Alarm over ISIL resurgence in Syria
In an interview with Al Jazeera, the UN’s special envoy for Syria cited worrying signs of a resurgence in the desert.
JAMES BAYS: They created their own de facto state, carved out of parts of Syria and Iraq, and ruled in a most brutal way, justifying their actions with their own interpretation of Islam.
DONALD TRUMP: They can no longer--
JAMES BAYS: Two years ago, President Trump declared ISIL had been defeated, that after a long military operation-- some of it, human rights campaigners say, also carried out in a brutal manner-- involving Kurdish fighters, the Iraqi military, American special forces, and US bombardment from the air. Now, their former capital, Raqqa, lies in ruins, but experts say ISIL may be slowly rebuilding themselves in the deserts of Syria.
JENNIFER CAFARELLA: And what we've witnessed in Central Syria, in particular, is a robust and growing ISIS campaign that is applying pressure on key military and oil infrastructure that is actually forcing the Russians, the regime, and the Iranians to respond and try to figure out how to stabilize the security situation.
JAMES BAYS: Is such talk alarmist? Not according to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen
GEIR PEDERSEN: We should actually be worried about what we see as increased Daesh activities in the desert and in certain other areas in Syria, and I have appealed before, as you know, to the members of the Security Council that we need a collaborative effort to fight the terrorists that are still active in Syria. And without that collaborative effort, I'm afraid that we could fail once again.
JAMES BAYS: On top of this there's another problem related to ISIL that the world is not confronting. There are thousands of prisoners-- some of them foreign fighters, but mainly women and children-- being held in camps in Northeast Syria. In the largest camp, Al Hol, there are nearly 30,000 children. The conditions are grim. They risk being alienated and further radicalized. James Bays, Al Jazeera, at the United Nations.
- Well, Marwin Kabalan is head of policy analysis of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. He's joining us here in Doha by Skype. Good to have you with us here on Al Jazeera. One thing-- I just want to get us some context from you if I could-- is ISIL still regarded as a single entity, or is it more an ideology that armed groups choose to fight under?
MARWAN KABALAN: Now, I mean the simple answer to that question, Rob, is that ISIL and allieds organizations have always been-- I mean the most important aspect of them is that the idea, the ideology which drives them in the first place. Now, if you remember this War on Terror, the United States started it, actually, 20 years ago after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and it started as a war against Al-Qaeda, and then against ISIL. And probably, in the coming years, we're going to see a new organization with a different name.
All of these organizations, actually, have always been consistent in the sense that the very causes which have led to their emergence in the first place must be dealt with if we really want to defeat them once and for all. And as long as these root causes are not dealt with, I think we are going to keep seeing them coming back time and again.
So now, I'm really not surprised that ISIL is making a comeback in Syria and in Iraq. We have seen a rise or an increase in the activities of ISIL in both countries. The United States, as we all know, has declared victory against ISIL in 2019. It has declared victory against Al-Qaeda, I mean, before that. But as I said, Rob, before, you really need to deal with the root causes, which is leading, in fact, to the rise of ISIL, of Al-Qaeda, and like-minded organizations.
You need to deal with the ideology. You need to deal, actually, with the idea and with the circumstances which are leading, I mean, to these organizations coming back and again, every one.
- Let me ask you about those causes, then. What are the circumstances-- specifically in Syria, but also in Iraq-- that are allowing ISIL and armed groups relating themselves to ISIL to begin to strengthen again?
MARWAN KABALAN: Marginalization of an important part of both the Iraqi and Syrian societies are actually making parts of these societies, which feel that injustice has been, actually, done to them, to make them sympathize with ISIL on the one hand. And also, sectarianism in the region is another factor that we need to deal with.
The rise of Iranian influence in the region over the past few years-- since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, in fact-- has led to the rise of Shiite influence in the region. That is driving, actually, parts of Sunni societies in both Syria and Iraq into seeing ISIL as an organization that, probably, is representing them somehow-- although, I mean, the war against ISIL has led to the further destruction for these Sunni communities. But sectarianism, marginalization of important parts of Syria and Iraqi societies, are leading, actually, I mean, to the rise of ISIL one more time and are the latent causes behind the continuation of like-minded organizations in both countries.
- Always good to get your thoughts on this. Marwan Kabalan, we appreciate you joining us on Al Jazeera. Thank you very much indeed.
MARWAN KABALAN: Thank you.