ISIS is likely to be more influential than its actual military capabilities suggest, as we noted yesterday, citing an incisive Jerusalem Post piece. Now reports from Jordan and as far away as Africa are vindicating that prediction. Reuters has the story on the group’s steadily increasing cachet among Jordanians:
[T]he Islamic State’s recent accomplishments are helping to galvanize support like never before among radical Islamists who dream of erasing borders across the Muslim world to establish a pan-Islamic nation.It raises the prospect of yet more Jordanians crossing the border to fight, but also the risk of Islamic State sympathizers striking in Jordan itself – a country that has suffered Islamist militancy before, notably bomb attacks on Amman hotels by al Qaeda-linked militants during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.The appearance of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared “caliph”, calling for the support of Muslims in the pulpit of a mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul last June acted like a magnet for young Jordanian Islamists.
There are already more than 2,000 Jordanians among the ISIS fighters, and authorities fear that still more will cross the border or form “sleeper cells” inside the country itself. They have reason to suppose that some Jordanians may identify with the militants. As Reuters points out, it was a Jordanian who founded the branch of al-Qaeda that broke off to become ISIS.Meanwhile, African intelligence officials are warning that the continent’s Islamists may also take to modeling themselves after the group. While there’s been little sign that African Islamists are aligning themselves with ISIS or publicly imitating them, according to another Reuters report:
The success of Islamic State could shape the thinking of African Islamists, said Andrew Muzonzini, Zimbabwe’s head of external intelligence and a member of the African Union’s Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA).“Given (Islamic State’s) brutality in pursuit of its cause, it would be prudent for us to brace ourselves for a new cadre-ship of extremist fanatics,” Muzonzini said at a CISSA conference in Nairobi.
Mr. Muzonzini’s judgment seems sadly accurate:
Islamic State’s success may be “the most significant development in the international jihadist discourse” since al Qaeda’s attack on United States on Sept. 11, 2001, he said. “Ahead of time, we should seek to understand (the Islamic State) modus operandi if we are to anticipate and predict challenges ahead.”
This, perhaps, is the greatest threat of ISIS, perhaps even beyond its ability to attract recruits to participate in its immediate efforts. By example, it may have heightened the zeal and ambition of jihadists everywhere, no matter their affiliation, location, or relative strength. Whether or not this group eventually evanesces, it may have already made its mark.