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Caliphate Winding Down — What Lies Ahead?

December 8, 2016
Plain English Version
A Libyan fighter waved the country’s flag from a house in Surt. Photo credit: Hani Amara/Reuters

A Libyan fighter waved the country’s flag from a house in Surt. Photo credit: Hani Amara/Reuters

A caliphate is a region governed by Sharia law. It looks like the idea of a caliphate is about over. The grip of the Islamic State is weakening. This is happening in Syria as Assad gains power. It is true in Iraq as Iraqi forces take Mosul. It is now taking place in Libya as unity forces are ousting the Islamic State from Surt.

Experts warn that this is not the time to start cheering. Each of these countries faces different problems. But they all have problems in common.

The problems in common have six parts. The first is factions. The second is Arab politics. The third is outside the region powers. The fourth is the Islamic State. The fifth is broken economies. The sixth is migrants.

Factions. In all the countries, no single army will be in control. Syria has the strongest government. Rebel groups might lose territory. They will continue to oppose President Bashar al-Assad. In Iraq, the Kurdish forces will be active. The breach between Shiite and Sunni will continue. Libya has groups that are strong in different regions, but that have not yet come together.

Arab Politics. Saudi Arabia and Iran are enemies. Sometimes they have interests in common. Most of the time they back different groups that are trying to seize control of the country. Most of the Saudis are Sunni. Most of the Iranians are Shiite.

Outside the Region Powers. The United States and Russia are using the Middle East as a proxy for the cold war that ended more than a decade ago. Why the fight? It is hard to answer. It is no longer about oil. President Putin of Russia wants his country to be a world power again. President Obama does not think it is worthwhile to take on the Russians.

Islamic State. There is no reason for them to stop trying to build the caliphate. They are religious fanatics.

Broken Economies. Syria, Iraq, and Libya never were booming countries. Now, the wars have destroyed the rest of their economies. There is no money to rebuild.

Migrants. Returning home is always a goal. How can millions return?

Defeating the Islamic State is important. But it is just the beginning.

Source: The New York Times December 6, 2016

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