Good news! The war on terror is going extremely well. Even though the headlines may seem bleak, the fight against totalitarian political ideologies has seen many successes. Recruitment in extremist groups is down and extremists are losing resources, credibility and reach.
Here are some recent victories to celebrate so far this year:
ISIS Was Defeated in Syria
After the collapse of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State became the most feared terrorist organization in the world.
Formed out of a Frankenstein combination of Al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq alongside largely Sunni Arab former-Saddam Hussein loyalists, the organization quickly became one of the most deadly groups in the Syrian Civil War.
In the summer of 2014, the group shocked the world by storming across the Syrian border and into Iraq, seizing Mosul, the country’s second largest city. They then changed their name to the Islamic State, and declared their leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi to be the caliph and rightful ruler of the world’s Muslims.
In March 2019, the Islamic State lost its last territorial base, the city of Baghouz in Syria. The “caliphate” which, at one point, controlled a third of Iraq and Syria, was finished. While ISIS still continues to inspire terrorists worldwide, it no longer commands armies or rules territory as a state. As such, the mayhem it can cause is much more limited.
Jihadist Terror Attacks Continue to Fall
Terrorist attacks are continuing to fall following a peak in 2014. Since ISIS was defeated in its core territories in Iraq and Syria, no other prominent Islamist terrorist groups have emerged to provide the infrastructure and backing to jihadis worldwide that ISIS once did. Islamist terrorists have so far this year failed to carry out another major attack in a Western country.
By contrast, Western security services have continued their excellent work. Many terrorist attacks have been foiled and those responsible for instigating them arrested. The terrorist threat on home soil has, for now, been largely contained.
US Taking Firm Line Against Iran
Since President Trump came to power in 2016, he has reversed the policy on Iran set by his predecessor, President Barack Obama. Trump withdrew from the Iran deal in May 2018.
The agreement gave the Islamic Republic relief from U.S. sanctions in exchange for committing to only use nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
President Trump has pushed hard against Iran and refused to back down and offer concessions. Instead he has imposed sweeping financial restrictions aimed at punishing Iran’s economy to force their leaders to give up their quest for nuclear weapons.
New sanctions have severely limited the freedom of operation given to the Iranian regime. Trump is even considering cancelling waivers which enable foreign companies to work with Iran to run civilian nuclear reactors.
Instead of appeasement, the U.S. is now robustly sending the message that nuclear weapons will not be tolerated.
Social Media Networks Have Cracked Down On Extremism
A big advantage extremist groups have had is the ability to spread their message freely online. With various levels of success, tech giants including Facebook and Instagram have implemented new policies to combat extremist content on their websites.
In the wake of the Christchurch massacre, leaders of the G20 countries put out a joint statement calling on the social media networks to prevent their services being used to spread violent extremism.
Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Amazon all joined the G20 call and pledged to do more to combat extremism on their platforms.
In April of this year, Australia passed tough new laws which penalize websites such as Facebook for hosting videos of murders and other terrorist acts.
The Christchurch massacre which killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand was broadcast over Facebook Live.
Governments around the world have led the way in telling big tech in no uncertain terms that their platforms cannot be used to allow terrorist ideologies to spread unchecked.
There is a still a long way to go in the fight against extremism. But this year has seen many victories. Sensible policies have been bearing fruit, while trends long in the making continue to show decline and irrelevance for Islamist extremist jihadis.