Geopolitical experts estimate that the terrorist group ISIS will remain an “unfixable” problem in the coming year.
The Eurasia Group, a political-risk research firm, released on Monday its analysis of the top-10 risks of 2016, and ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, and Daesh) made the list.
The group noted that international responses to ISIS have been “inadequate, misdirected, and at cross purposes.”
The analysis provides a good overview of the many facets of the ISIS problem:
The overwhelming majority of the response, and the debate on what more to do, will center on military solutions — bombing, special forces, arming the opposition, and boots on the ground. The United States and Russia will remain largely at odds over support for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the Saudis and Iranians will remain on opposite sides in terms of local proxies. Every marginal inch of IS stronghold will grow harder to regain. And even while military action will loosen the Islamic State’s grip on territory, international support for ISIS as a terrorist organisation will only grow.
Russia, which is bombing targets in Syria, supports the Assad regime, which has been known to carpet-bomb areas and kill civilians. ISIS, in turn, uses Assad’s atrocities to attract new recruits, pushing the message that ISIS can protect Sunnis targeted by Assad.
Geopolitical gridlock could further inflame sectarian tensions and play into ISIS’ message as Iran and Russia double down on Assad and Iraq continues to be caught between US and Iranian influence.
Eurasia’s analysis continued:
For progress, we would need to see change in the economic, social, and cultural opportunities afforded these populations. But 2016 will tip the needle in the other direction. Insecure Sunni governments will focus more on security, less on liberalization and economic reform. Depressed oil prices will make matters worse. Hostile responses in Europe to a mounting refugee crisis will make clear that displaced Syrian and other populations are increasingly unwelcome either in Europe or in countries along the road. Humanitarian aid will help but remain inadequate to the task, while leadership on accepting additional refugees will fall dramatically short.
The Eurasia Group also wrote that ISIS’ influence has been expanding well beyond its core territory in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has affiliates in Libya, Afghanistan, and Yemen, that are steadily growing in size and influence.
And the war against ISIS can’t just be fought on the ground and from the air — the group has a sophisticated propaganda operation and its message has been effective with many disenfranchised Sunni Muslims, The Eurasia Group notes.
“And so the threat from ISIS — as well as Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and new groups — will increase over the course of 2016,” Eurasia’s analysis concluded. “The most vulnerable states will remain those with explicit reasons for ISIS to target them (France, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United States — particularly US assets in the region), and those with the largest numbers of politically and socially alienated Sunni Muslims (Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and European countries).”
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