Global Islamism Monitor - No. 37
April 20, 2017
MEET THE NEW HAMAS, SAME AS THE OLD HAMAS
Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that rules the Gaza Strip, has announced that it has compiled a new draft charter for the organization. The new document is currently said to be under review by members of the group's political party and advisory council, with a public release slated to take place in late April in Doha, Qatar. The move, coming in advance of an anticipated renewal of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, represents an effort by the group to reclaim popular support and strengthen its claim to leadership of the Palestinian cause.
It is not, however, a sign of newfound moderation. The original Hamas covenant - released publicly in 1988 - calls for the creation of a Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, a formulation that precludes any sort of normalization with Israel. Similarly, the new charter declares that "Hamas will not give up on any part of the land of Palestine no matter the reasons, circumstances or pressures, and no matter how long the occupation remains," according to a leaked copy of the document published by pan-Arab news channel al-Mayadeen. "Hamas rejects any alternative to completely liberating Palestine from the river to the sea," it continues. (London Asharq Al-Awsat, April 2, 2017; i24 News, April 3, 2017)
THE ISLAMIC STATE'S "SCORCHED EARTH" STRATEGY
As it has begun to forfeit parts of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is taking steps to ensure that its assorted adversaries cannot benefit from its territorial losses. ISIS leaders have reportedly instructed retreating forces to destroy valuable resources such as oil and gas fields, factories, and vital infrastructure along with priceless antiquities and architecture in cities such as Palmyra. Furthermore, ISIS militants are expected to pursue guerrilla tactics even as they retreat, including attacks on infrastructure and economic targets across both Syria and Iraq, in order to divide and weaken both Syrian opposition forces and the Iraqi military. These tactics, in turn, have the potential to exacerbate the already-daunting task of post-conflict reconstruction in both countries, robbing authorities of much needed income and resources. (Reuters, March 22, 2017)
ISIS FLOUNDERS IN AFRICA...
The Middle East is not the only area where the Islamic State is having difficulties, it seems. In an recent interview, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the president of Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, dismissed the threat posed by the local ISIS faction operating in his territory, stating that the group numbered roughly 100-300 soldiers and that it hadn't posed a serious security risk since being pushed out of the port town of Qandala early last December. While ISIS has been trying to make inroads into Somalia, observers note that the group is only a "new rival faction" to the dominant local Islamist force, the al-Qaeda aligned militant group al-Shabaab. Nevertheless, they warn, the group still has the potential to make major gains in the area, exploiting political and economic disenfranchisement among locals. (Bloomberg, March 24, 2017)
...BUT ADVANCES IN THE CARIBBEAN
The Caribbean island state of Trinidad and Tobago, long considered a holiday paradise by mainland vacationers, has become the latest base for ISIS recruitment. Although Muslims make up just 6 percent of its overall population of 1.3 million, the country has produced a disproportionate amount of foreign fighters. In the past four years, some 130 fighters and their family members have traveled to Syria to join the civil war there. By comparison, approximately 250 individuals have joined the Syrian jihad from the United States, a country of more than 300 million. Local authorities are now mobilizing to combat the problem; the government of prime minister Keith Rowley has reached out to local Muslim authorities, urging them to report suspicious activity, while simultaneously signaling its intent to make membership in a terrorist organization - as well as traveling to ISIS war zones - a criminal offense. (Deutsche Welle, March 25, 2017)
ISLAMIC EXTREMISM ON THE ASCENT IN CENTRAL ASIA
The recent terrorist attack on the St. Petersburg Metro station by a Russian national of Kyrgyz origin, followed by a smaller attack in Sweden perpetrated by an Uzbek national, has led many to refocus on the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia. According to Anna Matleeva, a senior research fellow at King's College London, "Recruiters for ISIS are present in cities across the region. They target mostly poorer regions, suburbs, towns, areas with big bazaars, a crossroads perhaps, with a good communication network; places that allow a mixing of people anonymously." Regional neighbors are taking note. Chinese authorities, for instance, have taken steps to beef up security in their country's western province of Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia, out of fears that the native Uighur Muslim majority may also be susceptible to Islamist extremism. (Newsweek, April 12, 2017)