Dr Natasha Underhill, an expert on terrorism in the Middle East at Nottingham Trent University, claims ISIS’s impeding defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul could actually make them more dangerous in the short term.
But the academic believes the jihadi cult is now weaker than ever before and the potential wave of suicide assaults would represent nothing more than a bluff to try an convince the international community that they remain a force to be reckoned with.
Dr Underhill said: “If Mosul were to be retaken by the allied coalition, a desperate IS may increase its levels of suicide attacks and other such methods to try to show its strength, but in reality the group is already weakened and has made little real ground in the last year.
“If anything they have been pushed back to levels not seen since it rapid emergence in 2014. It may be the beginning of the end for IS as we know them.”
Around 30,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga troops are currently launching an assault on the Sharia stronghold of Mosul in a bid to finally rid Iraq of Daesh’s terror.
The onslaught is reportedly working and the 8,000 or so jihadis still remaining inside the city walls are dwindling, with a convoy of 1,500 fighters, senior commanders and their families seen heading to Syria.
A victory in Mosul would represent a huge landmark in the fight against ISIS, according to Dr Underhill.
She said: “If the campaign to retake Mosul is a success, it would not only be a massive military defeat for IS but more importantly it would be massive blow to its ideological stance. Mosul symbolises the heart of the caliphate for the group and removing this would mark the beginning of the end for a group who is already struggling for survival.
“The group is no longer the powerhouse that it once appeared and is in fact struggling not only to gain support but to keep the support in place that it currently has.”
But the liberating forces must take care to ensure law and order comes to Mosul following their victory, the scholar warns, and must avoid the chaos that reigned in the wake of the allied forces’ invasion of Iraq in 2003.
She added: “The international community needs to be extremely careful in how it approaches this campaign, keeping in mind that this is not just a fight for territory, but also a fight for the hearts and minds of those who are the most fragile – the citizens of Iraq.
“In order for this to be a success there cannot be a repeat of the debacle that followed the 2003 invasion where the US-led coalition were essentially understaffed and unplanned for the scope of instability that would emerge across Iraq.
“For IS this would almost certainly be the hardest blow and would make it almost impossible for them to continue their propaganda campaign built around their creation of the caliphate.”
The assault on Mosul is expected to last several weeks as ISIS fighters are deeply embedded in a network of tunnels under the city.