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ISIS Messengers to Europe and the False Claims

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Dr. Haifa AlMaashi

Director, Geo-strategic Affairs Division

Tag: Public Policy ISIS Geostrategic Affairs Daesh
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Paris explosions proved that the issue of ISIS returnees needs a strict stop and a wide reconsideration with regard to the analysis and treatment. Most of the returnees now are coming back to fight in new war and are not returning as repentant or as war retirees. In fact they have become ISIS death messengers in the European continent.
Paris massacre is not the first of its kind in Europe, but it may be the first in changing the political and military balances of the game to draw a dividing line between the previous policies and new policies that will be launched in the next phase in the course of the war against ISIS. Those policies are not only directed against the Islamic state, but against extremist thought in Islam. In the context of this burning Blaze, the flames as a result of the confrontation may infringe Islam as a religion and Muslims as minorities in the West and here lies the next dilemma.
The term "Return from Daesh" used to be utilized as a characterization of terrorists within ISIS who wanted to break with the organization and start a new life free of violence, killings and destruction. Those warriors live with the horror of being exterminated as ISIS used to do with its opponents and deviant loyalists. Some portray these victims as preys that fell in the hands of the hunter and did not look further than the bait which deceived them. But after Paris events the interpretation of the term should be reevaluated to confirm that the returnees from Daesh are not victims and they are not looking for a savior to award them the new life, but they have become the new tools to manage its new crimes and terrorism outside Iraq and Syria's borders through plans and strategies directed by a leadership that emphasizes the centralization in decision and the organized group work of the organization.
We should not exaggerate in presenting ISIS as a real state because it in fact lacks this description, which does not reflect its reality. The Incubators that embrace ISIS and its members, led by alleged Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a huge network that uses religion as a tool among many other tools to run the network and achieve their political goals, it does not depend on a singular place as its native home, but it exceeds the borders and the geographic ranges and here lies the danger. For that it is very important to deal with it as a multi-organizational network: ideological, economic, military and political in order to understand ISIS power structure.
The continuation in the flow of Muslim youth to Daash despite the international military campaign against the organization and the pursuit of its symbols and leaders through air operations or internal intelligence operations within its regions and also in spite of undeclared people rejection in the areas controlled by it either in Al Rega or Mosul as a reflection of its extreme and violent policies, may raise many questions!
The message of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the symbolic leader of al Qaeda to the various jihadist organizations in Syria after the Russian intervention, may provide an answer to some of these questions where Zawahri called on all jihadists to work together and fight against the Russian enemy, an old foe who rose up to drive events in the Middle East through the Syrian gate. The message indirectly gives legitimacy to ISIS and jihadi groups in fighting a common enemy and indirectly classified ISIS as defenders of the right track against falsehood and give religious justification for Muslim youth to join ISIS regardless of all its misdeeds and faults.
Zawahiri star may have eclipsed, but he did not lose the intellectual control over the youth minds. His control over the land has been shaken whether in leadership, guidance, or the implementation of terrorist operations, but his messages still resonate widely, especially among the younger generations of the Muslim youth around the world who view him as an extension of Osama bin Laden, who is still portrayed as a martyr in the eyes of terrorists.
In the scope of the current global military campaign against ISIS which started since September last year, many are wondering whether the campaign that contributed to the decline of the power of ISIS in Iraqi territories have succeeded in reducing the attractiveness of the organization in the eyes of Muslim youth within the organization and outside, especially since many of them see it as a symbol of the invincible power?
The presentation of force in ISIS would be seen by many observers as the main attraction element in the organization, as it does not hesitate to use violence in its worst forms. That may represent an outlet for many of the young teenagers who favor this kind of power that they used to utilize across the virtual world provided online and in various video games. ISIS can grant the young people the real perspective of this virtual world through enrollment and exercising actual violence.
However, this narrow characterization for youth motivations to join ISIS may portray them as mindless or illogical beings. Violence may be one reason, but not the only one. There are other reasons can be tracked to the sense of oppression, injustice and jealousy on religion. In addition to extremist and shallow religious education that pushed them away from the essence of the Islamic faith. These negative directions has emerged and expanded between Muslim youth whether inside Muslim states or in the Western world. Also the unfair policies of Western powers in the Middle East and their unequal treatment regarding Muslim minorities, entities or individuals residing in those countries has contributed in activating the process of joining ISIS.
Hence, the enrollment of young Muslim into ISIS or similar jihadist organizations will not stop even with the decline of the power of Daash in Iraq or its successive defeats in Syria. This means that any boots on the ground operations in Rega and Mosul will not achieve its objectives in the long term in blocking recruiting within ISIS. These countries need to delve deeper in examining the Muslim youth thought and behavior .
If there were about a quarter of the numbers of Europeans fighters whithin ISIS who decided to return to Europe after a long journey of violence with ISIS in Syria or Iraq, it would be more effective to acknowledge and study the reasons behind their departure and the reasons for their return rather than adopting strict measures against them. That will contribute on the long term in avoiding "rebound effect " of ISIS returnees that is considered the most terrifying element within Europe.

ISIS messengers are the representatives of the new death in Europe and the world. Perhaps the image that was promoted in the previous days on the social networking sites showing masses of French citizens fleeing from the Republic Square after a hoax bomb attack, demonstrates the horror that ISIS succeeded to throw in the hearts of the French citizens after the recent events. This fear needs long time to go away and part of its treatment is to treat the young Muslim themselves who fell in the trap of ISIS.

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