GZERO Media logo

ISIS DIES IN THE WORLD AND LIVES ON THE WEB

ISIS DIES IN THE WORLD AND LIVES ON THE WEB

As you read this, US-backed Syrian and Kurdish forces are killing or capturing the last few Islamic State militants holding out in a fingernail-shaped sliver of riverbank in eastern Syria. It's all that remains of the caliphate declared by the Islamist extremist group across a swath of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014.

Despite being on the back foot territorially, here are three ways that ISIS will continue to rile global politics:


Returning fighters: Experts estimate that up to 40,000 foreigners from 110 countries traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the caliphate, marry into ISIS, or accompany family members. Over 4,000 EU citizens are thought to have made the trip, along with a few hundred Americans and thousands of people from the Balkans, the Caucasus, and other geopolitical hot spots. Many of the fighters who weren't killed have already returned home, creating a massive headache for security services and law enforcement. Thousands more are sitting in Kurdish detention camps awaiting news about where they'll be sent next. Distinguishing between regretful and repentant hangers-on and truly dangerous fighters is a legal and political nightmare that's already creating fissures between the US and Europe.

The next (cr)ISIS: The black flag of ISIS may no longer be waving over the Syrian desert, but it is flying over an ISIS enclave on the southern Philippine island of Basilan, where a group of militants claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a cathedral in January. ISIS-linked groups are also active in Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and stretches of northern Africa and the Sahel. While they may not have the same access to oil revenues that once enabled ISIS to take on the trappings of an actual state, these pockets of fighters remain a potent security threat.

The virtual caliphate: While ISIS may not have much territory in the world, it's still got real estate on the web, where it remains a force on social media despite some progress in stamping out the viral spread of its gruesome and well-produced propaganda. EU security czar Julian King warned as recently as November that the group is still entrenched on social media, despite losing its grip on its physical territory. As we recently saw in the live-streamed New Zealand mosque massacre – clips of which are still circulating on the web – fully stamping out extremist material is a Sisyphean task.

As long as there are disaffected young Muslims, the virtual caliphate will continue to attract and radicalize adherents and inspire publicity-seeking acts of violence. The risk now is that, rather than being inspired to join an Islamist utopia in the Mesopotamian desert, even more people will be inspired to commit acts of violence at home.

Visit Microsoft on The Issues for a front-row seat to see how Microsoft is thinking about the future of sustainability, accessibility, cybersecurity and more. Check back regularly to watch videos, and read blogs and feature stories to see how Microsoft is approaching the issues that matter most. Subscribe for the latest at Microsoft on the Issues.

On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become president because eighty-one million Americans, the highest tally in US history, voted to change course after four years of Donald Trump's leadership. Like all presidents, Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, take office with grand ambitions and high expectations, but rarely has a new administration taken power amid so much domestic upheaval and global uncertainty. And while Biden has pledged repeatedly to restore American "unity" across party lines — at a time of immense suffering, real achievements will matter a lot more than winged words.

Biden has a lot on his agenda, but within his first 100 days as president there are three key issues that we'll be watching closely for clues to how effectively he's able to advance their plans.

More Show less

We're only a few weeks into 2021 and that 'fresh new start' that so many had been hoping for at the end of 2020 has not exactly materialized. But what gives World Bank President David Malpass hope for the coming year? "The promise of humanity and of technology, people working together with communication, where they can share ideas. It allows an incredible advance for living standards." His wide-ranging conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

It wasn't pretty, but we made it to Inauguration Day. These last four years have taught the US a lot about itself — so what have we learned?

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and it is the last full day of the Trump administration. Extraordinary four years, unprecedented in so many ways. I guess the most important feature for me is how much more divided the United States is, the world is, as coming out of the Trump administration than it was coming in. Not new. We were in a GZERO world, as I called it well before Trump was elected president. The social contract was seen as fundamentally problematic. Many Americans believed their system was rigged, didn't want to play the kind of international leadership role that the United States had heretofore, but all of those things accelerated under Trump.

So perhaps the most important question to be answered is, once Trump is gone, how much of that persists? It is certainly true that a President Biden is much more oriented towards trying to bring the United States back into existing multilateral architecture, whether that be the Paris Climate Accord, or more normalized immigration discussions with the Mexicans, the World Health Organization, the Iranian Nuclear Deal, some of which will be easy to do, like Paris, some of which will be very challenging, like Iran. But nonetheless, all sounds like business as usual.

More Show less
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal