A new article in The New Yorker looks at post-ISIS Iraq and how the government may be making mistakes that could lead to an ISIS resurgence. Titled ‘Iraq’s Post-ISIS campaign of revenge.’
Heavy handed tactics are part of it. “The most powerful Shiite paramilitary units have a similar relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Security and intelligence officers from the Hashd still patrol the ruins of the Old City, occasionally making arrests. On August 30th, a group of them, dressed in plain clothes, detained me in front of the ruins of Thenoon Younnes Abdullah’s home, and questioned me for three hours. They photographed my face, passport, and Iraqi visa, and the commander, a wide-faced man who goes by Abu Ali, warned that I would be arrested if I returned to the Old City. Then two Hashd intelligence officers grabbed their Kalashnikovs, got into my car, and, with a follow vehicle, escorted me across the bridge to East Mosul,” writes Ben Taub.
Another issue is that ISIS slips through the cracks. “The process is so corrupt that, according to the official, ‘only the poor isis members go to court. The wealthy ones can buy their way out of the system.’ Unable to trust their colleagues in other departments not to release isis members, some intelligence officers have resorted to murdering high-value detainees,” Taub writes.
“The camps are a time bomb,” Younnis continued. “The fathers are in prison or dead. The mothers are being raped. They will raise the kids accordingly, and their sons will seek revenge. This won’t just affect Mosul, or Nineveh, or Iraq. This will affect the whole world.”
In another piece Jonathan Spyer sketches out how ISIS found a “niche” in Iraq, moving between villages south of Mosul and into an area between Peshmerga and Iraqi federal lines. He writes about “the Qara Chokh mountain range in northern Iraq is remote, parched and inhospitable.” This is what makes it attracted to ISIS as the group seeks to survive and re-group.
These build on a prediction made by Hassan Hassan in August that ISIS is ready for a resurgence. He looks a speech by the ISIS leader.
To explain how isis will transition into an insurgency, Baghdadi pointed to the past. He echoed the iconic words of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the original founder of the group, from 2006: “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify until it burns the Crusader armies in Dabiq,” the town in northern Syria that, according to some interpretations of Islamic tradition, will be the site of an epic battle between Muslim and Christian armies. isis has often pointed to Zarqawi’s statement as prophetic, since no signs of instability in Syria had existed at the time he made it. At two points in his speech, Baghdadi referred to Iraq as the source of the spark, and said that the war has been renewed following the loss of territory.
These articles are beginning to sketch a map of the ISIS plan. Hunker down as it has before in tunnels and ungoverned spaces, in rural areas. Use the local civilian population that supports it for a variety of reasons, some due to grievances and some due to ideology and religious extremism. And then wait for the government to weaken or wither and wait for the opening.