The Islamic State (IG), banned in Russia, is more often demonized in the world media than analyzed. Meanwhile, the strategy and tactics of the IG and its sponsors and allies, its actions on the ground and the reasons for adjusting its course largely explain why the Western coalition headed by the United States so far cannot cope with it and is not too keen.
In Iraq, Syria and Libya, the war on terrorism has been going on for all of the past years with varying success, but the overall bill before the arrival of the Russian videoconferencing system in Syria was clearly in favor of the Islamists. In the area of responsibility of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the situation is changing, but in Iraq and Libya, as well as in the east of Syria, where the Western coalition operates, it attracts the close attention of analysts. Let us briefly describe what is happening in these regions, based on the work of the experts of IBI A. A. Bystrov and Yu. B. Shcheglovina.
Need for loyalty
The data on the basis of which it is possible to describe the tactics of the IG at the present time, are not secret. It can be stated that in the medium term, supporters of the IG will be forced to leave a number of major cities in Iraq and Syria.
“With the overthrow of Gaddafi, the main clamp, which united opposition groups to the former regime, disappeared”
The IG leadership is aware that it will be forced to leave Raqqa in Syria and Falluja in Iraq in the near future. At the same time, no decisive action by the coalition or the Iraqi forces to capture Mosul by the IS command is expected. This does not mean that cities will surrender without a fight. But resistance will be provided until it becomes clear that its continuation will lead to destruction with maximum damage to the local population. Given the dominance of the Sunnis in these cities, the conclusion is that the IG is concerned about preserving the loyalty of the local population. This allows you to act underground cells of the IG, dissolving, if necessary, among civilians.
Such tactics are the priority of supporters of the IG in the medium term. IG moves to a high-explosive mine war, ambushes and acts of individual terror. The loyalty of the population for the successful implementation of this tactic is required. This eliminates explosions during the retreat under the onslaught of the coalition and the Iraqi forces of such major infrastructure facilities as the Euphrates dam near Mosul, which will cause a regional catastrophe and leave the IG no chance for the support of the local population in the affected areas. While maintaining a clear inequality in the distribution of economic benefits and representation in the executive authorities in Iraq and Syria over the medium term, the IG will maintain a high level of support for the Sunni population. Especially since the command of the IG predicts marginalization of the Sunnis in these countries.
The transition to guerrilla warfare was entrusted with overseeing Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the deputy of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. One of the main forms of holding “actions of intimidation” should be the use of mined cars and their ramming against enemy checkpoints - both the military of Syria and Iraq, and competing groups. In the near future, a sharp increase in such attacks is expected. For this purpose, al-Adnani was instructed to expand the death row, for which the IG organized additional centers for their short-term training.
In addition, the IG created a special unit of the Al-Siddiq Brigade, whose competence includes conducting “actions of intimidation” abroad, primarily in the EU and the USA. It is not excluded and the intensification of terrorist activity in Russia. Al-Adnani has now instructed his deputies to conduct analytical work on this issue. This refers to the establishment of closer contacts with scattered groups of jihadists in the North Caucasus, who position themselves as supporters of the IS. The establishment of relations will go through the North Caucasian diaspora in Turkey and through the Chechens-Kists in Georgia.
Compromise with baathists
The limiting factor in this case is the availability of finances. Without them, talking about resonant actions is meaningless. Given the reduction in the financial base of the IG, it is likely that his leadership will be forced to choose the direction of the main strike. This, apparently, will not be Russia. For IG, it is important to have maximum impact on Europeans and, to the extent possible, on Americans. IG leaders need to pedal in the West the topic of the impossibility of establishing stability in Iraq and Syria without compromising on the issue of incorporating the Sunni elite into state authorities and thereby gaining access to the economic levers of managing the situation in these countries.
A landmark moment should be considered the gathering of former high-ranking Baathists in Paris on May 28 – 29. This event took place despite the blackmail of Baghdad, which threatened to end all ties with France on the PTS in the event of this meeting. Paris eventually refused visas to the two or three most messed up Ba'athists and sent to their congress retired politicians who remain in the power holder, including former Prime Minister J. de Villepin. Present at the event and the Americans.
Formally, the meeting was organized by the public organization Peace Ambassadors for Iraq (PAFI), led by Jamal al-Dari, nephew of Sheikh Haris al-Dari. The latter heads the tribal council of the goiter tribe from the clan group Shammar. Previously, he served as head of the Council of Ulama Iraq. Jamal al-Dari is an agent of influence of the General Intelligence Directorate of Jordan and the US CIA, which is used as an intermediary to convey information to one or another Iraqi tribal group or to obtain information from it. The very fact of such a meeting suggests that Washington and Brussels are increasingly beginning to think about finding ways to compromise with the Sunni elite of Iraq, regardless of their likes or dislikes towards Saddam Hussein and the IG.
In Syria, the United States is in favor of a political transfer of power and does not intend to send troops there. About this, speaking to graduates of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, said President Barack Obama. According to him, if Iran or Russia want to shed their blood in order to support Bashar Assad, then this is their decision. “As president of the United States, I made a different choice. The only real way to end the conflict is a political decision, which includes leaving Assad. This requires diplomacy, ”Obama said. “American troops should not be drawn into another civil war in the Middle East. Foreign policy must be carried out firmly, but reasonably. ” “As a father, when I look at Syrian children, I see mine. Therefore, we say: the dictator Asad should leave, and this is why we support the moderate Syrian opposition, ”he continued, saying that the US provides more humanitarian aid to the Syrian people than any other country.
The main message of this part of the speech of the American president was that when sending military units to other countries it is always necessary to think about the possible consequences: "We are responsible for giving our troops clear tasks and providing them with the support necessary for their implementation." Reality, however, refutes these words. So, the United States is drawn into a direct military conflict in Syria. At first it was exclusively an operation by the Air Force of the international coalition (90% by the United States Air Force) with the goal of “containing” the expansion of the Islamic State. "Containment" in the end did not work, because aviation without coordinating her strikes from the ground, achieving victory is unrealistic. You need a combination of these two factors.
Coalition airstrikes against the IG did not cause significant damage to the group. It was necessary to have military force acting against ISIS directly on the ground, in connection with which an adventure began to prepare the "new Syrian opposition." She brought losses to the US budget in 500 million dollars, several trained fighters (the rest went over to the side of the Islamists with weapons newest modifications) and no guilty ones. Before Washington, there was a choice - to support jihadist groups or Kurdish units controlled by the Party of the Democratic Union (PDS), which turned out to be the most organized military force in Syria, if we exclude the Assad army. The United States was in a situation where every step was fraught with reputational and political risks. If they are supported by jihadists, they are obvious. The support of Syrian Kurds annoyed Ankara, and even their area of activity was limited to the territory of traditional residence.
These risks were not miscalculated by the US military or were forgotten due to political priorities - the need to give an adequate response to Moscow at any cost. Initially, the Pentagon and the CIA were impressed by the hidden entrance of Russia to Syria. Then they bombarded the Obama administration with reports that Moscow was repeating the Afghan experience and, together with sanctions, this would soon lead to a fall in the Russian regime. At the same time, none of the American analysts assumed that in this case, Russia took the Soviet mistakes into account, the degree of Moscow’s participation in the Syrian civil war was chosen optimally. And this allows it to effectively and effectively influence the situation in Syria, severely limiting the forces and means.
Let the Americans fight
The only real response to the current situation for the United States is to take the Syrian “capital” of Raqqah’s IG. Fortunately, there, as suggested by American intelligence, is the head of the IG Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In fact, it is not there, nor in Mosul. He is currently moving around Mosul, constantly changing overnight stays in accordance with the new IS tactics. But Rakku need to take. In the face of harsh rejection by Sunnis from the Forces of Democratic Syria (SDS), hastily put together by the Americans to take Racca, the prospects for the capture of the Arab city by the Kurds did not leave the United States any other choice but to send its special forces to the first line of contact with the enemy. The pro-American Arab militias themselves cannot take Raqqa because of their small numbers.
On May 22, during a meeting in Kobani, between Arabic VTS commanders and the commander of the central command of the Pentagon, General J. Wojtel, the latter was presented with an ultimatum. Either he does not allow Kurdish troops to storm the city, or the Arab parts of the VTS come out. From here, the direction of 250 of American special forces to Syria, to which more 350 commandos were later transferred. Fighting for Rakku has not yet begun, and one American military was wounded. Propaganda success must be achieved, and this is possible only by direct participation in the assault of Racca by the US military. There is no doubt that they will be forced to take part in the assault, because political reasons are always stronger than rational. Which means drawing the US into a civil war in Syria, contrary to the words of the American president.
Clans at the oil crane
Some analysts in this regard emphasize that the Americans limited their direct participation in hostilities on the ground solely by taking Raqqi. Probably, the US military-political leadership has such a desire. But does he have this opportunity? So far, the American special forces are fighting not near Rakka. The US military is in the zone of direct clashes with IS supporters in the north of Aleppo, where the Islamists conducted a well-planned offensive operation, knocking out “moderate opposition” forces from five villages and the strategic town of Marea. Moreover, the Turkish Allies helped with this IG, ordering the Ansara-controlled Turkomans from these settlements to leave. This question deserves separate consideration, although which of Turkey is actually a member of the counter-terrorist coalition, Russian experts pointed out more than once ...
Particular attention is paid to Western analysts and media to strengthen the position of the IG in Libya, where it currently has about five thousand supporters. Such information is provided in the annual report of the US State Department for 2015 on the terrorist threat in the world. Despite the fact that the IG network lost significant territories in Iraq and Syria in the second half of 2015, it managed to achieve certain gains in Libya against the background of instability there, the US foreign affairs agency said. This statement of the State Department should be somewhat corrected. According to data more approximate to reality, the militants who associate themselves with the IS, in Libya, no more than three thousand and they are unevenly distributed throughout the country.
The two main centers of the Libyan supporters of the IG: Derna in the east and Sirt in the west. Between themselves, these groups do not interact and solve tasks that they set themselves on the basis of the operational environment. In the case of Derna, this is an alliance with the Benghazian clans on the issue of opposition to the armed forces of the House of Representatives in Tobruk headed by General H. Haftar. The group in Sirte has one main goal - to establish control over oil port terminals in the west of Libya. The nature of the groups in Derna and Sirte is also different. The group of Derna mostly consists of representatives of local clans, mainly from the number of unemployed youth. They are under pressure from the local "military council", which is also notable for its great "secularism", but it is more al-Qaeda’s ideology. Many representatives of this wing fought in Afghanistan against Soviet and American troops. It should be borne in mind that almost all Libyan jihadists of the time (tens of thousands of people) are natives of this city.
Did Mosul try to coordinate the activities of this group? American experts say that a couple of years ago, high-ranking Iraqi emissaries came there, which gave impetus to the beginning of the formation of the IG cell in this city. There is no confirmation of this information, but this scenario can be allowed, although it does not solve anything and does not determine it. In this case, the "branch of the IG" in Derna weakened. Recently, its influence has been minimized by the efforts of local clan groups, who regard this grouping as a competitor and undertake active military pressure on its position that, given the clan-tribal structure of Libyan society, does not leave IG in Derna a special field for maneuvers.
The second group appeared quite unexpectedly in Sirte about a couple of years ago. Americans say “about the hand of Mosul” in the form of travels by Iraqi emissaries. No documentary data is provided. In contrast to the “branch” in Derna, the supporters of the IG in Sirte are representatives of different tribal groups, which leads to thoughts that ordinary mercenary was the main motive for joining the organization. In it are present and supporters of Muammar Gaddafi, and people from Misurata. Qatar had a hand in its creation, who didn’t go on this experiment from a good life. The primary pillars of Doha in Libya in the form of Tripolitan, Misurath and Benghazian clans began to erode, which again can be explained by the complex tribal structure of Libya and its monoconfessionalism. A lot of time passed after the “revolution”, and representatives of various clans began to look for their place under the sun, taking it from each other. So the Qatari could not maintain a single basis of support for objective reasons. The Brownian movement of various groups began, which flowed from one camp to another.
With the overthrow of Gaddafi, the main clamp, which united opposition groups to the former regime, disappeared. Even the main shock force, which Qatar had tried to rely on in the face of the Misuratians, began to fragment. An ally from Tripoli, A. Belhadj was overbought and listed as an ally of the Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity F. Saraj. Moreover, in this situation, Doha was unable to offer braces in the form of funding (regular and large). With all its wealth, Qatar cannot feed everyone. In this situation, Doha tried to repeat the Iraqi and Syrian IS experience, creating a supra-tribal structure, which, like in Iraq, was supposed to be transferred to self-financing over time, establishing control over a number of oil terminals on the coast. The classical scheme for the axis of Qatar - IG - Turkey ...
But Libya is not Syria and not Iraq. There are no Shiites here, who are a natural political and economic rival of Sunnis, the fight against which the Sunni population in these countries is a cementing factor for radical Islamists, including the Islamic State. In Libya, everything is much more mosaic and is associated with an abundance of tribal groups and clans. Creating a tribal group in it is doomed to failure a priori, since the basic nature of such groups as the IG, the Sunni nationalism, is missing. There are only private interests of a particular clan and any of its alliance with another is in the nature of solving momentary tactical problems.
In addition, control of the port infrastructure alone does not provide financial well-being in Libya, since all the major oil fields are located in the depths of the country and are controlled by local tribes. Libyan IG cannot fight with them. So he does not have his own money. That is why he was ousted from Sirte by local tribes. For the same reason, the number of IS in this region is decreasing and it is not able to organize large-scale offensive operations. And the attempt of the intervention of the United States, France, Italy and Great Britain, which these countries made in April, sending their special forces to Libya, also ended in nothing. However, the governments of these countries categorically denied the fact that their military are present in Libya.