After al-Baghdadi, in 2013, in an amazing and not at all Shari'i way, he appointed himself a “caliph” and called on all the faithful to make hijra (resettlement) in territories controlled by the caliphate, it seemed that his pseudo-state had a long-term perspective. Al-Baghdadi’s call was reportedly answered by over 45 of thousands of Muslims living throughout the world, from the United States and Europe to Nigeria. As of 2014, the “caliphate” of ISIS occupied an area of over 30 thousand square kilometers, which is the territory of Belgium, and, according to some estimates, its size reached the area of Great Britain. On the lands of the “caliphate” 8 millions of people were living. At the same time, the security of the “caliphate” is ensured by battle-hardened and numerous militants, basically newcomers, capable of successfully fighting regular armies. At the same time, the main population, with the exception of 45 thousands of new arrivals, is made up of local residents.
It would be a mistake to assume that the terrorist group of ISIL consists entirely of militant sadists and psychopaths enjoying the monstrous pictures of mass executions, incineration, beheadings and the slave trade. Of course, they exist, and there are many of them, but they constitute the lower level and are used mainly to maintain the obedience of the population and intimidate opponents. But in general, the device of the “caliphate”, thanks to the effective management of al-Baghdadi, has acquired quite state outlines: it has created state institutions of power, police, legal proceedings based on interpretations of Sharia and maintaining order with blood-chilling punishments. It even provides social guarantees, education (albeit exclusively theological) and support for immigrants, moreover, at the expense of the tax system created in it.
This is the main difference between ISIS and its al-Qaeda antagonist. While al-Qaeda prefers shady activities, creating secret cells in different countries and conducting secret negotiations with its supporters, ISIL performs in advertising and flashy style, presenting any, even slight success, as an indicator of strengthening its power and statehood.
For example, the actual merging of al-Qaida with the Taliban, which undoubtedly strengthened both already powerful groups, was almost imperceptible. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, as a representative of the old terrorist school, confined himself only to distributing his audio oath to the Taliban leader Mansur Akhtar. At the same time, ISIL widely advertises the oath of militants "Boko Haram" and parts of the Libyan tribal gangs, as well as, albeit much more modestly, the single oath of the leaders of the almost destroyed militants of the North Caucasian gang underground.
In fairness, it should be noted that at the initial stage, al-Qaida operated on similar scenes of violence and horrible executions; it suffices to recall the activities of its militants in Iraq after the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein. However, al Qaeda, unlike LIH, is now trying to "win hearts and minds", while al-Baghdadi, in typical American style, has relied on the external attributes of statehood embodied in his "caliphate." And, of course, he offers people not only horrific cruelties and continuous clashes - the “caliphate” operates with much more peace-loving concepts for its adherents.
In the situation of anarchy and violence prevailing in Syria and Iraq, it is the “caliphate” that offers those who do not accept the secular model of the state (mainly radical Muslims who adhere to the strictly Sharia model) guaranteed security, social security and the satisfaction of basic economic needs, while maintaining any through diligently propagated piety. Of course, many of those who fell under the rule of the "caliphate" have no other choice, but adherents of the Sharia system in matters of vital activity of the "caliphate" are enviable active, inspired by their honorable mission of restoration historical justice of the times of the Righteous Caliphs and seeing in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “amira al-muminin”, that is, the true ruler of the faithful.
However, faith alone is not enough to build a state. The necessary economic sources of income, resources, production. And partly ISIS possesses these levers at the expense of seized production assets in the form of Iraqi and Syrian enterprises, dumping trade in oil products, taxes, ransoms for stolen goods, sales of cultural and historical values and, most importantly, through external financing.
Many consider that the sponsors of the “caliphate” of ISIL are directly to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, especially the latter. However, it should be noted that at the state level, not a single dinar in the ISIS piggy bank from these richest countries goes quite the opposite: Riyadh and Doha provided their air bases for the anti-IGIL coalition bombers and even participate in striking militants. The main financial flows go to the “caliphate” exclusively from private individuals, who are a local oligarchy, which is practically uncontrollable by the authorities, but has huge interests in the conflict zone. And until the end of 2014, the flow of funding only increased.
However, in the fall of 2014, the situation changed dramatically. Claims of ISIL have increased immeasurably, primarily due to the same clashes of interests between the Saudi oligarchs and the intentions of Euro-American partners in the region, for whom the extension of the ISIL zone of influence has become a serious threat. The economic losses of Middle Eastern countries from the activities of terrorist groups ranged from 10 to 30 percent of GDP.
Most branches of the economy and social sphere of the Middle Eastern countries depend on Western technological investments (for example, Saudi Arabia uses only Western production equipment in oil production), on external freight traffic, including through the Suez Canal, tourism and leased production resources. Taking these factors out of circulation or being hindered by the activities of ISIL is also significant for other countries using these industries, including those that have no connection to the Middle East region. That is why an intergovernmental coalition was created in 2015 to fight ISIS.
It includes the United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Turkey, Iran and Russia also expressed their positive position on countering ISIL. An important part of the coalition’s military composition was formally not part of the Kurds of Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
I would like to note that the “Caliphate” itself, as a pseudo-state entity, inhabited mainly by local residents who had previously lived in these territories, presents practically no threat to the surrounding countries. The danger comes from the numerous fighters who have arrived from other countries and have been combined into maneuverable combat detachments. In fact, the “caliphate” in its full functionality is only where these groups are located. Where they are not, people continue to live their normal lives.
Coalition countries have vast resources. The United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey are bombing ISIS positions in Syria, the United Kingdom, France and Australia, supported by the United States, are air strikes in Iraq. Only the United States spends 9 million dollars daily to provide ISIS air strikes.
The “caliphate” also suffers from ground forces. The Shiite group Hezbollah, equipped and trained by Iran, the Sunni people's militia Hashd al-Shaabi, the Iraqi regular army squeeze ISIS to the north of Iraq, where violent clashes of bandit groups with Kurdish militias take place, take part in battles with ISIL militants. And of course, the Syrian army bears the main burden in eliminating the militants.
What did it do? ISIS militants are driven out of the cities of Kobani and Tal Abyad, adjacent to the Turkish border. In Iraq, the “Lions of the Caliphate” are expelled from Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, a stronghold of the Sunni community of Iraq and a battery of oil production. True, ISIS continues to hold Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, captured in June 2014, but after 2 months, militants lost control of the keys to the city - water dams that supply water to the city, and government forces continue to compress the ring around Mosul.
Despite the individual tactical successes of ISIL, such as the May seizure of Ramadi in the Iraqi province of Anbar (less than 160 km west of Baghdad) and a monument of architecture, the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, they have nothing to do. The territory of the “caliphate”, which mainly extends to undeveloped desert and agricultural areas, has now declined by more than a third compared with 2014 year.
At the same time, the ongoing air strikes and battles of local significance with the current intensity, obviously, could not and will not be able to further terminate the existence of the “caliphate”. Although the influx of recruits to ISIL has significantly decreased (by and large, the majority of those who wanted to go to the Caliphate are already in it), and among the militants there is a growing frustration with the futility, corruption, theft and the constant death of comrades, the war in the region will continue at least because it is a seething mass of ethnoreligious communities and terrorist groups at war with each other.
And this situation is not able to reverse any fire strikes of the entire coalition. As a result of these clashes, even despite the cessation of the influx of fighters from the outside, the region itself will increase the number of trained, tempered and past combat experience of armed formations from among the local residents, who in the conditions of devastation and anarchy will inevitably turn into a serious, albeit scattered force. under the flag of the caliphate, a kind of hydra, which, when cutting off one head (ISIS), grows new ones in the form of various "fronts", "jamaats" and "parties".
With seeming antagonism of factions - for example, between ISIS, Jabhat an-Nusroy, Jaish Muhajirin Val Ansar and others, bloody battles take place for influence in certain areas — all of them are at the same time opposed to resolving the situation, in a united front opposing military measures taken West. But even in this case, the “caliphate” is less dangerous than al Qaeda - at least all indicative executions of foreign citizens occur, according to ISIL, “in response to the bombardment”, while al Qaeda does not need pretexts Considering the attacks the main form of offensive war.
We must understand that this is why ISIS, as the brainchild of the United States, was created to overthrow Assad and dismember Syria, is much less dangerous for the United States itself than al-Qaeda. ISIS, in spite of wild acts of sadism and cruelty, does it more to plant the extremely radical branch of Salafism (Wahhabism) among the local population and religious minorities - Christians, Shiites and Yezidis, instilling obedience with fear. For the United States and their partners, this, in principle, does not play any significant role. By the way, unlike Al-Qaeda, ISIS has not carried out (has not yet carried out) a single terrorist attack against the United States and its Western allies, at least, a success.
In this connection, the positions of the US government and its military-political leadership, which abandoned the practice of expanding air strikes, limited themselves to “surgical” selective targets, which were noted even by the Russian Foreign Ministry, expressing bewilderment by American actions, in which, knowing where the major militant formations are, The Pentagon does not hit them. The US is not interested in the rapid and complete destruction of the “caliphate”, knowing full well that the risk of terrorism after its elimination will increase dramatically due to the rampant unregulated gangs and the almost unhindered possibility of transcontinental movement of their members.
Thus, the "uzhaty" caliphate fully meets the interests of the United States as a counterweight to al-Qaeda and the ability to manipulate the activation of ISIS militants in one direction or another, stopping strikes there and turning off for the time being hostilities by the coalition forces.
However, the existence of a caliphate, even in its truncated and regulated form, is quite understandable not in the interests of Syria, as a replacement for which it was created. The enemy at the gate, constantly tormenting a weakened SAR, requires either complete liquidation, on which, in fact, Russia insists, or the cessation of encroachment on its territory, with which the United States, striving to overthrow Assad, does not agree.
This is where the interstate contradiction between Russia and the United States, which led to a surge in anti-Russian hysteria in all Western media. Although the declared goals are the same - fighting terrorism - the emergence of Russian weapons in Syria, destined to destroy ISIL, is negatively perceived by Washington, because it understands - there will be no compromise on the issue of fighting terrorism from Russia, which means US geopolitical interests are in the region under the threat of losing such an effective tool as the “caliphate”.
Nevertheless, the Russian diplomatic corps managed to convince its American counterparts that the appearance of Russian weapons in Syria was not directed against the United States, but intended exclusively to fight terrorism. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry, calling on Moscow and Tehran to help end the civil war lasting more than four years, said that "at the moment, according to our military and experts, the size and type (of Russian weapons in Syria) meet the protection tasks" and added that the US is ready to immediately begin negotiations on a political settlement in Syria. In a similar vein, foreign ministers of Great Britain and Austria also spoke today.
The clear success of Russian diplomacy, testifying to the growing influence of Moscow in the Middle East, does not at all indicate the weakness of the United States. It is not yet known how the next round of talks on the Syrian issue will end, but what Russia will never agree with is the abolition of Syria, and the United States is well aware of this. However, by proclaiming a policy of fighting the “caliphate”, the United States and its allies put themselves within the harsh framework of the need to follow it.
Obviously, the best method is clearly coordinated powerful blows of all sides against ISIL and other terrorist groups that make up the fighting force and cementing the “caliphate”, without which it will disintegrate. Most likely, it is from September that the irrevocable decline of this pseudo-state entity begins, if the West and Russia decide to act in concert and firmly.
If we talk about the military component, then most likely, Russian participation will be aimed at supporting the actions of ground Syrian troops to the borders of Syria, and the Americans and their allies will act similarly from Iraq, ensuring the promotion of the Iraqi army, pro-Iranian troops and Kurds. Egypt will make a contribution, ensuring the liberation of the Sinai Peninsula from the branch of ISIL - Ansar al-Beit Makdis. The rear sweep of the territory of the remaining militants will be carried out by territorial militia units. Of course, the duration of such an operation will stretch for several months due to the large size of the territory and the mobility of terrorist units, but it is feasible subject to the adoption of an agreement on the preservation of the state borders of Syria.
Anyway, the “caliphate” is doomed. He did not fulfill the task entrusted to him, becoming only an advertisement for a hotbed of terrorist threat and a source of instability in the region. So it's time to get rid of him. And al Qaeda, hiding in anticipation of a breakthrough on the free operational space, will come to the fore again.