Is the IS the new normal for the Middle East?

Jaipur, Jan 20 (IANS) The Islamic State (IS) may be on the backfoot but is still entrenched in some of its strongholds like Mosul, leading to the worrying prospect if the terror outfit is be the “new normal” for the Middle East since the grievances that led to its rise have not been dealt with, warn area experts.

While most of the regions of the world were improving, the Middle East, which has seen a number of major disruptions in the last few years, was not one of them, said British expert on the Middle East, Emma Sky in a session “A World of Disruptions” on the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival-2017 on Friday.

“There is a long struggle ahead for the Middle East,” she said and credited the rise of the Islamic State, despite its having “no vision for the future”, to the destructive civil war unleashed in Iraq after the US invasion in 2003, the failure of Arab states, and the growing power of Iran in the region.

“The grievances that led to the IS’ rise have not been dealt with.”

Sky, who also served as a political advisor to the US military commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno from 2007 to 2010 and wrote “The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq” on her experiences, contends that the US-led liberal world order,hat came into being after the Second World War, didn’t start unravelling after 9/11 but the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“I worked with the (US) Coalition Provisional Authority, though not supporting the invasion, to take part in the reconstruction but soon realised that the US had no plan. But I could also not see the civil war that would break out, the rise of Iran and the rise of the IS,” she admitted.

Arab-American scholar of uncertainty and random events Nasim Nicholas Taleb, who quipped he was a “fundamentalist detector”, said this sense is increasingly evoked whenever he travels to his homeland, Lebanon. He however assured the JLF audience that it wasn’t triggered here.

“In 1975, when I was growing up Christian in Lebanon, if you had predicted that this state of affairs could occur less than four decades hence, people would have asked if you understand history. It is people who don’t understand history, which is not always a linear progression towards a better, secular future… It doesn’t happen,” he said, adding the “pogroms” against Christians in the Middle East and continuing support for IS which is operating far out of the region too, raises the question if it is the “new normal for the Middle East”.

“I hope I am wrong, but remember despite all the military operations, it still holds an area occupied by six to nine million people,” he said.

But Sky said that there was hope from the region’s youth who do not subscribe to the IS world-view but dream of a future like that of Dubai.

“The future is with the youth. We have to help them towards a better future,” she stressed.

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at