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December 25, 2014

ISIS Hitting a Wall in Iraq?

451597376 445x289 ISIS Hitting a Wall in Iraq?

Iraqi forces and mainly Shiite Muslim volunteers arrive in the predominantly-Sunni Muslim city of Samarra, 77 miles from Baghdad on July 2 to protect the Shiite Muslim Al-Askari shrine. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

On the propaganda and recruitment front, there are growing signs that the Islamic State (aka ISIS aka ISIL) has hit a wall. On the military front on the ground in Iraq, a top U.S. military leader said Thursday that Baghdad was holding up under the threat.

From the moment the Islamic State declared that it had established a caliphate, it divided Islamists. Most Muslims, it would appear, aren’t terribly interested in the Islamic State’s aims, and even fewer share their values. Even among extremist and jihadist figures, though, there are some who are supportive and some who are anything but.

Among the benefits for IS of the caliphate declaration: “The Islamic State knows it probably cannot create a caliphate, but simply saying as much benefits the group tactically: It stokes fears in the West and, considering it was announced during the first weekend of Ramadan, it appeals to Muslim sensibilities,” according to Stratfor.

But: Jamaa Islamiya, the Lebanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, went as far as to call IS’ maneuver “heresy.” A number of radical clerics have denounced the IS declaration of a caliphate. And the split with al-Qaida was precipitated, at least in part, over a dispute about establishing a caliphate. Intelwire’s J.M. Berger has a pretty pessimistic assessment of IS’ traction.

On top of that, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin E. Dempsey said at a Pentagon news conference Thursday that based on early assessments from U.S. teams on the ground, things are moderately looking up for the Iraqi government’s conflict with IS:

“The Iraqi security forces are stiffening around Baghdad,” he said, referring to the incomplete reports from assessment teams. “But some initial insights are that the ISF is stiffening, that they’re capable of defending Baghdad, that they would be challenged to go on the offense, mostly logistically challenged.”

It’s far, far too early for anyone to predict with assurance which way all this will go — only that there are now signs of the tide being stemmed, when there were few if any before.

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