What Can We Expect from ISIS in 2017?

By Al Emid, Special for  USDR

Following nearly two years of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS: Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate has been released and is now available on all major book sites including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  It goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what lies ahead.  This advisory provides perspective on what we can expect on the ISIS Crisis in Terms of Physical Territory, Mosul, Global Appeal, Other Terrorist Groups, New Threats and confirms the Middle East as a Whole is Not Melting  Down.

Physical  Territory

Even if ISIS loses its physical territory in Iraq, it might still hold on to territory in Syria.  If that is the case, the Islamic State continues.  “Although the terrorism picture may change, acts of terrorism will continue at their current levels or even increase,” says Al  Emid.

“While it might please many to assume the eventual defeat of ISIS, we need to come to grips with the possibility that ISIS will definitely continue to exist and the nation-state known as the Islamic State, while threatened may continue to exist although conceivably with a shorter lifespan than the terrorist group that created it. The borders may change, drone strikes may remove some leaders periodically, and the ‘state’ may continue to have governance problems.  However, the actual disintegration and defeat of the group, as opposed to the geographic location of the Islamic State, appears unlikely in the short term. Recent attacks in Yemen, in Turkey, Jordan and in Berlin show the footprint of ISIS, or at least of ISIS followers. We need to understand this reality,” Emid  adds.


The fall of Mosul does not mean the end of ISIS. ISIS may still have Raqqa – its ‘capital’ and the Syrian portion of its Caliphate. Re-taking Raqqa will be much more complicated than retaking Mosul because there are several conflicts going on in Syria at the same time which is not the situation in Iraq.  According to some estimates the Mosul campaign alone will require several more  months.

Any ISIS fighters who escape from Iraq will head for Syria. Some have reportedly made their escape to Syria already.  The fall of Mosul will also not materially damage one of its largest affiliates, Boko Haram in Nigeria – itself under attack by the Nigerian military — or its franchises in other areas such as  Somalia.

“Whether they escape from Iraq, or eventually from Syria, the ISIS fighters that have not been killed or captured will not return to ‘normal’ lives. They can be expected to mount attacks as insurgents which is where ISIS started in its previous incarnation, as a branch of Al Qaeda,” Emid  says.

The cost of victory over any part of the Islamic State is tremendous. When Ramadi and Fallujah fell, they were in ruins. This will also be the case at Mosul. After the battle for Mosul is won the coalition partners will have to come to grips with the considerable financial cost of keeping an army in place, the political cost to nations whose populations question the value of sending their soldiers off to battle, and the human cost in terms of civilian lives lost due to bombing and because civilians are often used as human shields. “These economic, political and human costs could deter the coalition’s appetite to re-take other areas from ISIS,” says  Emid.

ISIS has Global Reach and  Appeal

At time of writing, there are an estimated 1,000 foreign fighters inside Mosul. Also, ISIS still has ‘provinces’ or ‘franchises’ in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria,  Somalia.

ISIS also has fighters/sympathizers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tunisia, Jordan, Australia, Algeria, Canada, the United States, France Turkey, Belgium, Germany, Bangladesh, Indonesia and elsewhere. Overall, ISIS is in over 30 countries, when we include their branches affiliates and groups like Boko Haram who have sworn allegiance to  ISIS.

Other Terrorist  Groups

Bear in mind that while ISIS is the most visible terrorist group it is by no means the only one. There are approximately 70 terrorist groups officially designated by the U.S. State Department and these groups see how much attention comes to ISIS and want a piece of that. As well, Al Qaeda appears to be gathering strength in Afghanistan and elsewhere. “The irony is that if ISIS is weakened, Al Qaeda would actually get some of the benefit. Al Qaeda is the former parent organization of ISIS and after their very bitter split they became rivals for money, loyalty of recruits and even the leadership of the jihadist movement. The Taliban also are getting stronger again,” adds  Emid.

While it might seem appealing to believe that two jihadist groups hate each other, it is not that simple.  They compete for money from benefactors and each is determined to outdo the other.  They also compete for  recruits.

New  Threats

We live in an era when government computers and those of major corporations are hacked on a regular basis (just think Sony). Many media outlets are filled with stories on the ongoing accusations that Russia hacked the computers of the Democratic Party. “I believe cyber terrorism will become more ‘normal’ in 2017 and we have not as yet figured out how to fight it,” Emid  says.

“The problem we are going to have is separating the real from the hyperbole.  It is questionable whether ISIS is responsible for every terrorist act or sometimes finds it convenient to claim responsibility. We also have to find that delicate balance between safety and individual privacy,” Emid  says.

Despite Everything, the Middle East is not melting  down

Recent geopolitical upheavals have led to a perception that the entire Middle East is going up in flames. The coalition forces are fighting in Mosul in Iraq, and are also fighting to retake Raqqa in Syria.  Yemen’s continuing hostilities have heightened the  misunderstanding.

Largely (although not entirely) free from turmoil, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries enjoy a well-deserved reputation as a regional safe haven, a status formerly enjoyed by Lebanon, because of their external and internal political stability, economic stability (including a strong stable currency), a genuine government regime able to do business and to attract foreign investment, and because they have a significant amount of foreign reserves. Strong security strategies also enhance their safe haven  status.

The upcoming Dubai Expo 2020 represents a source of future financial rewards and therefore stability, since it is creating jobs in several sectors including hotels and transportation. This also contributed to Dubai’s success in winning the Expo contest and to Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, which has accelerated infrastructure projects including subway and light rail systems, a new port, roads, stadia and other sports  facilities.

A rise in militancy in the region would take a toll on their safe haven status.  However, with the exception of several rebel attacks in Saudi Arabia, the GCC has had no serious incidents since the Arab Spring. A complete unknown is the possibility that some individuals who went to fight with the Islamic State and other militant groups may return and carry out attacks. If coalition forces retake the portions of Iraq and Syria that ISIS controls, escaping ISIS fighters would likely revert to operating as insurgents. If that occurs, it would affect the GCC countries’ safe haven  status.

About Al  Emid

Al Emid is a longtime journalist and broadcaster specializing in geopolitical and financial matters.  His assignments have taken him to the Middle East and that is the basis of his belief that the entire Middle East is not going up in flames. His other books include Investing in Frontier Markets and Frontier Markets for Dummies, Financial Recovery in a Fragile World, and What I Have Learned So Far. Website:  http://www.alemid.com

Like the journalist he is, Emid spent nearly two years talking to a global roster of military, political, financial, and terrorism and intelligence experts from the United States, Canada, Africa, Europe and the Middle East to get the narrative correct and to explain what is happening, to suggest the likely outcomes, and to help us understand why an insurgent group that seemed to have sprung from nowhere has become one of the most serious threats of our  time.

Emid’s book takes us behind the mask of the ISIS crisis and provides some much needed perspective on the security.  The information in What You Need to Know About ISIS: Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate will help you assess the threat level. Emid’s book delves into the ISIS allure, the types of lone-wolf terrorists there are in North America, and the shifting power in the Middle East. It is available at all major online book sites including Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/WHAT-NEED-KNOW-ABOUT-ISIS-ebook/dp/B01LWV4A9K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1477141252&sr=8-2&keywords=al+emid and Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-you-need-to-know-about-isis-al-emid/1124649866?ea=2940153735399

Al Emid is available for interviews to  discuss:

  • The future of the Caliphate
  • The types of Lone Wolves here in North America
  • The continuing cost of fighting terrorism
  • The ISIS allure
  • The shifting of power in the Middle East
  • Why the entire Middle East is NOT going up in flames
  • His new book What You Need to Know About ISIS: Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate


All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.