Fighting terrorism after Mosul and Raqqa
In the midst of turmoil, the Middle East and North Africa region may be at a turning point.
Three years after the Islamic State (ISIS) captured the Iraqi city of Mosul, there is hope that a new day is dawning. Iraqi forces have recaptured Mosul’s iconic Great Mosque of al-Nuri from ISIS fighters and the city’s inhabitants can contemplate a future free of control by the brutal extremist group.
In Raqqa, the Syrian city that served as capital of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate from 2014, US-backed forces say they are quickly encircling ISIS.
Developments in Mosul and Raqqa show that ISIS is rapidly losing ground in Iraq and Syria. Of course, it is not totally defeated as a fighting force and the perverted ideology it espouses remains a threat in disparate parts of the world.
But, three years to the month from ISIS’s messianic proclamation of a “caliphate,” the group is on the run, harried, hunted and pursued throughout the region by armies big and small. Even to its followers, the ISIS narrative of a messianic conquest lies in ruins, just like the al-Nuri mosque that the group destroyed before it fled Mosul.
The recent success in fighting ISIS would not have been possible without a renewed sense of determination on the part of the international community and the resistance offered by local populations. Still more is needed. Even after retaking Mosul and Raqqa, extremism will remain a potent force for ill. Flushed out of the Levant, many ISIS militants could return to their countries of origin or fan out across the world to pursue their deadly mission.
Both will be a problem. Large numbers of marginalised Muslim young people are attracted to ISIS’s blood-soaked message. Therefore, dealing with radicalisation — its causes and consequences — is as urgent as it ever was.
Then there is the issue of terrorist financing. There are many sources of financing for extremist activities. For the sake of global peace and security, the taps of all terrorist financing, from every source, must be turned off.
In this regard, the crisis over alleged Qatari involvement in terrorist financing has already produced results. It has taken the issue centre stage. The world is talking about the subject. More than ever, an international consensus is building on the need to address the issue with determination.
This is not a trivial development in the global fight against terrorism. Those who finance extremism seed insecurity, which hinders societal growth and development across the Arab world, the region most bloodied by terrorism.
The debate about terrorist financing and the charges levelled at Doha in this regard have had unexpected and interesting results. Jihadist militias in Libya are heeding the portents and dissolving on their own. It can hardly be reassuring for Qatar that its two significant allies in the crisis are Turkey and Iran, which are also accused of fuelling regional instability.
Doha should dispense with dilatory tactics, address the concerns raised by its neighbours and the United States and seriously examine the accusations of terrorist financing. In so doing, it would help the international community extend its fight against terrorism beyond the brave new dawn opening over Mosul and Raqqa.