Article in the Daily Telegraph: Isil: a failing state, a flourishing movement

Isil: a failing state, a flourishing movement

Islamic State will never succeed as long as most Muslims are against it

by Chris Doyle

26 February 2015

The so-­called "Islamic State" was fashioned from two failing states, Syria and Iraq. It will soon be joining them.

The trappings of statehood include its own currency, police and security forces, governors and a nominal territory that accounted for an area larger than Britain.

Having lost in Kobane despite a huge effort, being bombed from the air by the US­led coalition and pegged back largely by Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria, statehood looks increasingly frail. Its overt activity has been forced to become covert. On the defensive, its formal institutions are easily targeted and its communications compromised. Deserters are increasing in number. That the statehood experiment will struggle on still owes more to the weaknesses and divisions of those opposing it.

But the slow death of the state will not be the extirpation of Isil the movement. This period has allowed the accumulation of great wealth, resources, fighters and expertise as well as massive global profile. The movement may fragment and go underground but if anything will be an even greater threat, not least as it fosters branches in Libya, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If the state fails, it will return to being a far more dangerous non­state actor than it was a year ago. Do not forget that Isil is the just the latest regressive evolution of in al­Qaeda Iraq. And it can still pose as the champion of Sunni Muslims who feel excluded and marginalised. Its brand will remain powerful.

Yet the mythology around Isil is truly impressive. Much of this is of its own making, its slick online marketing show making rival userJihadis al­Qaeda look decidedly analogue and 20th Century.

For a start many of its adherents are not that pious, some barely familiar with the core teachings of Islam. Remember the wannabee Jihadis ordering "Islam for Dummies" from Amazon? In reality Isil’s support is not that huge in number.

500 British Muslims have gone out to join – including the man who has become the frontman for Isil's murder videos, Jihadi Johnnamed this morning as Mohammed Emwazi – but out of a population of nearly three million. Isil’s seizure of Mosul that shocked so many was largely as a result of its alliance with former Ba’athists from the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and because it faced a ghost army (One in three paid Iraqi soldiers did not exist). The area Isil purportedly controls is largely vast tracts of desert.

But the primary reason why Isil will never succeed as a state is that the vast overwhelming majority of Muslims detest it more than we can imagine. Focused as the international media has been with the killings of western journalists and aid workers, Iraqis and Syrians are fully away of the horrors of Isil’s rule, its decapitations, crucifixions and violence. The filming of the burning of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al­Kasaesbeh served merely to unite Jordan, not divide it.

Muslims, the world over, know that the greatest victims of al­Qaeda and Isil attacks are Muslims. One survey showed that from 2004­ 2008, of all al­Qaeda’s victims, 15 per cent were western.

Perhaps more Muslims could confront extremism not just condemn it, but for many of them, it carries a great risk. Like a Sicilian speaking out against the mafia, the costs can be fatal. Isil has majored in fear and intimidation.

But the essential reality that western leaders in particular fail to realise and build on is that Muslims can be and should be our greatest ally in this struggle. Encouraged rather than chastised and humiliated they can take the lead.

In fact, as King Abdallah of Jordan told me in November, Muslims have to take the lead with the West supporting, not the other way round