Abdullah Hamidaddin/Where will ISIS be this time next year?

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Where will ISIS be this time next year?
Saturday, 27 December 2014
Abdullah Hamidaddin/Al Arabiya

Earlier this week, ISIS captured a Jordanian pilot part of the U.S. led coalition against the militant group. My heart goes out to his family, and to all the thousands of people brutally victimized by ISIS. The U.S. and the Jordanian government insist that his downed plane and was not shot down by ISIS.

The U.S./Jordanian denial is important to retain the morale of the coalition and to demean the military capacity of ISIS, but it does not make a difference to ISIS fighters, supporters and sympathizers. As far as those groups are concerned this is an indicator of the power of ISIS, and they may even see it as a turning point in the coalition’s recent successful air campaigns.

As far as ISIS is concerned, 2014 is ending with a small victory for them – even though the group does not recognize the Gregorian calendar’s New Year and only recognizes Hijri celebrations and milestones. There’s another small victory for ISIS, which is the absence of unanimous sympathy for the pilot since there are many in the region against the coalition strikes on Syria and Iraq. As much as those people hate ISIS, they hate the U.S. more. They also hold the U.S. accountable for the breakdown of order in Iraq which provided the right conditions for the inception and mushrooming of ISIS.

“We must fight them, eradicate them and confront their ideology”
This is not to mention the high number of people who actually see ISIS as a legitimate entity that may be going a bit too far in some of its practices; some even say that the brutal practices of ISIS are a natural phase in the evolution of a movement with a legitimate purpose that seeks to become a state – they even compare it the violence in the American and French revolutions.

So as the new year begins we still have a movement with enough military and financial capacity to retain much of its gains and a growing sentiment against American interventionism. In light of this where will ISIS be this time next year?

I will not try to predict where ISIS will be, but I can say with confidence that it will not evolve into a true state and that the borders of Syria and Iraq will not change (except if the Kurds gain independence).

This is because those borders are a product of a world order which ISIS cannot yet change and those borders have become to the vast majority of the region a reality. Much has been said about the coming end of the Sykes-Picot era, and about the un-natural borders which were drawn by the colonialists, but that is just empty talk. The borders are here to stay for the foreseeable future and neither ISIS nor any other militant movement can change that.

Another thing I can predict is that ‘ISISism’ will not end soon. ISIS in the final analysis is a product of power vacuums, local disorder, and widespread popular frustration due to the political and social injustices widespread in our region. If and when ISIS ends, others will come, and their tactics and violence will primarily depend on the power of the state which confronts them. I am pessimistic about the future of terrorism because a region susceptible to terrorism needs a long time before it regains its health and develops into one which repels terrorism.

I am also pessimistic because I do not have confidence in the capacity of this region to overcome its major societal and political challenges soon. This is not a call to surrender to the terrorists. We must fight them, eradicate them and confront their ideology. But we also need to be patient and focus on crisis management and crisis resolution strategies.