ISIS: Shifting Toward Regional Conflict

In 2018, ISIS will likely adjust its focus internally while targeting regional enemies, relying on sympathizers to remain loyal to the group, and encouraging members who left the group to return. Despite battleground losses and a series of setbacks in 2017, ISIS maintained its ability to inspire sympathizers abroad, including in the United States. Last year, authorities arrested eight ISIS-inspired homegrown violent extremists in the tristate region.

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  • In April, ISIS’s official spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, released his first major statement since June 2017. Muhajir called on fighters to focus on regional enemies, including Egypt, Iran, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Muhajir threatened Iraq’s parliamentary elections taking place on May 12. In his previous statements, Muhajir called for attacks in Europe and North America. 
  • In that same month, multiple pro-ISIS media groups reaffirmed their allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a campaign they called “Renewal of the Bay’ah” [Oath of Allegiance]. The message, disseminated in multiple languages, encouraged supporters to “listen and obey [Baghdadi] in times of delight and dislike, and in times of hardship and ease.” Pro-ISIS media groups continue to publish propaganda in support of the group. 
  • In March, ISIS released an article entitled “They Remembered, Then They Saw the Light” in the 122nd issue of its digital newspaper, al-Naba. The article attempted to encourage ISIS fighters who have denounced the group to return to the caliphate. The article further stated that those who commit the sin of abandoning jihad can be forgiven and that Muslims should “urge them to repent and redeem themselves to Allah … yearning for jihad for the cause of Allah, and longing for martyrdom.”

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