Raqqa mosque destroyed by Islamic State Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images

The Next Phase of Middle East Conflict

With the battles of Mosul and Raqqa dislodging ISIS from its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, and the Syrian civil war becoming a war of attrition, the Middle East’s most acute conflicts are evolving fast. But that doesn’t mean they will soon be resolved.

TEL AVIV – With the battles of Mosul and Raqqa dislodging the Islamic State (ISIS) from its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, and the Syrian civil war becoming a war of attrition, the Middle East’s most acute conflicts are evolving fast. But that doesn’t mean they will soon be resolved.

ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate was never a state that could be driven to unconditional surrender, meaning that the battles of Mosul and Raqqa were never going to be decisive, even if they did eliminate ISIS sanctuaries. As ISIS’s spread into Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula underscores, there are plenty of loosely controlled areas available to be penetrated.

For now, ISIS has shifted its strategy to planning and inspiring terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Europe, and even Southeast Asia. Its next step could be to destabilize Arab regimes from within – a strategy that cannot be countered by the international coalitions now closing in on Raqqa.

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