Can the Ongoing Internal Feud Draw the End of ISIL Nearer?
The recruitment matters of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been actively discussed by analysts for years now. Less than a year ago, there was an ever increasing number of ISIL sympathizers that wanted to enlist in the ranks of this terrorist organization. However, times have changed and now ISIL is having a hard time recruiting new members.
As it has been noted by Foreign Affairs, there is something particularly terrifying about the idea of barbaric terrorists mobilizing from all corners of the world to decimate civilian populations in Iraq and Syria to help ISIL rapidly gain territory. It’s only natural that Western governments were preoccupied with those joining ISIL, since they were facing the prospect of battle-hardened jihadists returning home. But now, three years into its wars, its once mighty weapon is now threatening ISIL itself, since its foreign fighters are quickly becoming one of its biggest liabilities.
According to the Die Welt, to replenish militants in its ranks, after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, ISIL began recruiting new members via short message services (SMS). Young Muslims all across Brussels, including those in the Molenbeek community which is widely considered a breeding ground for extremist sentiments, received the following message: “My brother! Why are you not fighting the West? Make the right decision in your life!”
The German Sueddeutsche Zeitung has also been discussing the extensive use of the Internet by ISIL recruiters in a bid to find potential fighters for new terrorist attacks, citing data provided by German police. The members of a special “July” commission (die Sonderkommission “Juli”) that was created to address this phenomenon by the Bavarian State Police believe that extremists are scanning the net in a bid to find young people who can potentially be indoctrinated with their poisonous ideas. Once they are hired, ISIL instructors are contacting them to provide recommendations on the selection of targets for terrorist attacks and to motivate them into murdering people.
The growing threat of terrorist attacks in Europe committed by lone wolves that would be receiving instructions from ISIL via the Internet has been announced by the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Massenya. According to this official, in Germany extremists are often using the social network Facebook, and instant messengers like WhatsApp and Telegram to find new recruits. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, 12 out of 15 terrorist attacks that have been committed in Europe in the last two years were executed by lone wolves. In a number of cases police officers found evidence of them obtaining instructions from ISIL via the Internet.
As for deploying foreign recruits on the actual field of battle, it’s also no secret that ISIS has long employed deep institutional discrimination in its military orders, since a fighter’s relative position in the hierarchy is based on his nationality. It’s been announced that Americans, Europeans, and Eastern Europeans (including Russians and Chechens) occupy middle-rank administrative positions in factories and training camps and on front line military bases; “Chines” (Central Asian) ISIS militants are primarily used as suicide bombers. Native Arabs are divided into two groups; those in top-level leadership positions and those in the lowest possible positions.
However, according to local ISIL fighters, foreign fighters are more trouble than they’re in fact worth on the battlefield. Foreign fighters’ inability or unwillingness to cooperate with local fighters has culminated in deadly races for money and power, though it should have been obvious from the start that local and foreign fighters would have different goals. Local militants used to believe that Western foreign fighters were true believers, highly professional and educated. Now local people see these foreign fighters as thugs. Moreover, when a dispute between foreign and local fighters reached ISIL courts, foreign fighters pressured judges to decree harsh sentences (like the death penalty) for local fighters they disagree with.
Therefore, successful advancements against ISIL are not the only factor that may lead to the soon demise of this terrorist organization. It’s the competition between natives and migrants for power in ISIS and other terrorist groups that may give us hope for a future victory over this black plague of our time. But one could hardly argue that this victory won’t be achieved much sooner if there is comprehensive cooperation in anti-terrorist activities carried out by various international players, yet the West seems to be keen on seeking confrontation with Russia instead.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”
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