Tagged: Washington Institute for Near East Policy

US intelligence official: Gains against IS in Iraq, Syria fragile

(VOA) — The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State has been able to decimate the terror group’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria but these gains could be easily undercut by continued instability, a U.S. intelligence official warned Tuesday.

“In the near term, I worry about a loss of gains in Syria and Iraq,” David Cattler, of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Tuesday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done there,” he said.

The Islamic State terror group has lost thousands of fighters and has been expelled from more than 98 percent of territory it held for over three years in Iraq and Syria.

Last year the group was pushed out of its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in Syria and declared defeated in Iraq.

Now the coalition is helping the Syrian Democratic Forces to finish off IS remnants in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

IS global ideology

Cattler said IS ideology continues to resonate globally as it tries to adjust to the losses in the region.

In Syria, he warned that gains are threatened by increased complexity in the battlefield where allies and enemies compete for influence.

“The United States, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia are all combating ISIS. We are fighting the same enemy as our adversaries. As such, they too will likely reap the benefits of a ‘peace dividend,’” Cattler said.

Meanwhile, Turkey and the Kurds, both U.S. allies, have turned on each other, thereby diverting attention from IS, he added.
Displaced Iraqi people are seen at the Amriyat al Fallujah camp in Anbar Province, Iraq Jan. 3, 2018.
Displaced Iraqi people are seen at the Amriyat al Fallujah camp in Anbar Province, Iraq Jan. 3, 2018.

Sunni Shiite dynamics

In Iraq, he said, gains are endangered by increased political instability fueled by reconstruction challenges and lack of trust between Sunni residents and the Shiite-dominated central government.

“Even if these do not lead to the group’s resurgence, fears of reprisals and Sunni grievances due to political marginalization, discrimination, and delays in reconstruction may hamper the reconciliation necessary for a sustained peace, which is a key U.S. objective,” he said.

Islamic State is believed to have exploited Sunni fears of Shiite domination to seize large swaths of predominantly Sunni regions in 2014. Sunni leaders have already accused the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces of committing crimes in Sunni areas retaken from IS and have asked for the disbanding of the group.

But the Shiite leaders reject those claims and say the group needs to be given an institutionalized role as an effective fighting force to prevent the re-emergence of IS.

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ISIS has up to 42 million supporters in the Arab world

(THE CLARION PROJECT) — by Ralph Mauro

An analysis of four polls surveying Arab public opinion towards the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) reveals that the group has a bare minimum of 8.5 million strong supporters and that’s a conservative estimate. If you include those who feel somewhat positively towards the Islamic State, the number rises to at least 42 million.

The estimate is based on a March 2015 poll by the Iraq-based Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies; a November 2014 poll by Zogby Research Services; another November 2014 poll by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and an October 2014 poll by the Fikra Forum commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The following is a breakdown of the support for the Islamic State in 11 Arab countries:

Iraq

The November 2014 poll by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies found that 2% of Iraqis view the Islamic State positively and another 4% view it positively to some extent. The March 2015 poll found that 5% do not consider the Islamic State to be a terrorist group.

With a population of 32,586,000 according to the CIA World Factbook, that means the Islamic State has between 651,720 and 1,955,160 supporters in Iraq.

Syria

Seventeen percent of Syrians said that they completely support the Islamic State’s goals and activities in the March 2015 poll. That statistic grows to 27% when you account for Syrians who do not consider the Islamic State to be a terrorist group.

The November 2014 poll interviewed 900 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and found that 4% are positive towards the Islamic State and another 9% are somewhat positive. This should raise serious concerns for countries that are accepting refugees from the civil war.

With a population of 17,952,000, that means the Islamic State has between 3,051,840 and 4,847,040 supporters in Syria.

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