The world has been so preoccupied with Russia's invasion of Ukraine that some very important and very dangerous actions — outside of the world of the Russian invasion into Ukraine — have gone almost unnoticed and with barely a mention in international news.
I am referring to ISIS aka ISIL aka, as they are now called, IS for the Islamic State group, aka Daesh. Group members prefer Daesh, their Arabic name and Daesh has been extremely active these past few months. They are growing in impact, influence and, most importantly, followers. And most of the world is totally unaware.
If left alone to grow and to recruit, ISIS will morph into an entity even bigger, even more ominous, than it was in 2014.
ISIS' power was at its peak in October of 2014. Its territory spread from Syria through Iraq. It controlled land stretching from central Syria all the way to the outskirts of Baghdad, including major cities like Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit and Raqqa. The area, in real terms, was larger than Syria and larger than Iraq.
In one of its recent attacks, ISIS struck a Muslim Iftar feast in eastern Syria. Iftar, which means breakfast, celebrates the end of a fast day. It is the breaking of the day-long fast Muslims observe during the month of Ramadan.
Attacking other Muslims is a classic ISIS move. It generates fear and attracts followers. It is the act of murdering other Muslims, those with whom they disagree on Islamic tenets. In the eyes of ISIS followers, it is done as a show of strength, as a sign that we, ISIS, stand for Islamic principles. We kill Muslim heretics!
In this case the sacrificial lambs, the Muslims that ISIS chose to attack, were Kurds. Not just any Kurds, these Kurds were aligned with the West. And that was a double victory for ISIS.
Fear and intimidation are tools that ISIS uses very effectively against other Muslims.
Since late February, when U.S. special forces killed the then-leader of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, as many as thirty ISIS strikes have taken place in northeastern Syria. Its strikes are increasing in frequency and intensity. It has called out to its followers to attack with whatever means they have available, with whichever weapons they have. Knives, cars, anything.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based group that relays most of the information that we have from Syria, is reporting an even larger number than thirty recent ISIS attacks. According to its tally, ISIS has carried out at least 82 attacks since the start of 2022.
In Syria, where the Kurds were attacked during Iftar, ISIS used guerrilla tactics. It used motorcycles. ISIS sped in and out. In other attacks, in Israel and in Egypt, ISIS used other tactics. There has also been a rise in sleeper cells. And a rise in lone wolf attackers.
None of this is good news. ISIS is getting stronger. ISIS is emboldened.
Sheikh al-Muhajir abu Hamza al-Qurashi, the current ISIS spokesman, released a Ramadan sermon on Telegram. He called on ISIS adherents to follow the leads of the terrorists who attacked in Israel. He admonished ISIS followers to: "follow their path and arm themselves with weapons and carry out further attacks."
He criticized Muslim political leaders who were not following ISIS. He called out: "Modern Muslim politicians trying to liberate Jerusalem are nothing more than puppets in the hands of Israel and the West."
It's right there in front of our eyes, but the Western world is looking in the wrong direction.
If one looks, one cannot but see that the world has been infiltrated by a recent and dramatic rise in ISIS activity. The late January prison break at the Hassakeh prison in northeast Syria was a foretelling of ominous things to come – but nobody paid attention. Nobody connected the dots.
Hassakeh prison was controlled by the Kurds. It is there that 4,000 ISIS fighters were locked up. The prison break began when two car bombs blew up the main gate of the prison. About 200 ISIS member broke into the prison to break out as many ISIS prisoners as they could — especially Daesh leaders.
The prison battle went on for a week. Approximately 1,400 prisoners escaped. The battle was waged in the prison and in the neighborhoods surrounding the prison. In the end, thankfully, many of the escapees were caught and returned to prison.
In the big picture, that didn't matter to ISIS. The prison break gave ISIS a huge injection of spirit. It catapulted its efforts to recruit and rebuild and proved to be especially attractive to the group's lone wolf devotees.
ISIS is not on the rise only in Syria. Recently, an ISIS group attacked an Egyptian military post that was guarding a water pumping station near the Suez Canal. Eleven Egyptian soldiers were killed including an officer; five others were wounded. The ISIS terrorists all escaped.
The ISIS plan is simple. It's as easy as 1-2-3. #1 Attack. #2 Recruit. #3 Attack again.
ISIS is determined to get back on the map. It will accomplish that by gaining control over new areas. It will strike official facilities to prove that it is better motivated than local armies. And that will gain ISIS street cred and new recruits.
ISIS needs to be taken very seriously. ISIS needs to be stopped now— before it is completely, once again, running rampant and out of control.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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