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Propaganda and hope provide false impression of the defeat of "Islamic State" (Da'esh)

Nigel Morris-Co...

A leader in The Economist echoes the official position of, in particular, the USA in saying that "the Iraqi Army is on the brink of defeating Islamic State." In what sounds like a dangerous reprise of the claim that the war in Iraq was won, the assumption that clearing Mosul of this criminal gang will rid the world of its dangers is, and was always going to be, wrong, says Nigel Morris-Cotterill.

The naivety of those who imagine that repossessing Kabul will destroy Da'esh would be endearing if it was not so dangerous. Da'esh is not a disease or virus that spreads by touch or in commonly breathed air: it is an ethos, an ideal more than an ideology. For those that join, it is either a statement of a form of belief that they have formed or it is, in a way that joining Al Capone's gang was glamorous, a way of gaining some form of recognition from third parties.

Da'esh is, simply, a criminal gang. It has always been a criminal gang. It will always be a criminal gang. It kidnaps, tortures, rapes and murders. It steals and what it can't steal, it destroys. It operates outside the laws of countries and religion, seeking to pretend it is a country and redefining what it claims to be religion.

In the command centre responsible for the eastern half of the city, which was liberated in December, Brigadier Qais Yaaqoub was jubilant. “They are in full collapse now,” he said. “When an army breaks it happens very quickly. Within a week or two, this will all be over.” He may be speaking prematurely, but probably not by much.

- The Economist 8 March 2017 : http://www.economist.com/news/...

The fact is that Da'esh has long mutated away from being a military force with a single locale. Its leaders have relocated and its infrastructure, such as it was, has dissipated. It is almost a state of mind rather than a state like a country.

Da'esh has always aimed at having a homeland but its homeland is not, for the foreseeable future, defined by an area of land carved out of one of more countries. Its ideal homeland has no political borders, no legal boundaries other than those it defines for its own members and those it subjugates.

There are, broadly, four types of members of Da'esh:

1. Those who have delusions of grandeur and put themselves in the purported position of religious leaders.

2. Those who join because they fall for one of the various forms of rhetoric that group one pump out. This may be that Islam is great, that Islam is under threat or that all infidels must die. These join to be, as they see it, soldiers for Islam, not realising that Da'esh is not a representation of any form of Islam except in the minds of delusional and power crazed men and, to a lesser extent, women. These sympathisers would, in other times, be communists or hard-line socialists, or fascists. They see themselves as having found a home, a place where people who think like them really believe they can change the world for the better.

3. Those who join join to fight or to provide support. They are vulnerable but not necessarily weak, as many suggest. It is not an easy thing to leave home and travel, often under subterfuge, half-way across the world, even if one is in pursuit of a dream. It is not fashionable to say so but there are strong similarities between the migration to join Da'esh and the Pilgrim Fathers heading to the USA.

4. Those who are, simply, adventurers. Why go bungy jumping when you can play with tanks and rocket launchers and, at least until recently, get paid for it? These may or may not have some sympathy for the cause. Some are just teenagers acting out, the equivalent of the Mods and Rockers of the late 1950s. Think of any youth movement with a charismatic leader with a hint of danger and youngsters will flock to it.

It follows, then, that unlike running a business, or the property market, the most important thing is not location, location, location. The most important space, the space where the real battleground is to be found, is the fertile land between the ears of the young and idealistic.

It is interesting that the very class of people who have been joining Da'esh is the very class of people that the UK Labour Party and other left wing groups said were the reason that the UK's "Brexit" vote supported Leave: they say that the vote would have been different if those younger than 18 had been allowed to vote. The battle for the minds of impressionable youth is not fought only by criminal gangs and pretend religious groups.

As I pointed out in my book The Ten Real Life Exploits that Da'esh/ISIS use to Hack the World Da'esh is everywhere that communications can reach. It does not need a large force in one place: it can create havoc with a single message sent to a single mobile phone. Its ability to propagate information and disinformation websites is, today, child's play. If each recipient of a social media message posts it to 100 people, within three steps that message is in front of one million people. It doesn't take a big percentage of those to think that they would like to help for there to be many incidents.

Ironically, those incidents, unlike the core Da'esh activity, are actually terrorism because the people who act do so for what they perceive as an ideological reason. The real danger in Da'esh is not what it does in a broken down city in Iraq, but what it does in the heads of a young person in some other part of the world.

No, Da'esh is not on the brink of defeat. It is simply moving, like the undercurrent of a tsunami, across the world until there is a wave of destruction as it reaches, with force, the rest of humanity.

Until then, to pretend that we should let down our guard is dangerous to the point of stupidity. Instead, ordinary people must pay more attention to those around them, especially those who start a move towards a harder interpretation of religion.

Those who press for hudud or Sharia law where there has, previously, been none or very little are a clear sign of danger, both in countries with minority and those with majority Muslim populations. Their aim is to undermine the rule of law, to undermine democracy for those are inconsistent with their own contorted view of Islam.

Christianity has suffered similar take-over bids: for example, Oliver Cromwell banned various forms of entertainment, such as singing and dancing, especially in mixed groups, as part of the Puritan movement. Some Pilgrims that went to what became the USA did so because they wanted to create a puritanical country: for them, the established church was not pure enough. This is a common theme in the rise of radical Islam: history is simply repeating itself. The USA remains a hotbed of radical Christianity and it has exported it, through missionary groups of young people with big smiles and smart clothes to the doorsteps across the world. The tactics are the same, only the delivery method is different, at least today. Those Pilgrims were invaders, in today's argot, insurgents.

We ignore history at our peril. We have seen great good but mostly great evil from charismatic leaders and those that reign through fear. Three days ago, I walked through the terminal at KLIA2, where KIM Jong Nam was allegedly murdered by agents of his brother, the Supreme Leader of totalitarian North Korea by two women who claim they were recruited, so far as they were aware, to take part in a reality TV programme. If their story is true, and there appears to be at least some evidence that it may not be, then we, as society, have to learn to be far more cynical than we have hitherto been.

But we also need to be sensible. We need to recognise that risks exist, to resist them when we are confronted with those who would reduce freedoms in the name of religion, no matter what the religion and no matter what their status, real or purported. We need to prevent the boa-constrictor like grip of religious zealots, be they Catholic, other Christian, Muslim, Jew or, even, Buddhist, for example. We must not imagine that his is a Muslim problem: it is not - all religions have those who try to impose their own perverted form of the doctrine on others, and they always, always, always, use the meek, the narrowly educated and the vulnerable as their first target group, always by promising them a better way of life, or after-life, if they do as they are told.

Martyrdom takes many forms. It does not always mean the end of human life. All religions have martyrs. All religions have what is, in Islam, called Jihad. In the so-called West (itself a silly, nebulous concept in this context), the term Jihad has been abused and given a false meaning. Jihad does not mean the laying down of one's life for the cause, nor does it mean committing a murder, etc. It has a far higher, more noble meaning, a meaning that other religions recognise. Jihad is acting in the service of God. It is supposed to be a good thing, not a bad thing. Christians had the Crusades: they could be classed as jihad except that they were, all too often, not conducted for good reason.

To defeat Da'esh, we have to operate within our own societies, not imagine that soldiers in the Middle East are going to win as our proxies. We have to stand up against radicalism, be it religious or political, and drive politics to the (true) centre and with it religion. We have to take religion out of politics, to effect a full separation of Church and State, and to take it out of the Courts. We have to remove restrictions on memberships of religions (both compulsory membership and denial of membership) and institute a freedom to move into and out of religions so that those who find themselves having made a mistake can admit to it and undo it.

Da'esh says that if someone converts to Islam and tries to leave, that is a capital offence. It says that those Muslims it has subjugated must not argue that if Da'esh is indeed a representation of Islam, they don't want to be Muslim and, if they do, they will be murdered.

No, Da'esh, Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL or whatever we might call it or it might call itself, is not on the brink of defeat. It's festering, bubbling like a pox, waiting to break out and infect millions.

The propaganda and hope is false and believing it is foolhardy.

For a lightweight explanation of puritans v pilgrims, see http://europe.newsweek.com/wha...

Nigel Morris-Cotterill is Head, the Anti Money Laundering Network, ultimate owner of this publication. He is author of "The Ten Real Life Exploits that Da'esh/ISIS use to Hack the World" - essential reading on the rapid rise of ISIS and how it will influence global organised crime. For more information, see http://www.countermoneylaunder...