Middle East

Is the end of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan near?

Gal Treger

Since twenty-six year old Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and sparked the Arab Spring not much has been stable in the Middle East; Tunisia, Mohamed’s home country, ousted their long time President Zine Ben Ali. In Libya, rebel forces lynched Gaddafi in the streets of Sirte. Syria will soon enter the sixth year of a ferocious civil war. Egypt managed to democratically elect the first ever leader of a country from the fundamental Muslim Brotherhood movement, overthrow him and replace him with an old-school military general. Yemen is on the verge of complete disintegration. Iraq is already there. And even the wealthy, agile kingdoms of the gulf suffered their concussions. There seems to be just one Arab country that was not affected: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. However, there are good reasons to think that Jordan is up next.

With a population of 9.8 million people, Jordan has been home to over 1.5 million refugees of the Syrian Civil War. That is an increase of over 15% in Jordan’s population in just six years. It is analogous to Germany welcoming 12.2 million immigrants by 2021 or the United States offering asylum to some 49.5 million refugees over the same time period.

Most refugees live in dire conditions in camps on the northern border with Syria. According to UN estimates, two-thirds live below the national poverty line and one in six households is in abject poverty, living off less than $40 per person per month, or just over $1.30 a day. With the battlefields of the civil war behind them and the wealthy cities of Amman, Irbid and Zarqa in front, their struggle for jobs, homes and recognition will eventually have political consequences.

The economic situation is a stressor on the political order as well. According to the World Bank, unemployment rates reached 13% in 2015. The annual growth in GDP per capita was zero percent in 2015 and is projected to be lower than one percent in 2016. Total productivity growth slowed for the first time since 2010. Foreign aid, investments, remittances and tourism, the fundamental growth sectors, are in persistent decline. Deflationary pressures persist due to lower oil prices, the weakness of the euro and slow economic growth, while the Central Bank of Jordan tries to stimulate the economy with a loose monetary policy.

The danger of high inflation, the precursory of revolution, is discernible. The scenario of a sudden surge in the prices of basic goods seems highly probable; whether due to a sharp rise in the prices of global commodities, a government tax-reform aiming to secure an IMF loan, geopolitical pressures or drastic changes in exchange rates of the dinar.

The current political structure in Jordan is also facing a perilous ideological threat. The Islamic groups in Jordan are moving towards a more militant, proactive and jihadist Islam, affiliating themselves with fundamental groups in the region, primarily Al-Qaeda.

Additionally, Islamic State propaganda is ubiquitous, not just in mosques but also in universities, sports clubs and youth groups. Youth are futile ground for radicalization, with unemployment for those under the age of 30 – which account to 70% of the population – just over 30%, twice the world average. Furthermore, there are growing indications that Sunni militants, Salafi groups, Syrian opposition and ISIS supporters are smuggling more and more arms into the country.

When a car drives over a bridge and the bridge collapses we tend to focus on the specific car, the driver, the time and place the accident took place. We rarely discuss the structural stability of the bridge. The political system in Jordan is an unstable bridge. We have good reasons to believe that one of the cars driving over will make the entire bridge collapse.

Why Mosul matters: security, sectarianism and stability in a post-ISIS Iraq

Katherine Pye

As Iraqi government Special Forces enter the outskirts of Mosul and Kurdish forces advance from a new front in the north, the world witnesses the beginning of the end of the great black banner which once sprawled across the Levant.

Relief, however, will be short lived. The defeat of ISIS is by no means the dawn of a new Iraq. If the current course is pursued, the events of 2016 will continue a cycle of insurgency and jihad which has spanned decades. It may lead the country to the same fate as its Syrian neighbor with global repercussions to match.

However, Mosul presents an unrivalled opportunity to reverse this. Firstly, the battle for Mosul will be the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since 2003, significant in itself as a push by the weak Iraqi state to assert its dominance in a region of Iraq where they had never traditionally exerted much control. If the government is successful it is a promising first step for a stable new Iraqi state.

Secondly, Mosul embodies political and strategic problems in the nation; the Iraqi army are leading forces inside the city whilst their supporters are disparate and disjointed. They form a highly unstable fractious coalition including Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Sunni tribal units and Shia militia. Such a multilateral attack will set an important precedent for how ethno-religious groups are able to work with each other as Iraq begins reconstruction.

Furthermore, unlike previously liberated cities such as Tikrit and Fallujah, the northern city of Mosul is religiously diverse, meaning the way in which anti-ISIS forces handle their victory and treat Mosul’s inhabitants in the immediate aftermath could have crucial implications for ethno-religious politics in Iraq in the future. 

Government responses to divided communities such as Mosul will also have a real impact on geopolitics in the region. Whilst the USA has poured funds into Pershmerga coffers, Turkey has been watching the situation closely. Erdogan’s government have been eager to play a more dominant role since interventions in Jarabulus last September which threatened the Kurds with full-scale retreat.

Iran too has demonstrated strategic interests in the region, with the government funding the launch of a "United Shia Liberation Army", linking sectarian conflict in Iraq to Shia ‘struggles’ in Yemen and Syria. Should sectarian violence break out after Mosul is liberated, there are more than enough key players to intervene. A Syrian-style proxy war is never far away.

Yet despite this, groups fighting ISIS have not yet all met and there is no agreed verdict on what victory would look like in a political rather than military sense. As in 2003, troops move in once again without a clear strategy or any plans beyond the immediate term. Astoundingly, even US strategy in the region is overwhelmingly  ‘short term’, as outlined by Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Instead, each stakeholder will most likely rush to fill the ISIS vacuum by grabbing as much power as possible. This risks collapsing back into turmoil after fighting finishes, in a settlement where central government authority has never been assertive even in peacetime.

But what is often forgotten is that in the months that follow a defeat of ISIS on the ground, an estimated 30,000 foreign fighters will travel back to their home states. Like Al-Qaida after the US invasion of Afghanistan, these brutalised individuals represent an urgent yet invisible security threat, transforming from a state to a “brand”, maintaining an ability to inspire and recruit all over the world.

ISIS itself was born under conditions dangerously similar to those we see in Iraq today. The founder of Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, the Iraqi Sunni insurgency which became ISIS, was Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi was a Jordanian fighter living in Afghanistan under the Taliban when the US invasion forced them out. Moving to Iraq, he worked underground to build a new Islamic state, carrying out suicide attacks in Shia areas to heighten underlying sectarian tensions. Aggression against Sunnis from the Iraqi government, allied Shia militias or US-backed Kurds would provide perfect propaganda for insurgents in a fragile post-war Iraq.

What can the Iraqi government and its allies do to break this cycle of insurgency, or avoid sliding into total sectarian warfare in the absence of a common enemy? As a matter of urgency all groups opposed to Daesh must meet before invading Mosul, which the US can help facilitate. Religious communities and tribal leaders in and around Mosul need a platform on which to correspond and cooperate before hostilities are further entrenched. The Iraqi government also needs to set a precedent of much lower tolerance for Shia militia brutality. The recapture of Mosul is a critical time for the state to demonstrate post-ISIS Iraq is inclusive and even handed, robbing any Sunni extremist insurgency of the chaos it needs. Addressing Iraq’s long-term security issues requires strong leadership, cool-headed pragmatic decision making and a long-term outlook. At the moment, all are in dangerously short supply.  

What About the Children?

Nilen Patel

This is Europe’s quiet crisis. The lives of children are depicted as the most precious. They are meant to be lives to be protected and nurtured. They are supposed to be the future of our societies after all.

However, 96,500 unaccompanied children applied for asylum across Europe in 2015. Over 10,000 of these are unaccounted for or missing.

Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, believes many of these children are working as slaves, on construction sites and farm land or as sex workers. How can we let these children, the most vulnerable and valued members of society, be the ones to be let down by our European politics? In a society governed by numbers, the extent of human trafficking has long since passed the stage in Europe where it should demand attention and response.

Perhaps this is just further evidence of Europe’s ineffective strategy to cope with refugees. UNICEF found that children currently have to wait up to 11 months between registration and transfer to a country that has agreed to accept them. In Sweden up to 10 children are reported missing each week and in Slovenia more than 80 per cent of unaccompanied children went missing from reception centres. The situation is a complex and emotional one, but traffickers are taking advantage of the waves of migrants and operating across Europe due to the weakness of Europe’s child protection system.

Even on a national scale, we are far from rising to the challenge. Just last month the House of Commons defeated an amendment to an immigration bill that would have seen the UK accept 3000 child refugees. The Home Office argued that they were doing enough already to help child refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries. David Cameron maintains that we must ensure that refugees don’t have the incentive to travel across Europe. Yet the National Crime Agency identified that the number of children being trafficked in the UK increased by 46% from last year, so this is a problem that is clearly not diminishing or going to disappear.

What the Home Office failed to acknowledge is that a significant number of these refugees were under 14 years of age, and travelling alone without the protection of adult family members or guardians. As a means to pacify protestors to the UK stance, the government has agreed to fast-track child migrants who have family members in the UK as well as take in children registered in Greece, Italy or France before the refugee deal was created with Turkey. Yet is a fast-track modification of a notoriously slow process actually helpful? Furthermore, this is another act of ostracising the children who need help the most - the ones without parents or guardians. Smugglers and traffickers, meanwhile, are presenting these migrants with “solutions”, an escape route to a better life, far exceeding what the asylum jungle currently offers them.

It is this internal conflict of how to respond that is symbolic of the EU attitude towards this ever-growing crisis. Unaccompanied children just aren’t valued enough by a society hypocritically putting children in that vulnerable and important societal position.

The fact is that the conflict driving this migration isn’t disappearing, meaning it has become a question of humanity to acknowledge the situation and respond as best as possible. We need to counter the “offer” of smugglers and traffickers rather than restricting our borders. The situation they are fleeing from will always provide a greater incentive to migrate than any disincentive David Cameron could ever create.

The crisis of child refugees is a quiet one, but it shouldn’t be this way. There is an incongruence of what we as a society place value on and what our policies place value on. By reassessing what we believe is important and then crucially protecting these values, we can hope to better the situation in Europe.

The Alternative to Hatred: Small Steps towards a Shared Society in the Middle East

Rose Vennin

As I am shown around the Givat Haviva campus in Northern Israel, I walk past a three-meter high wooden sculpture similar to a totem pole. Curious, I ask Lydia Aisenburg, educator at the centre, whether it is indeed a totem pole and its significance. She swiftly corrects me: it is a peace tree, proudly sculpted by a group of Israeli and Arab children in one of the day-long sessions organised by the kibbutz to bring the two cultures together and further dialogue. It has symbolically stood there for a decade, persisting throughout the innumerable acts of violence in the region. 

With Israel having experienced violence and instability once again this past weekend, discussing local efforts fostering harmony, such as this joint arts program, seems particularly relevant. When considering the matter, most think that peace building and international relations in general are a top-down affair, that inter-governmental agreements are those that will end conflict. However, this is only part of the story: if tension exists among the local population then even a unanimously recognised agreement at the diplomatic level is ineffective. More than ever, long-term stability in the region needs to come from local communities, with Arab and Jewish civilians working hand in hand. 

This is where an organisation like Givat Haviva comes into play. Founded in 1949 as a national education centre, it is a recipient of the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education for its longstanding work in promoting Jewish-Arab dialogue and reconciliation. I meet with Yaniv Sagee, the Executive Director, who details the centre’s new strategy: striving for a shared society, the programs created aim to enhance cooperation, equality and understanding between what are today divided groups in Israel. Although this may appear to be an impossible goal in a region with a tumultuous history, Givat Haviva’s record is quite convincing at showing that change on a societal scale begins with the socio-political unit closest to the people – the community level. Projects like the implementation of common educational programs and the establishment of Arab-Jewish municipal cooperation are tiny steps in the longer stride towards regional peace, developing interaction and understanding between the two groups.  

So although it may sound idealistic and trivial given the current conflictual situation, it is these tiny steps that matter today. By instituting shared values from an early stage in Arab and Jewish children’s political maturation, concrete programs like these lessen the separation between the two. As witnessed during my two-week trip to the region, hatred of the “other” is instilled from a very young age on both sides. Arab and Jewish communities can live 5 kilometres from one another, yet a world separates their views regarding the region, its history and the future they envision. Later on in the day, I visit one Jewish village, on top of a hill, and another Arab one at the bottom, both having yet to follow Givat Haviva’s program. After talking with local shop-keepers about their respective points of view, I am struck by the fact that there seems to be no interaction between the two communities – they are so close, and yet so far. In this context, how can we realistically expect the state of stability the international community repeatedly calls for?

Hence, as the peace process has slowed down to a standstill and a seemingly hopeless situation prevails, “the time to build a society of dialogue and understanding between all groups, has come, and not only at the governmental level, but even more importantly between local communities and civilians,” concludes Lydia Aisenburg. It is time to put the work of organisations like that of Givat Haviva further into the spotlight, promoting the notion of a peaceful shared society. And then only will the peace tree stand firm for centuries.

Title image taken at Givat Haviva.

Culturally Combating Da'esh


He saw life as a saga. All the events in it were significant: all personages in contact with him heroic. His mind was stored with poems of old raids and epic tales of fights, and he overflowed with them on the nearest listener. - T.E Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

T.E Lawrence's description of Auda, a desert warlord, homeless but armed with poems and stories, resonates with the essential function of Jihadi poetry in creating a sense of cultural identity within Da'esh, the organisation that calls itself 'Islamic State'.  Admittedly, Lawrence was writing in an entirely different, and importantly less religiously radicalised society, however, he frequently notes how essential culture and particularly poetry was to an essentially nomadic people. Whilst Da'esh's rapid expansion, declaration of a 'caliphate' and alleged issue of passports seem to propose a strong sense of state identity this is flawed. Its success is fundamentally based upon military victory, for example the capture of Mosul was touted as a clear sign of God's favour, however, as they encounter more organised resistance in the form of the Iraqi Military and a reinvigorated Kurdish force this is waning. In its place a fledgling cultural identity is forming and presents an essential target for attack. There are many admirable initiatives rewriting and poking fun at Da'esh and the exaggerated culture it's weaving but more must be done to undermine the dangerously attractive image it presents that not only strengthens it internally but allures potential foreign fighters.

A principle player in fostering Da'esh's poetry is Ahlam-al-Nasr, whose collection 'The Blaze of Truth' was published online last summer and circulated extremely quickly through militant networks. Known as 'The Poetess of Da'esh' she's the closest thing to a literary celebrity that Da'esh can hold and she provides a powerful rallying call. Indeed in February she wrote a 30 page essay defending the leadership's decision to burn the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. In a recent article in the New Yorker Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel comprehensively dissect a number of the collections 107 poems and consider their cultural impact. They noted the importance of her recent marriage  to Abu Usama al-Gharib, a Vienna-born jihadi close to the movements leadership which was reported on numerous Da'esh-affiliated twitter accounts. However the celebrations of nuptial bliss also mark the creation of media power couple as Al-Gharib is a veteran propagandist, initially for al-Qaeda and now for Da'esh. 

Political Poetry 

To get an idea of the importance of Jihadi poetry in fostering Da'esh's identity we must examine both its roots in traditional Arab poetry and its politicisation in the Arab Spring.  The poems Lawrence frequently encountered were the latest in a long tradition based in a oral culture. The earliest poems were written primarily in monorhyme, for easy memorisation, and functioned as historical record. By celebrating famous victories, lamenting the fallen, celebrating love and degrading their enemies they fostered a culture of romance and more importantly gave a fixed identity within it. Even now television shows such as the UAE-based 'Sha'ir al-Milyoon', or 'Millionaire Poet',  in which poets compete along the lines of American Idol for enormous prizes, continue to celebrate this oral tradition. The political dimension of this poetry is  paramount - indeed the 2010 winner of 'Millionaire Poet' delivered a piece fiercely critical of hard-line Saudi clerics. The most obvious example of poetry's political use is in the Arab Spring. During the Egyptian revolution lines from an early 20th century Tunisian poem by Abul-Qasim al Shabi were chanted, recitals broke out nightly and poetry was a catalyst for staying inciting cohesive resistance. An Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that protestors were chanting throughout the evening. He commented ‘There’ve been poetry readings. It seems as if they’re saying, “It’s early in the morning but we’re here to stay. We’re not going anywhere".' Indeed, Nasser Farghaly, an Egyptian filmmaker, poet and writer, recently spoke to Granta about the use of poems as a tool for political movement in modern Arabic poetry:

"The dialectic that has characterised the Arabic contemporary poetry scene for the last fifty years was very evident in the revolution; this is the dialectic of revolution in poetry, or revolution by poetry."

A State - or a State in Our Eyes 

The poems that are chanted by Da'esh militants now may be different but they serve the same function of social cohesion. 'The Poetess of Da'esh' herself began her poetic career penning verses in support of the protests to oust Bashar al-Assad in 2011. Since then her work has become progressively more Islamist and extremist.  Celebrating the symbolic capture of Mosul she wrote

Ask Mosul, city of Islam, about the lions—

How their fierce struggle brought liberation.

The land of glory has shed its humiliation and defeat

And put on the raiment of splendour.

By repeatedly portraying Da'esh in paradisal language she is balming an integral existential anxiety within it. Surrounded by enemies on all sides and pounded by coalition bombing, the identity of Da'esh lies less in its fluctuating borders than the imaginative fantasy realm of the 'Caliphate'. By exploiting the rich oral tradition of Arabic poetry they are in effect hijacking a cohesive cultural identity for themselves and appropriating the societal roots they lack.  Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel make the important distinction between Ahlam's poems and other like it and videos of beheadings and burnings. The graphic atrocities 'are made primarily for foreign consumption' whereas 'poetry provides a window onto the movement talking to itself. It is in verse that militants most clearly articulate the fantasy life of jihad'. 

Da'esh itself has a troubled relationship with the idea of 'statehood'. In the early summer of 2014 Abu Bakr al-Bhagdadi declared 'Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims', thus disavowing traditional notions of statehood which typically find their model in a Westphalian secular system. However, in some respects Da'esh is behaving very much like a state. Indeed, a comprehensive study by Charles C. Caris & Samuel Reynolds for the institute of war examined how it 'has built a holistic system of governance that includes religious, educational, judicial, security, humanitarian, and infrastructure projects, among others'. Admittedly these initiatives were largely centred around the stronghold of Raqqa but the resemblance to organized statehood is striking and this is also reflected in its governing structure. Beneath him, al-Baghdadi has a chief advisor on Syria and a chief advisor on Iraq, each of whom lead 5-7 governors. There are nine councils, including the Leadership Council, the Shore Council, the Military Council, the Legal Council, the Fighters’ Assistance Council, the Financial Council, the Intelligence Council, the Security Council, and the Media Council. Thus it's clear that Da'esh is striving after a kind of sovereignty and statehood whilst simultaneously rejecting traditional, or at least Western, definitions of them. This is reflected in the names they employ. On the one hand, they use the term khalifah, a religious term far older than the 19th century nation state, to refer to Bhagdadi. This proclaims him the leader of the entire Muslim community across the world thus disregarding traditional state boundaries and national identities in favour of religion. On the other, they call themselves 'Dawlah' a term originating in the 10th century but used more recently to describe a sovereign state with the panoply of statehood. In this way Is both subscribes to and frustrates Western conceptions of secular statehood. Da'esh claims sovereignty for its 'caliphate' yet rejects the treaty from which 'sovereignty' as a modern concept was born – the treaty of Westphalia. The poetry of Ahlam-al-Nasr and others like her treads between these seemingly conflicting positions by not only perpetuating the religious call of the caliphate but also celebrating the everyday life within the 'state' of Da'esh. The two positions are collapsed in her declaration 'In the caliphate, I saw women wearing the veil, everyone treating each other with virtue, and people closing up their shops at prayer times' written in an essay defending the leadership's decision to burn Moaz al-Kasasbeh. However, the danger of propagandists like Ahlam al Nasr is that they inspire followers who in turn encourage foreign fighters disaffected with western sovereignty. One such is a British Da'esh militant, Abuqaqa Britani, who used to go by the name 'greenbirdexpress' on the social networking site Ask.fm and has started posting his own verse on Twitter.  The widespread proliferation of jihadi poetry not only serves to redefine traditional notions of sovereignty but also endeavours to lure disaffected Muslims abroad to become foreign fighters. 

The Emerging Cultural Battleground

However, around the world people are fighting back. Sana al-Yemen, a British teenager recently found herself the centre of a media craze after she uploaded a video reciting her own anti-Da'esh poem on youtube. Within minutes Al-Jazeera, CNN and the BBC had contacted her for comment and the poem had gone viral. She now has over 4000 followers on Twitter and has been the focus of a feature length documentary. The poem itself specifically attacked preachers in Europe calling for young people take up arms in support of Da'esh. In particular she comments upon Sheikh Mohamed al-Areifi, a Salafist cleric from Saudi Arabia who has been accused of encouraging young British Muslims to head to Syria and Iraq. There are countless other individuals around the world undermining Da'esh's rhetoric, another British example being Humza Arshad. His joint project with Scotland Yard is an essential part of their counter extremism outreach work. Alongside police officers he participates in presentations at schools all over the UK. His tongue in cheek delivery was recorded by Griff White who observed:

The police officer had just finished an earnest presentation on counter-extremism before an audience of 200 restless teenagers at an East London secondary school when a young man of Pakistani origin in a black hoodie took the stage. "How many of you people are Muslim?" the man barked. He grinned as nearly every hand went up. "Guys, we can take over! Sharia law coming soon!" the man cried gleefully. "Allahu Akbar!"

The teens erupted in laughter even before the man had a chance to clarify: "I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I think I scared the white people."

There is a fine balance between ascribing media coverage to anti-Da'esh Muslim voices and ascribing expectation. A combination of the religious motivation of IS and the hesitancy of western media to confront to 'Islamic' aspect of 'Islamic State' has been counter-productive. Whilst striving to avoid offence, news agencies are overlooking how religion - if a warped interpretation - is fuelling the conflict. The danger with this approach is that it places an inordinate pressure upon the Muslim community to denounce Da'esh's use of religion. One example of this is the decision of the mosque that Mohammad Abdulazeez, the Tennessee shooter, prayed at to cancel its Eid al-Fitr celebrations and mourn the dead marines. The eyes of America and its news agencies were upon them and thus they felt unable to continue with their own un-radicalised religious practises, and obliged to provide the rejection of Da'esh's religion that others have avoided.  Headlines such as 'Government to take firmer stance on Muslims who fail to denounce jihadis' (the Independent, 18/07/2015) simply serve to increase this pressure and create an expectation for Muslim's to 'prove' their non-radicalisation by denouncing Da'esh. Marc Schneier wrote persuasively on this topic, commenting that this question arises out of the failure of the western media to effectively record the instant rejections of radicalism that surround many Islamist terrorist attacks. For instance, during the summer of 2014, the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza triggered an explosion of violent anti-Semitism across Europe; many acts were committed by Muslims. While the media highlighted the very real and deeply troubling upsurge of violence in countries like France, Germany and Belgium, they rarely reported on Muslim leaders who denounced the violence. This media neglect then occasionally boils over into sudden bouts fierce expectancy where various Muslim communities are forced to 'prove' their moderate beliefs even though they have frequently espoused them in the past. Ironically, the trepidation of news agencies to approach the clear religious motivation of Da'esh is placing an inordinate expectation and ultimately suspicion upon wider Muslim communities to do so. This is why the widespread coverage of everyday low key actors such as Sana al-Yemen is so important.

This coverage is also essential as initiatives such as Humza Arshad's showcase the power of humour to undermine Da'esh's rhetoric. In a recent interview on CNN Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef, former host of Al Bernameg, summed this up perfectly when he said 'I think satire is incredible because basically it takes down this kind of fear from the hearts of people and when you take away the fear through laughter, they aren’t scary anymore'. Indeed, just across the border from Da'esh is the new hit Iraqi comedy show Dawlat al-Khurafa or the Superstitious State — a play on khilafa, or caliphate. It features Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Da'esh's leader, as a buffoon who hatches from an egg after a truly bizarre ceremony involving Satan, the Joker and, as far as I can make out, a Western cowboy. The show draws attention to the little known ludicrous laws imposed by Da'esh such as the banning of electric razors and the displaying of tomatoes side by side. 

Da'esh is in a critical stage in its development. No longer fuelled by constant military success and under increasing threat from Kurdish forces, who recently captured military bases 30 miles from Raqqa, it is becoming increasingly reliant on its own interpretation of sovereignty. Nevertheless, it still poses an enormous threat to regional and international security so this cultural weakness needs to exploited to destroy the fantasy caliphate that both holds Da'esh together internally and allures foreign fighters. By examining jihadi poetry we can gain an essential glimpse into the cultural mindset of the fighters and use this to target anxieties afflicting the self proclaimed state as a whole. To do this the international community must draw media attention to individuals such as Sana, Humza and the unpublicised hundreds like them who recognise this weakness. News of the military battle against Da'esh is daily reported, with accounts of coalition bombing filling headlines, but its cultural and intellectual counterpart has not been sufficiently covered.  The intellectual battleground needs to be placed at the forefront by policymakers, not simply sidelined in favour of an expansion of coalition bombing. In codifying its reinterpretation and rejection of Western sovereignty, Da'esh is becoming more reliant on its own self proclaimed myth. By waging this 'intellectual war' and expanding media coverage of everyday rejections of radicalism we can both deconstruct Da'esh's self edifying mythos and reduce the number of foreign fighters flocking to support it.

Click here for an Iraqi News report on Dawlat al-Khurafa.