- The IS claims to be more than a militant group, selling itself as a government for the world’s Muslims that provides a range of services in the territory it controls.
- The promise of statehood on land it controls in Syria and Iraq remains the main factor distinguishing it from al-Qaida and a powerful draw for recruits from around the world.
- That call to join the IS is still going out, and having an effect, on social media and within jihadist circles.
- But that statehood project is now in distress, perhaps more so than at any other time since the IS began seizing territory in Iraq and Syria, according to a range of interviews with people who have recently fled.
- Under pressure from airstrikes by several countries, and new ground offensives by Kurdish and Shiite militias, the jihadists are beginning to show the strain.
- Its promises ring increasingly hollow as residents living in IS-controlled areas flee deprivation, an intensifying barrage of airstrikes
- Many Sunni Muslims say has acted more like an organised-crime ring than their defender.
- Some fighters have taken pay cuts, while others have quit and slipped away. Important services have been failing because of poor maintenance.
- And as its smuggling and oil businesses have faltered, the Islamic State has fallen back on ever-increasing taxes and tolls imposed on its squeezed citizens.
- Those stresses could provide opportunities for the group’s many enemies, but they do not point to its imminent collapse.
- Ground forces ready to fight the IS in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq are still lacking. And the group is adapting, keeping its international profile high by launching foreign attacks like those that brought down a Russian airliner in Egypt and paralysed Paris. It is also investing in new affiliates in countries like Libya, where it faces little resistance..
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