On 16th November, a video was released on YouTube showing the apparent beheading of humanitarian worker Peter Kassig by ISIS recruits, bringing the number of Western captive executions by the group to five. The murder of Kassig, who had converted to Islam in 2013, was seen by some commentators as an ‘act of desperation’ by ISIS, frustrated with its’ failings in the battlefield.
Since President Obama approved airstrikes across Iraq on ISIS, the terrorist group has seen its’ territory diminished, its’ supplies – both economically and militarily – depleted, and the key Syrian town of Kobani – which was expected to fall in the hands of ISIS – holding back the group, in large part due to the international airstrikes. Many other Iraqi towns are slowly being liberated, and this begs the question whether the killing of Kassig really was an act of a terrorist organisation that is hitting the peaks of their power.
The universal abhorrence of ISIS, and the number of countries from across the globe involved in military campaigns against them, makes one wonder how much further the group can go. They will still have their passionate, cult-like supporters to keep them going to an extent, but the threat of a total control by ISIS of Iraq and Syria – which was a real possibility as recently as September – must surely be over. If we think back to the last world terrorist organisation that threatened world stability, Al Qaeda’s finest moment of 9/11 would have been hard to top; but in the minds of the average person, that Tuesday morning was Bin Laden’s one-hit wonder song. There has not been a terrorist attack on US soil since, and the group’s name just doesn’t bring the same fear that it did ten years previously.
But that is not to say this is how ISIS will go, or even that the public’s view is correct. We must remember that not only has al Qaeda continued to contribute terrorist acts across the globe, particularly in Iraq post-2005, but that 9/11 was not their ‘one-hit wonder’, but instead just their ‘biggest hit’. From 1998, the name al Qaeda was, to the CIA and other security services, just as big as ISIS is now. Numerous attacks were rubber-stamped with their name, from the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. And ISIS have had none – yet.
Perhaps the defeat on the battlefield, and even this is not guaranteed by a long shot, is the first phase of ISIS. Their loyal and brutal supporters will continue to flow through to fight for them. Cities across Europe and the US, and London in particular, are bracing themselves for the inevitable terrorist attack on public facilities. If ISIS are desperate enough to execute a Muslim aid worker, surely they would be equally desperate enough to attack the shores of those bombing them?
What’s obvious to see is that the threat from ISIS will come and go. This is not Nazi Germany, taking over the continent with no end in sight. It is clear that the strikes have severely harmed their reach. But we can’t forget that this is a group of people that mercilessly execute hundreds of innocent men, women and children, regardless
of race or religion. This, like al Qaeda, will be a long path to take – and successes must be tinged with the sad reality that at any moment, London could take a hit. Perhaps in uncertain future times, the best words of advice come from the past, and Winston Churchill – ‘this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’
By Adam Robertson, Junior Writer at Daily Political View
LinkedIn: (Adam Robertson)