The military defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria is just a matter of time after the collapse of the capital of its alleged Caliphate in al-Raqqah, the ancient historic city. Al-Raqqah was the second capital of the Abbaside Caliph al-Mansur and also during the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who took good care of it alongside his capital, Baghdad. Al-Raqqah was completely destroyed during the Mongol invasion, as happened to Baghdad, the capital of the Islamic caliphate at that time.

The probable defeat of Daesh raises three important things to be discussed. First, how to fortify the areas and cities that were occupied by the organisation in Syria and Iraq, from Mosul to Al-Raqqah, to ensure that these areas are cleared of extremist ideology and that there will be no attempt to revive the organisation in these areas. Historic experiments indicate that the extremist organisations have a life cycle and are in many cases more brutal than before. In fact, Daesh is a more sophisticated copy in terms of organisational experience compared to al-Qaeda, which was born, alongside with other extremist organisations, during the 1980s. These organisations, in turn, were the product of extremist ideas that inhabited the books and writings of extremist ideologues belonging to groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and other streams that had a historic role in the hierarchy of terrorist ideology.

 

The second thing is the fate of hundreds of fugitives and returnees from the so-called Paradise of the Caliphate in al-Raqqah and Mosul.  Some of them had returned to their countries in the past, as happened with the Afghan Arabs who participated in the jihad against the former Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, who returned to their country and were the nucleus of new terrorist organizations that are active today, except the first terrorist leaders, such as Ayman al-Zawahiri the leader of al-Qaeda and some of the organization's thinkers. Under the current international circumstances and the war against terrorism, it is difficult to expect most of the foreign fighters to return to their countries. They know that they are being persecuted and will be arrested, so they are likely to seek new safe havens to escape.

 

The bloodshed has become a craft for these people, which is difficult to abandon at least because it guarantees a substantial income that they will find only through the continuation of these criminal activities. There are many areas and countries that are likely to be new safe havens for these returnees. The most dangerous aspect of this is the success of some of them in hiding and returning to their countries to engage in recruitment, and to commit new terrorist crimes. Returnees may feel arrogance after the break-up of the Caliphate and create a small cluster that adopts the Daesh ideology and works for other agents who are already in our region. These returnees will find their way in some countries and intelligence agencies that sponsor terrorism in the Middle East.

 

The third matter is related to the fight against terrorism in cyberspace, the Internet. I think it is the toughest arena and the most difficult battle in this long war. It is true that there are specialised centres with high technical capabilities and that are working against the terrorist organisations in cyberspace, such as Hidaya and Sawab centres in the UAE, and the Center for Moderation, which was launched in Saudi Arabia during the American Islamic Summit. Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the moderate Islamic scholars of the world also do a lot of efforts, but terrorism is still moving freely through cyberspace. It is too early to say that the Internet has been liberated from the grip of terrorism.

These predictions are not pessimistic, but they are based on an analysis of the reality. We have left cyberspace an arena for terrorist organisations over the past two decades. They have a huge, complex and widespread infrastructure, and perhaps millions of sympathisers. The electronic defeat of terrorist organisations may be more difficult than militarily defeat.

Recently, the Russian Federal Security Service warned that the terrorist organisation Daesh successfully adapts to the changing situation and recovers its capabilities quickly despite its great losses. The head of the Federal Security Agency, Alexander Bortnikov, said at a meeting of the security and intelligence officials in the Commonwealth of Independent States that Daesh runs a wide promotion campaign and successfully exploits the means of electronic communication and uses religious and social arguments to attract representatives of different social groups, especially the youth, to its ranks. The Russian security official said that gunmen from Daesh return to the Commonwealth of Independent States and form secret cells.

We must give greater importance to the fight against terrorism through the Internet, which is the gateway to the spread of what is known as lone wolves, whose crimes have recently increased. Lone wolf operations can represent the next stage of the terrorist phenomenon, where organisations hide in their hierarchical and organisational form and transform into individual clusters or small cluster cells that communicate over the Internet. The danger will be exacerbated and the security services will have a hard time devising preventive measures in particular. There will be no gatherings, movements or activities, nor criminal tools that can be tracked. The danger will lie in the heads, which can camouflage, hide and pretend innocence until the right moment and the suitable opportunity to commit crimes.

The conclusion is that the post-Daesh period may be more dangerous than before, and we must beware of the development of the terrorism phenomenon. We must also subject all its data to serious scientific research and study; rather than just observing the surface of this deep phenomenon.