Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Speccie reckons DA'ESH is in trouble

A number of press reports over the past few weeks suggest things are not going that well for DA'ESH, the self-styled Caliphate or "Islamic State."

In the past two months they have lost territory to the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq, to the Iraqi government, and in Syria. The black flag no longer flies over Sinjar, Komani, or Rabani. To maintain control through fear the leaders of DA'ESH have taken to publicly beheading their own fighters for running away or disobeying orders - one source suggests that that during a six month period last year they have executed 400 of their own for desertion or disloyalty.

Let's put that in context by comparison with the last conflict where our country used the death penalty for similar offences. I make this comparison to give an idea of the relative degree of bloodthirstiness, not because I wish to justify or defend in any way the execution of people we would now recognise as mostly victims of PTSD in more need of medical help rather than punishment. DA'ESH executed more of it's own people in absolute terms in those six months than the British military authorities did during the whole four years of World War One, the bloodiest war in our national history, when we were fielding armed forces several orders of magnitude larger than DA'ESH has.

The boasts of their propaganda look more like bombast than truth and only avoid being funny by including the wanton taking of human life. When the man who the press has described as the new "Jihadi John" sneers at David Cameron

‘how strange it is that the leader of a small island threatens us with a handful of planes. Only an imbecile would dare to wage war against a land where the law of Allah reigns supreme.’

those who know anything of history don't just remember that, not that long ago in historical terms, the small island concerned ruled the largest empire in history. In 1922 the British Empire governed about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world's population at the time, and it covered ire covered more than 13,000,000 square miles, almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area.

We also remember that, less than a century ago, that island waged war very successfully in the very lands concerned against a previous Islamic Caliphate which had a much better claim to the title than DA'ESH does. My grandfather served in General Allenby's British army which, with the aid of local people, took those lands away from the Ottoman Caliphate which had held them for centuries.

A good summary is given in the Spectator in an article called

"The truth about Islamic state: it's in crisis."

We are a long way, sadly, from the comprehensive defeat and elimination of DA'ESH even in Iraq, let alone Syria, but the evidence that the so-called "Islamic State" has lost its' illusion of invincibility and is slowly losing the war is mounting up.

Unlike Al Qaeda, the self-styled "Islamic state" can be destroyed by military defeat precisely because it does claim to be a state and holding territory is fundamental to that claim.

The eventual defeat of DA'ESH will not be the end of religious extremism or of terrorism, because there will always be survivors who continue their campaign by other means. Nor will defeating DA'ESH on its' own solve the tragic crisis in Syria.

However, even just containing this particularly murderous strain of the disease of religiously-inspired terrorism has saved thousands of innocent lives, some of them British, many of them fellow Muslims. Removing them from Iraq, which there is a chance will happen in 2016, will save more.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the defeats suffered by DA'ESH over the past few months are not the end: they are not even the beginning of the end. But perhaps they are the end of the beginning.

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