End Game

Abstract

This chapter provides concluding remarks regarding combating internet-enabled terrorism, evaluating government versus activist responses, and suggestions for cooperation among the spheres.
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Introduction

In August 2016, King Mohammed VI of Morocco spoke to his mixed religious society asking, “Is it conceivable that God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate could order someone to blow up himself or kill innocent people….[these people perverting the word of the Quran] are actually lying to Allah and His Messenger” (Haddadin, 2016). The Moroccan King, who is believed to be a direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammad, joins a growing list of Islamic leaders in the MENA region to publicly denounce the violence perpetrated by Islamic State in the name of religious sanctity, including King Abdullah II of Jordan as recently as September 25, 2016 (Haddadin, 2016). The Islamic State has foundational roots in Jordan with al-Zarqawi, one of the leaders being born in the country, and the nation becoming linked to terrorism that was exposed by a botched prisoner exchange between a Jordanian fighter pilot and a Japanese reporter for a female suicide bomber jailed by Jordan and at least one other prisoner. The fighter pilot was burned to death by the Islamic State in January 2015, which triggered an intense and visceral reaction to the terror organization by the public and the government, with the Jordanian government ordering three consecutive days of airstrikes on IS.

The public renouncement of IS, the vision of the caliphate, and reiteration that the group wholly perverts Islamic principles as well as slaughters indiscriminately is a narrative that must be encouraged and repeated, not just in the Middle East but around the world. Counter narratives to the Islamic State’s call to jihad in order to build their utopia that is spread by prominent Muslim leaders, ideologues, and the civil society will help to combat the number of young Muslims who will be unduly enamored by IS propaganda. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted, “Arab nations play a critical role, the leading role in the effort to repudiate, once and for all, the dangerous and insulting distortion of Islam that IS propaganda attempts to spread around the world” (Szep, 2014). The end game with the Islamic State is tricky to diagnose, and even more difficult to envision in the current political environment.

As many military and political officials have acknowledged, the conflict with the Islamic State is going to require more than a combat mission to dismantle the physical boundaries and legitimacy of the state. Yet, as this author has noted and Haddadin (2016) succinctly concludes, “The state is not clear about where it stands, what message it wants to convey, what efforts have been made to confront and remedy social division and extremism, and the role of media in rebutting the fanatic discourse to maintain moderation, if any, especially putting an end to extremism and hate speech toward the other”, as has been argued throughout this volume. This decentralization of the Islamic State organization and diffusion of its ideology has left a void in support, particularly in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. The increased efforts of the United States and coalition forces in combating the Islamic State on the ground in both countries has proven effective over the last three years as well, with the declaration of the Iraq being free from the terror organization in 2017, and the Trump Administration (completing the Obama-initiated military mission) announcing the withdraw of troops by mid-2019 (Mohammed et al., 2019). President Trump announced that the “caliphate is ready to fall” on February 16, 2019 in a tweet that also called on European allies to “take back over 800 ISIS fighters” captured in Syria by coalition forces and to bring those foreign fighters to justice (Seldin, 2019). The alternative consequence would be for the United States to release those fighters, and arguably cause the terrorist diaspora that Comey warned about years ago. Trump seems poised to do just that in a linked tweet he noted, “The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go” (@realDonaldTrump, Twitter, 2019).

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