIL elements and even the possibility of Assad’s army reclaiming Aleppo. ISIL seems to be weakening fast. #MES20

  11. Cornered rats. Dead enders. What is going to be the next epithet used to dismiss Iraq’s astonishingly resilient guerrilla movements?

    Dr. Cole, it was only a few years ago that you considered Iraq’s Sunni guerrillas already to be politically irrelevant.

    link to

    You may notice that I left a sceptical comment then, as I again do now.

    ISIS controlled little or no territory a year ago. Let’s suppose that a year from now, they again control little or no territory. Would that mean that ISIS is defeated? Maybe, maybe not. Do people fight for ISIS because they want to own some land? I don’t know, but I suspect not.

    Perhaps ISIS is mostly about the fightingness, and outcomes are merely token things which lie wrapped in the bloody shrouds of the future.

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