How Strong Is ISIS Anyway?

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July 24 2014 12:34 PM

Is ISIS Showing Signs of Strain?

Just a few weeks ago,  the Sunni militant group ISIS seemed nearly invincible, sweeping across Iraqi territory and crushing the resistance of a divided and demoralized Iraqi military.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Now, however, some cracks are starting to appear in the façade. The alliance of convenience between ISIS and the Sunni and ex-Baathist groups that have aided its march toward Baghdad is showing some signs of fracturing, and some residents may be getting fed up with life under the group's draconian rule.

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NPR reports that “some residents in Mosul now say the brutality of the group is beginning to show. Some Sunni towns have even risen up against the fighters with fatal consequences for the residents.”

Jacob Siegel writes in the Daily Beast, “ISIS really is as brutal as it claims to be, though not yet half as strong. Its fighters had impressive military victories in their first rush of advances, but now, even as they talk about conquering Rome, they’re struggling to take Tikrit.”

ISIS hasn’t made that much progress lately in conquering new territory and seems to be bogged down by fighting with its allies.

This might be the sort of situation that Iraq’s government and its allies could take advantage of. Except Iraqi leaders appear unable to agree on the sort of political reconciliation that would be necessary in order to do so.

Also, ISIS’s control of territory in Syria seems to be extensive and in some areas very well-consolidated. Plus, it has a new source of income from the oil fields it seized on its sweep across Iraq last month.   

ISIS isn’t going anywhere anytime soon—even if pushed out the towns it took over in Iraq, it could regroup across the border in Syria—but it’s not quite the unstoppable force it seemed to be last month. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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