Adapting for Survival
Islamic State’s Shifting Strategies
This article discusses the strategic shifts that the Islamic State (IS) has implemented in order to survive, especially in what regards its propaganda and military tactics. We argue that, for a long time now and in both domains, the IS and its predecessors have been flexible and resilient enough to adapt to new realities on the ground being able to shape and reshape its strategy and tactics towards its enemies’ capabilities and policies. In terms of propaganda, despite a decrease of its online presence, the IS has struggled to adapt some of its main narratives to the new reality brought about by the beginning of the international coalition attacks. However, evidence seems to suggest that the group will likely be able to maintain its online relevance yet for some time. Regarding its military tactics in Syria and Iraq, history and current evidence points to a return to its insurgent roots. This seems to be corroborated by the group’s current increasing resort to terrorism and guerrilla tactics. Lastly, we argue that it is still premature to either claim the rebirth of the IS or to declare its demise.
ABRAMS, Elliot. The United States Can’t Retreat From the Middle East. Foreign Policy, 20 November, 2017.
AL TAMIMI, Aymenn J. Unseen Islamic State Financial Accounts for Deir az-Zor Province. Jihadology, 5 October, 2015.
BAHNEY, Benjamin; JOHNSTON, Patrick B. ISIS Could Rise Again. Foreign Affairs, 15 December, 2017.
BARRETT, Richard. The Islamic State. New York: The Soufan Group, 2014.
BLOOM, Mia. Bombshell: Women and Terrorism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.
BUNZEL, Cole. The Islamic State Will Survive. Foreign Policy, 10 July, 2017.
BUNZEL, Cole. Islamic state of Decline: Anticipating the Paper Caliphate. Jihadica, 15 June 2016.
BURKE, Jason. Rise and fall of ISIS: Its Dream of a Caliphate is over. The Guardian, 21 October 2017.
CALLIMACHI, Rukmini. Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Guides World’s Terror Plots From Afar. New York Times, 4 February, 2017.
CLARKE, Colin. How ISIS is Transforming. The RAND Blog. 2016.
CLARKE, Colin; WINTER, Charlie. The Islamic State may be Falling, but Its Strategic Communications Legacy Is Here to Stay. War on the Rocks, 17 August, 2017.
CLARKE, Colin; MOGHADAM, Assaf. Mapping Today’s Jihadi Landscape and Threat. ORBIS FPRI’s Journal of World Affairs, May 2018.
COCKBURN, Patrick. Preview 2018: After a String of Defeats in Iraq and Syria what 2018 Means for ISIS. Independent, 1 January 2018.
COCKBURN, Patrick. ISIS Is Facing Near Total Defeat in Iraq and Syria – But It Has Been Beaten and Come Back Before. Independent, 11 October. 2017.
COCKBURN, Patrick. The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. New York: Verso, 2015.
COOLSAET, Rik. Anticipating the Post-Daesh Landscape. Brussels: Egmont, 2017.
COTTEE, Simon. ISIS Will Fail, but What About the Idea of ISIS? Atlantic, 23 March 2017.
COTTEE, Simon; BLOOM, Mia. The Myth of the ISIS Female Suicide Bomber. The Atlantic. 8 September. 2017.
DEARDEN, Lizzie. ISIS Calls on Women to Fight and Launch Terror Attacks for First Time. Independent, 6 October. 2017.
DEARDEN, Lizzie. ISIS Propaganda Video Shows Women Fighting for First Time Amid Desperation to Bolster Ranks. Independent, 8 Feb. 2018.
DEMPSEY, Michael P. How ISIS’ Strategy is Evolving. Foreign Affairs, 18 January 2018.
FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE (FATF). Financing of the Terrorist Organisation Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Paris: Financial Action Task Force, 2015.
FREEMAN, Colin. Islamic State Earning Millions by Playing the Stock Market. The Telegraph, 02 march 2016.
GAMBHIR, Harleen K. Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State. Washington: Institute for the Study of War , 2014.
GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, Daveed; BARR, Nathaniel; MORENG, Bridget. The Islamic State’s Global Propaganda Strategy. The Hague: International Centre for Counter-terrorism, 2016.
JONES, Seth G.; DOBBINS, James; BYMAN, Daniel; CHIVVIS, Christopher; CONNABLE, Ben; MARTINI, Jefrey; ROBINSON, Eric; CHANDLER Nathan. Rolling Back the Islamic State. Santa Monica: RAND, 2017.
JOSCELYN, Thomas. ISIS Hasn’t defeated. Long War Journal, 22 February. 2018.
HAID, Haid. How the Economic Model of ISIS evolves Post-Caliphate. Syria Deeply, 17 July. 2017.
HASSAN, Hassan. The Islamic State After Mosul. New York Times, 24 October 2016.
HASSAN, Hassan. Down But not Out: ISIL will Regroup and Rise Again. The National, 25 December, 2017a.
HASSAN, Hassan. Insurgents Again: The Islamic State’s Calculated Reversion to Attrition in the Syria-Iraq Border Region and Beyond. Sentinel v.10 n.11, 2017b, p. 1-8.
HASSAN, Hassan. Its Dreams of a Caliphate are gone. Now ISIS Has a Deadly New Strategy. The Guardian, 31 December. 2017c.
HUME, Tim. ISIS and the Taliban compete to kill the most people in Afghanistan. Vice News 29 January, 2018.
KHALIL, Lydia; SHANAHAN, Rodger. Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq: The day After. Sydnei: Lowy Institute for International Policy, 2016.
MANSOUR, Renad; AL-HASHIMI, Hisham. ISIS Is Still in Business. Chatham House Expert Comments, 17 January. 2018a.
MANSOUR, Renad; AL-HASHIMI, Hisham. ISIS Inc. Foreign Policy, 16 January, 2018b.
MANSOUR, Renad; AL-HASHIMI, Hisham. ISIS and the New War Economy. Chatham House Expert Comments, 8 June, 2017.
McCANTS, William. The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015.
McFATE, Jessica L.; GAMBHIR, Harleen. Islamic State’s Global Ambitions. The Wall Street Journal, 22 February, 2015.
McFATE, Jessica L. The ISIS Defense in Iraq and Syria Countering an Adaptive Enemy. Washington: Institute for the Study of War, 2015.
MESEROLE, Chris. Raqqa Has fallen. Has ISIS? Washington: Brookings Institution, 2017.
NAPOLEONI, Loretta. The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State (ISIS) and the Redrawing of the Middle East. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2015.
OSTAEYEN, Pieter Van and Tore Hamming. Jihadists respond to Trump: ‘In al-Quds we meet’. Stratejik Bakış, 3 February, 2018.
PEARSON, Elizabeth. Why ISIS Female Suicide Bombers Mean the End of the Caliphate Dream. Newsweek, 18 July, 2017.
RAFIK, Haras, MALIK, Nikita. CALIPHETTES: Las Mujeres, Objeto y Sujeto de la Lllamada de DAESH. London: Quilliam Organization, 2015.
SINGH, Rashmi. A Preliminary Typology Mapping Pathways of Learning and Innovation by Modern Jihadist Groups. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, v. 40 n.7, 2016, pp. 624-644.
SINGH, Rashmi; Lasmar, Jorge M. Understanding Terrorism. London: Routledge, Forthcoming.
SKY, Emma. Mission not Accomplished in Iraq. Foreign Affairs, 16 October, 2017.
SOMMERVILLE, Quentin; DALATI, Riam. Raqqa’s Dirty Secret. BBC, November, 2017.
SPYER, Jonathan. Welcome to Syria 2.0. Foreign Policy, 25 January, 2018.
STERN, Jessica; BERGER, J.M. ISIS: The State of Terror. New York: Happer Collins Publishers Inc., 2015.
TARRAS-WAHLBERG, Louisa. Promises of Paradise?? A Study on Official ISIS Propaganda Targeting Women. Master thesis in Political Science with a focus on Security Policy, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership. Swedish Defence University. may 2016.
VALLEE, Charles. Digital Jihad: Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State -Dabiq vs. Inspire. Herzilia: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, 2015.
WEISS, Michael; HASSAN, Hassan. ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. New York: Regan Arts, 2015.
WARRICK, Joby. Black Flags– The Rise of ISIS. New York: Penguin Random House, 2015.
WINTER, Charlie. The Virtual ‘Caliphate’: Understanding Islamic State’s Propaganda Strategy. London: Quilliam. July. 2015b.
WINTER, Charlie. Documenting the Virtual Caliphate. London: Quilliam, 2015b.
WINTER, Charlie. Media Jihad: The Islamic State’s Doctrine for Information Warfare. London: International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, 2017a.
WINTER, Charlie. The Islamic State: Terrorism and Influence. Lecture at Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. Youtube. 2017b. Available at: < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmCChpa2mZM>. Acessed on: 15 jan. 2018.
WINTER, Charlie. Is Islamic State losing control of its 'virtual caliphate? BBC, 9 November, 2017c.
WINTER, Charlie. Inside the collapse of Islamic State’s propaganda machine. Wired, December. 2017d.
WINTER, Charlie. A Couple of Days Ago ISIS Explicitly Discussed (and Filmed) the Women`s Deployment in the Battlefield. Charlie Winter’s Account on Twitter. 09 Feb. 2018. Available at: https://twitter.com/charliewinter/status/961903270749974528. Acessed on: 26 feb. 2018.
WINTER, Charlie; MARGOLIN, Devorah. The Mujahidat Dilemma: Female Combatants and the Islamic State. Sentinel v. 10 n.7, 2017, pp. 23-9.
WINTER, Charlie; INGRAM, Haroro J. Terror, online and Off: Recent Trends in Islamic State Propaganda Operations. War on the Rocks, 2 March 2018.
ZELIN, Aaron Y. Picture Or It Didn’t Happen: A Snapshot of the Islamic State’s Official Media. Perspectives On Terrorism. v. 9, n. 4, 2015.
ZELIN, Aaron. Revisiting the Islamic State`s 2011-2014 Reemergence: Lessons for the Future. Washington: The Washington Institute, 2017.
Autores que publicam nesta revista concordam com os seguintes termos:
- Autores mantêm os direitos autorais e concedem à revista o direito de primeira publicação, com o trabalho simultaneamente licenciado sob a Creative Commons Atribuição 4.0 Internacional que permite o compartilhamento do trabalho com reconhecimento da autoria e publicação inicial nesta revista.
- Autores têm autorização para assumir contratos adicionais separadamente, para distribuição não-exclusiva da versão do trabalho publicada nesta revista (ex.: publicar em repositório institucional ou como capítulo de livro), com reconhecimento de autoria e publicação inicial nesta revista.