Collegandomi al post precedente vi segnalo due pregevoli studi recentemente pubblicati dalla Brookings di Washington. Nel primo, intitolato “From paper state to caliphate: The ideology of the Islamic State“, Cole Bunzel esamina l’ideologia del movimento siro-iraqeno. Nel secondo, intitolato “The ISIS Twitter census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter“, Berger e Morgan realizzano quella che quasi sicuramente è l’analisi più approfondita (“a demographic snapshot”) della propaganda dell’ISIS sul social media Twitter.
Tra le conclusioni del primo saggio vi è uno spunto di riflessione che a mio avviso è di notevole interesse strategico per le attività di contrasto. Scrive Bunzel:
[…] The rise of the Islamic State in 2013–2014 has energized the jihadi movement, attracting tens of thousands of young Muslims around the globe. While the Islamic State had hoped for this level of zeal from its 2006 founding, its initial efforts failed.
Sectarian turmoil in Iraq and Syria has given the group a new lease on life, and allowed it to pursue its original caliphal vision.
The Islamic State’s harsh strain of Jihadi-Salafi ideology is now more popular today than ever. As long as the Islamic State maintains the trappings of an actual state in Iraq and Syria—or beyond—governing territory and dispensing justice, support for the group and its ideology will continue to grow. While the U.S.-led air campaign beginning in August 2014 has so far arrested the Islamic State’s momentum, it remains unclear whether the campaign will reverse its advance. At all events, political turmoil elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly in Libya and Yemen, is creating conditions conducive to the Islamic State’s intended expansion.
Regardless of the coalition’s long-term success, the military campaign can actually strengthen the Islamic State’s ideology by lending credence to its conspiratorial worldview: namely, the view that the region’s Shi‘a are conspiring with the United States and secular Arab rulers to limit Sunni power in the Middle East. The U.S. pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran contributes to this perception.
The military campaign also bodes poorly for U.S. homeland security. The Islamic State has long prioritized the Middle East over the West, focusing on seizing and holding territory in its home theater, then bringing down neighboring governments. The air campaign, however, has apparently altered the group’s strategic calculus.
On September 21, 2014, Islamic State official spokesman Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani called on all supporters to kill Westerners arbitrarily throughout the world—Americans, Canadians, Australians, and their allies, both civilians and military personnel. This call is being met, with Islamic State-inspired attacks having occurred in these countries.216 Never before has the group seemed so intent on targeting the West. […]
The seemingly unbridgeable division between supporters of the Islamic State and supporters of al-Qaeda might appear to be a positive development; this is not the case. This division is now a fixture of the jihadi organizational and ideological landscape, and profound competition between organizations and ideologues consumes much time and effort. So far, however, jihadis outside the Syrian theater have show few signs of coming to blows over the intra-jihadi struggle.
Indeed, AQAP and an Islamic State supporter collaborated in the Paris attacks in January 2015. Rather than a cause for hope, this competition is a testament to the increasing political salience of jihadism globally. Jihadism has become a movement capable of sustaining such division.
Bringing the Islamic State down to size is certainly a necessary step toward reversing this trend. The longer the group enjoys a plausible claim to statehood, the more likely its organizational and ideological unity will remain intact. Yet if the Islamic State can again be reduced from a plausible “caliphate” to an ignominious “paper state,” and if its larger-than-life ruler can be eliminated, the group may never recover. A withering statelet with an unremarkable leader, as the Islamic State saw in the earlier period of its existence, makes for poor propaganda.