The “mini-empire” that ISIL built in Iraq and Syria is collapsing, which fuels a sense of triumphalism in the West. The logic is simple: ISIL made itself simultaneously global public enemy number one and the most vibrant magnet for global Salafi jihadis, thanks to its control of territory and claims to having established a caliphate. The group also publicly declared that it aimed to “remain and expand,” taken to be a reference to its territorial presence in the region. So, the logic goes, once ISIL’s territory is gone, its claims to a caliphate will evaporate. Salafi jihadis who flocked to or cheered for ISIL because of its ability to hold and govern territory in the name of the caliphate will, per this logic, start to see the group as incompetent. Therefore, many in the West believe that while ISIL may remain a threat in terms of conducting terror attacks abroad, its failure to “remain and expand” on its own territory will eventually deal a decisive blow to its reputation.
This is the wrong conclusion to draw from ISIL’s military defeat. ISIL will most likely frame its military defeat as a victory of some sort. While Western analysts may be tempted to interpret this as a cop-out mechanism voiced by a clear “loser,” it is also likely that ISIL’s allure in the eyes of Salafi jihadis will not diminish as much as many in the national security community expect it to. ISIL plans to market defeat within a narrative of hardship, heroism, martyrdom, and “temporary” withdrawal from its territory.
All sources quoted or referenced spoke to Iraq Oil Report directly and exclusively, unless stated otherwise. Iraq Oil Report typically grants anonymity to sources that can't speak without risking their personal safety or job security. We only publish information from anonymous sources that we independently corroborate and are important to core elements of the story. We do not provide anonymity to sources whose purpose is to further personal or political agendas.Iraq Oil Report Commitment to Independence
Iraq Oil Report strives to provide thoroughly vetted reporting and fair-minded analysis that enables readers to understand the dynamic events of Iraq. To meet this goal, we always seek to gather first-hand information on the ground, verify facts from multiple angles, and solicit input from every stakeholder involved in a given story.
We view our independence as an integral piece of our competitive advantage. Whereas many media entities in Iraq are owned or heavily influenced by political parties, Iraq Oil Report is wholly owned by several of its employees. In a landscape that is often polarized and politicized, we are able to gather and corroborate information from an unusually wide array of sources because we can speak with all of them in good faith.
To fund this enterprise, Iraq Oil Report depends on revenue from both advertising and subscriptions. Some of our advertisers and subscribers ‐ including companies, governments, and NGOs ‐ are also subjects of our reporting. Consistent with journalistic best practices, Iraq Oil Report maintains a strict firewall that removes business considerations from editorial decision-making. When we are choosing which stories to report and how to write them, our readers always come first.