A SERIES of recent deadly attacks linked to the militant Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq point to the disturbing fact that the feared terrorist outfit is far from vanquished. Reports emerging from Syria have said that at least 26 fighters allied with Damascus were killed by IS elements in the eastern part of the country. Moreover, a gruesome blast in a Baghdad market last month — in which over 30 people were killed — was also traced back to the self-styled ‘caliphate’. In addition, according to media reports, IS has launched scores of attacks in eastern Syria over the last month, essentially creating a reign of terror in a largely lawless region. It should be remembered that IS sprang from and was nourished in such chaotic conditions — an enfeebled government in Iraq and a Syrian regime facing a civil war were unable to secure their respective territories, giving the shock troops of the ‘caliphate’ plenty of room to manoeuvre. Now, despite the efforts of the Western-led coalition as well as the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, to pursue the outfit, it has managed to regroup and replenish its militant arsenal perhaps in preparation for an attempt at recreating itself.

At its height, IS was knocking at the doors of Baghdad and Damascus while also inspiring the formulation of ‘chapters’ around the world. While the fanatical outfit has been weakened, it is certainly not a spent force, which means that the states most affected by it — Syria and Iraq — must be supported by regional and international powers to completely wipe out the group’s presence. The Syrian civil war is in a low phase, with Bashar al-Assad’s forces having the upper hand, while levels of violence in Iraq are also down considerably. Therefore, both states must receive all possible help from the international community, for if the IS terrorists are allowed to spread their tentacles across the region once again, the entire Middle East region will suffer the consequences of ignoring this grave threat.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2021

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