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The New Arab

How the Islamic State ends: scrambling for Deir al-Zour

The fight to recapture territory led to the destruction of many great Arabic cities [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 August, 2017

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The 'caliphate' is collapsing and IS leaders are forced to install conscription in Deir al-Zour - an unprecedented move on this scale.

Eight Islamic State leaders were confirmed killed by the US-led coalition in the area surrounding Deir az-Zour on Thursday.

IS leaders responsible for planning attacks abroad, recruitment and coordination were killed in a series of targeted airstrikes, Operation Inherent Resolve reported.

Reports from various local sources also told The New Arab of an influx of IS commanders in recent weeks - reportedly coming from previous IS strongholds, including Mosul and Raqqa.

The 'caliphate' is now crumbling according to all the usual metrics - as it loses control over its oil supply, its finances and territory.

And where once thousands of young, brainwashed Muslim men from across the world scrambled to recruit in the new 'Islamic' army, IS now has to resort to enforced conscription.

An unverified picture emerged on Thursday, of a mandatory army conscription order for young Muslim men aged between 20 and 30 - previously unheard of for the organisation.

At its peak in 2014, IS commanded over a population of around 12 million people - roughly the same size as Zimbabwe or half of Syria.

Fast forward to April 2017 and the US-based RAND corporation forecast a collapse within IS before the end of the summer, as the organisation cedes access to oil fields and sheds money by the barrel-load.

And this power collapse is leading to a wake up call in some of the more conservative Mosques that the 'Islamic' State may not have been so Muslim after all.

"Polling data indicate declining support across the Muslim world for the Islamic State and its ideology," the RAND report said.

On Thursday the UN marked the third anniversary of the Yazidi genocide, where IS fighters massacred and enslaved the Iraqi minority group for their belief in a different religion - banned under Sharia law.

Nearly 3,000 Yazidi women and children remain in IS captivity today.

Islamic scholars are divided over how to create a truly Muslim state - as the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) ruled over a tribal system and some argue that real-world crossovers to the modern world do not exist.

In other words, what worked at the time of the Prophet doesn't work today.

But the leaders of IS never really cared about God's law. Money, women and power was all they ever really desired - as the widows of IS fighters now tell us.

Deir az-Zour

Deir az-Zour is reportedly one of the last remaining potential boltholes for IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - if the Russian reports of his demise are premature.

The city which was once destroyed by a Mongol army in 1298 now awaits its second rebirth as US-made Hellfire in the form of AGM-114 missiles obliterate what remains of the towns infrastructure.

But ultimately, the fight for Deir az-Zour is like a vulture picking at the bones of a carcass - the real defeat of the Islamic State arguably came with the fall of Mosul.

Even the Syrian regime's army - which once prioritised the siege of Aleppo over fighting IS out of a fear of IS' strength - is now advancing on the city with the illusion of competency in the face of IS collapse.

Where Islamic State fighters used to run towards the reward of death, their leaders must surely now be running away from certain doom.

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