« ISIS Transforming Into Functioning State That Uses Terror as Tool », NYT, 22 juillet (titre initial : « Building on brutal origins, ISIS learns to govern », International NYT , 11-12 juillet)
The Islamic State is gaining a capacity to govern. But while the group still relies on brutality, its shift may have the West rethinking a military-first strategy.
An Islamic State member gave a soccer ball to a boy at a public event in Syria, in a photograph released by a militant website.
The Islamic State uses terror to force obedience and frighten enemies. It has seized territory, destroyed antiquities, slaughtered minorities, forced women into sexual slavery and turned children into killers.
But its officials are apparently resistant to bribes, and in that way, at least, it has outdone the corrupt Syrian and Iraqi governments it routed, residents and experts say.
“You can travel from Raqqa to Mosul, and no one will dare to stop you even if you carry $1 million,” said Bilal, who lives in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, and, out of fear, insisted on being identified only by his first name. “No one would dare to take even one dollar.”
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, initially functioned solely as a terrorist organization, if one more coldblooded even than Al Qaeda. Then it went on to seize land.
But increasingly, as it holds that territory and builds a capacity to govern, the group is transforming into a functioning state that uses extreme violence — terror — as a tool.
That distinction is proving to be more than a matter of perspective for those who live under the Islamic State, which has provided relative stability in a region troubled by war and chaos while filling a vacuum left by failing and corrupt governments that also employed violence — arrest, torture and detention.
While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become the steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governing: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies. That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.
“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction.