Reversing the Islamic State’s recent successes will not be a simple matter, and the solution will not be found solely in military might. Nor can it be achieved just by targeting foreign jihadis or in cutting off the group’s sources of funding. Instead, taking all those measures – and more – is the only realistic way to prevent the Islamic State growing stronger and bolder.
This package of responses must be done soon. In this context particularly, success tends to beget success and fighters with other militant opposition groups in Syria are being tempted to join the Islamic State’s forces.
To its credit, the international community is rising to the challenge. As The National reported, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have agreed to comply with a new United Nations Security Council resolution to cut off financing and other forms of material support for the Islamic State and for Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Jabhat Al Nusra. Six citizens – including two Saudi and two Kuwaiti – were named in the resolution as being part of the blacklisted Islamic State group. They could face loss of their citizenship.
There can be no doubt that the Islamic State is on the front foot. Advocates of the group were handing out leaflets in London a week ago, urging support for the new self-declared caliphate and saying: “The dawn of a new era has begun.” Similarly a photograph was taken of the Islamic State logo displayed on a smartphone screen outside the White House in Washington DC. It was tweeted as “a message from ISIS to US” that the group was “in your state, in your cities, in your streets”.
While these two incidents are of little more than symbolic stunts, it demonstrates a confidence that is drawing members of other jihadi groups into the Islamic State’s fold, making it stronger and improving its stated plan to expand further into Iraq.
Choking off the funding sources will diminish the intertwined factors of the Islamic State’s appeal and its capability. These kind of jihadist groups do not run on zealotry alone and require cold hard cash and other forms of material support for their success on the ground in Syria and Iraq.
Just as the flow of money has helped the Islamic State attract other militants to join it, cutting off those funding sources will help destabilise the group and lessen its aura. Together with military intervention of the kind that put Mosul Dam back under Iraqi control, the Islamic State can be defeated – as can the twisted ideology that prompted its rise.