Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Yes, ISIS is destined to decline

This piece ignores the differences between "in decline" and "destined to decline."

ISIS has had its ups and downs in the past few months. For a while, it they had a bunch of losses. The Shiite militias in Iraq had stopped ISIS's advance towards Baghdad. They lost Hadatha dam and they lost the battle of Kobani. More recently, things have gone better for the group. They took Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, which put them closer to Damascus, and they are moving towards Palmyra. In fact, the Assad regime is slowly losing as other rebels groups have consolidated their control over Idlib province. While Idlib is under the control of al-Nusra and other rebel groups rather than ISIS, Assad's recent losses are good news for ISIS.

But recent successes do not mean that ISIS is not destined to decline in the future. I am confident that the group cannot sustain itself simply because its model is unsustainable. It can rack up victories in the short term, which will boost its recruitment and make further victories more likely. But the Islamic State's basic problems are still there: it is not very good at governing the places it controls, all of the powers in the region dislike the group, it has no above-the-board trade with the outside world and no prospect to have it any time in the future. ISIS is very good at attracting the violence-prone young Muslims from around the world and convincing other militant groups to pledge affiliation with ISIS. And it has been shown some talent at making the most of the he advantages that happen to come their way. But in terms of building a long term political entity with staying power, I don't think they can do it without diluting their "brand"--that is, becoming more pragmatic which would undercut the group's strengths.

I really think ISIS is doomed. Although it is going to be terrible for the people in Iraq and Syria until it reaches its ultimate and (I believe) inevitable demise.