Spotlight: IS defeats or political motivation behind surge in terror attacks?

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-24 03:23:33|Editor: MJ
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by Hummam Sheikh Ali

DAMASCUS, June 23 (Xinhua) -- While some people suspect the recent surge in terror attacks in Europe is linked to the defeats of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, others believe that terrorists are only motivated by the need to send out political messages.

Dozens of people have been killed since March in a spate of terror attacks that has spread through the United Kingdom, France and Belgium, in which the terror suspects used vehicles, knives, and explosives to mow down pedestrians, attack police and blow up innocent people. Terror attacks have also rocked Egypt, Iran and Somalia recently.

Ahmad Ashqar, a Syrian political analyst, told Xinhua that as the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its strikes against IS militants, the terror group and its sympathizers are compelled to launch more terror attacks in retaliation so to send out a message that they cannot be defeated.

"With all major powers fighting it, the IS is not in its best conditions, particularly now that it's being targeted and hunted down in its strongholds of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq," Ashqar said.

Many European countries are part of the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition, which has been striking IS in Syria since 2014 and has escalated its offensives recently, he explained.

Two weeks ago, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) unleashed a wide-scale offensive against the IS in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the terror group in Syria.

After capturing several neighborhoods in eastern and western Raqqa, the SDF and allied troops have recently seized the southern bank of Euphrates River, which enables them to lay siege to Raqqa from four directions.

The SDF said on Friday that the IS militants have lost control in Raqqa, and "are moving around the city like cockroaches."

Meanwhile, Iraqi government troops, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, advanced onto the Old City of Mosul, the de facto capital for IS terrorists in Iraq. It is only a question of time for the city to be liberated from the IS occupation.

However, IS militants still feel their self-declared rule cannot be demolished by "earthly powers," and believe their past terror tactics to cause panic will work, Ashqar explained.

"This is why they have resorted to escalating their attacks in Europe, which I think are desperate attempts to tell the world that they are still here and capable of targeting the core of your secure countries," he said.

Even if the IS was wiped out in Syria and Iraq, its followers will continue terror activities around the world, especially in the countries supporting the U.S. in the anti-IS battles, Ashqar noted.

"We could still see suicide bombings following the defeat of IS, our communities and even the West will have to wait for a relatively long time before the situation is fully contained and IS becomes history," he said.

However, other observers say the real reasons behind the recent wave of terror attacks in Europe are much more complicated.

They also pointed out that terrorist groups like IS and al-Qaida, have long targeted the West.

Maher Ihsan, also a Syrian political analyst, told Xinhua that even at the peak years ago, IS terrorists and its sympathizers did stop launching strikes against targets in Western countries, including the U.S. and Europe.

Terror groups like IS are "fuelled by sectarian hatred and hidden political agendas", has "under-the-hood funding" and are "manipulated by foreign intelligence apparatus," Ihsan said.

"Any decision to carry out a bombing in this country or that, will not be taken solely by the group, but by the powers controlling it," he explained, adding that terror attacks demand logistical support, information and planning as well as cash.

According to Ihsan, the change in the political climate could be the real reason behind the surge in terror attacks around the world, not only in Europe.

Even in places other than the West, terrorist attacks also take place. He gave an example of the recent IS-claimed twin bombing attacks that rocked Iran's capital Tehran, in which 12 people were killed early the month.

"Iran has been safe for a very long time and far from the explosions of the terrorist groups, but if we take a look at the timing, we will find that such acts happened due to the rapprochement between Tehran and Doha at the time of the Gulf crisis with Qatar," Ihsan said.

He was referring to the crisis since early the month when a Saudi Arabia-led Arab alliance cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of harboring extremists and having close ties with Iran, a Saudi rival.

The bombings in Iran have sent out a clear message that the growing relations between Iran and Qatar are unacceptable to some countries which are trying to isolate the tiny Gulf island state, the Syrian analyst said.