A committee comprising experts from the United Nations warned, in a report issued on Monday, that ISIS is still leading between 5,000 and 7,000 mercenaries in its former stronghold in Syria and Iraq, and its mercenaries constitute the most serious "terrorist" threat, noting in its report that despite the heavy losses in the leadership of ISIS and the decline in its activity in Syria and Iraq, the danger of its resurgence is still present.
On this, the researcher specializing in terrorism issues, Hassan Abu Haniyeh, believes that the frequent reports from the United Nations and international intelligence centers and studies about the possibility of the return of ISIS are not strange, because indeed, since ISIS lost its last enclave in al-Baghouz in March 2019 and its loss of spatial control and with the killing and capture of most of its first-line leaders, ISIS showed a great ability to recover.
Abu Haniyeh believes that there is recognition that ISIS still exists, and the annual meetings of the International Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which showed the expansion of the coalition to include 86 countries, is the biggest evidence that ISIS still exists.
ISIS has not been defeated and operates within a decentralized structure
The researcher pointed out that these reports are clear, and confirm that the so-called caliphate has been defeated, as ISIS no longer has any spatial control, but ISIS, according to the specialist in terrorism issues, has not been defeated and that there is an organizational structure that works in a decentralized manner through groups and cells scattered in Iraq and Syria, estimated at 10,000, and therefore there is an ISIS presence in terms of the organizational structure. And there, despite the killing of leaders, they are being replaced, and this indicates flexibility and speed in adapting and responding to developments, while the organization remains present and extends across Syria and Iraq.
Abu Haniyeh added that there are also sufficient funds for ISIS, as the United Nations talks about 50 million dollars, and I think it is greater than that, and therefore there are funds and there are ways to collect money through royalties and others.
Divided Syria contributes to the return of ISIS
The specialist in terrorism issues pointed out that it is the ideology of ISIS that still greatly attracts some "local fighters", not to mention the self-power of ISIS. Despite its exposure to setbacks, it has the ability to recover, resilience, and return. This is on the one hand, but the most important aspect is that there are objective conditions that contribute - which we consider the root causes of the return of ISIS - the most important of which is that there are imbalances in Syria and Iraq.
Syria, according to Abu Haniyeh, does not have a political solution and is still divided, not to mention the geopolitical conflict through the American, Russian, Iranian and Turkish presence, in addition to the economic difficulties due to unemployment and widespread poverty, in addition to the presence of about 10,000 ISIS detainees in northeastern Syria without any trials. They have so far, as well as the presence of ISIS families of women and children in al-Hol Camp and the rest of the camps, which number about 60 thousand.
Declining international interest
Abu Haniyeh pointed out that there are objective conditions that help the return of ISIS, including the decline in international interest in this file, as the US-led coalition forces are no longer actively carrying out attacks, as they were between 2014 and 2019, as a result of their geopolitical interest shifting towards competing with China and confronting Russia. In addition to its internal problems and climate issues, the importance of the so-called combating terrorism has declined. Russia, in turn, is preoccupied with the war in Ukraine and the competition with NATO.
Likewise, the transformation of ISIS, according to Hassan Abu Haniyeh, a specialist in terrorism issues, into a decentralized organization and its transformation into guerrilla warfare and attrition; Where ISIS has come to rely on small groups through setting up ambushes, improvised explosive devices and assassinations, it is affecting that dealing with ISIS is not the same as it used to be.
ISIS really started to recover in Syria and Iraq
Abu Haniyeh believes that it is not easy to use traditional military tactics to confront small and dispersed groups of ISIS in vast areas, and therefore it has become easy for ISIS to hunt soldiers, and what happened in the countryside of Deir-ez-Zor and Raqqa recently, and ISIS was able to carry out operations in Daraa and reach Damascus in the neighborhood Mrs. Zeinab, all of this is a mixture of subjective and objective reasons that make all research and intelligence agencies as well as the UN in addition to experts and researchers to say that (ISIS) has really begun to recover in Syria and Iraq little by little, and has become more daring in carrying out some operations, and therefore it is expected that it will increase like these processes.