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Mr Bertolotti (ISPI), “IS defeated militarily, but not ideologically”

IS was “defeated on the battlefield, but not ideologically. This is why the answer cannot just be military, but must also, and above all, be political”. Claudio Bertolotti, strategic analyst at the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), comments on the battle of Baghuz, the last IS stronghold in Syria, not far from the Iraqi border, in an interview with SIR news agency. The Arab-Kurdish forces, supported by US air strikes, are fighting the jihadists in the last shred of land under their control, which is nothing compared to a third of Syria and a third of Iraq which they conquered in 2014. The fate of 24 hostages, including some westerners, in the event of surrender makes the stakes even higher. Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio may also be among the hostages, as some Lebanese media reported. “This is a significant achievement on the ground”, says the analyst who is also director of Start InSight ( We can call it a military defeat, but it is not the end of the war. The Islamic State must also be defeated as an ideology”, since it is clear that its presence is rooted also in Mali, the Philippines, Yemen, Sinai, Libya, Nigeria, and Somalia. These are all countries where IS, in a sort of terror franchising, has exported its successful brand in exchange for loyalty to the Caliph. Local conflicts are inserted in a context of war and global jihad. According to the analyst, in order to counter the ideology of the Islamic State, we need “a political response. A country cannot be left alone after the defeat of a terrible regime such as that of IS. There is a need for a long-term strategy that works at the political level, based on the involvement of all national actors, one that responds effectively to the needs of the local population in the areas of security, stability, infrastructure, education, and work. All this is necessary not just to survive, but to live with dignity”. The West has an important role to play in this work of moral and material reconstruction: to “support local populations even without being present on the ground. The role of the West is to protect minorities – it is a principle of the UN -, especially those who have suffered the worst violence in these years of war. Think of those Yazidis and Christians who have largely abandoned their lands in Syria and Iraq”. In the interview, Mr Bertolotti also speaks of the foreign fighters who were captured and should be repatriated: “Today they are the main threat alongside those who have been radicalised and are already present inside our countries. European returning foreign fighters are about 4,000. It is estimated that about 2,400 of them are still alive, of whom 800 are in Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish hands, awaiting trial. These people are returning, some – actually few – of them through irregular migration. This is a critical factor”. Many Western governments are reluctant to take them back because it would be legally difficult to take them to court and charge them, which may result in them eventually being released. For this reason, the ISPI analyst points out, “not taking a decision may partially solve the problem or at least postpone it”.




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