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Opinion

Opinion: 'Islamic State' has set a trap for Europe

Last Tuesday's attacks in Brussels prove that the "Islamic State" is increasingly throwing its energies into a strategy for dividing European societies. We shouldn't fall into the trap, DW's Loay Mudhoon writes.

For months, the "Islamic State" (IS)

has been forced to retreat.

Ever since the alliance of the United States and European and Arab nations initiated airstrikes a year and a half ago, the pseudo caliphate has lost almost 40 percent of the territory it once controlled in its heartland in Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, numerous high-ranking IS leaders have been killed in operations carried out by the coalition. The influx of foreign fighters has dropped drastically since Turkey boosted patrols at its border with Syria.

Kurdish and Iraqi forces have also significantly helped put an end to the expansion of the group's territory. At any rate, it seems like the project of establishing a state has been shaken, for without military expansion and its accompanying economy of looting, IS will barely be able to survive.

Mudhoon

DW's Loay Mudhoon

There are many indications that IS can be defeated in its primary territory this year; preparations for concerted international efforts to recapture Mosul are already running at full speed. Yet, the more the caliphate is cornered, the more brutal and inhumane its methods and alternative strategies become.

IS needs to show positive results to sustain the dream of a worldwide caliphate and distract from the group's weaknesses. That is why IS is looking for new places to operate and trying to settle in Islamic countries that are under threat of collapse, mostly in North Africa.

With this in mind, IS's strategy of escalating conflicts can be explained as follows: Sectarian attacks in Muslim countries will sow the seeds of division between Sunnis and Shiites and impose warlike conditions as in post-Saddam Iraq. The unprecedented series of attacks in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey bear the stamp of the terror network.

Resist populism

IS has a different public relations campaign in mind to attract new followers in Europe. In reality, the attacks in Paris and

Brussels

show that IS is banking all the more on polarizing and

dividing Muslims and non-Muslims.

The group's strategy is to force governments and societies to react to its killing in a way that could eventually create cultural ruptures. This would include putting

Muslims in Europe

under general suspicion or restricting individual rights.

"We are at war," several decision-makers and opinion-makers in Europe understandably said after last week's attacks. This dangerous rhetoric, however, plays straight into the hands of IS.

The group expects that escalation will confirm its self-sustaining myth of martyrdom. IS wants culturally excluded Muslims to believe that the West is waging a war against Islam, rather than just a gang of killers. In online publications, IS makes no secret of its strategic goals: Muslims in Europe will be so persecuted in the aftermath of such attacks that they will have no other choice than to sign up for IS's nihilism.

The reactions of European democracies will decide whether IS's cynical plan will succeed.

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