Frankly, the world has little choice but to fight the Islamic State. So as 2015 ends I offer 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016.

It is a movement that is violent, cruel, irreligious and without compassion and it cannot be left to dominate and destroy social structures in the Middle East or elsewhere.

Modern society in either the West or the East is not perfect. It is riven with failed attempts at equality, plurality, democracy and inclusivity – but it has progressed and most of us benefit to one degree or another from this stuttering progress.7-strategies-to-defeat-the-islamic-state-in-2016

I can write this blog because I live in a society which protects my right, by and large, to express my views.

Still not so in many countries in the world where some significant powers have poor human rights and lock up bloggers because they dare to expose an attitude that is contrary to that of the ruling elite.

But unless all of us stand up against the Islamic State (IS), then any rights we currently enjoy, however tentative, will be swept away.

IS administers by rules of its own creation, fear and demonstrations of violence to subdue opposition. It is not interested in negotiating compromise.

Personally, I am against war and violence and I hate bombs and guns. But when your family is threatened do you hold to those feelings as “inviolate principles” or do you defend your family?

Although it clearly may take more than a year, I therefore put forward (in no particular order) these 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016.

1. Moslems – Stand Up For the Society in Which You Live:

All those Moslems who oppose the actions of the Islamic State need to stand up for the countries and society’s in which they live.

It is not enough just to condemn the dreadful actions of IS and their misguided adherents in Paris, Tunisia, the US and across the world. It is necessary for Moslems to shun fear of persecution and stand up and say, “We oppose this obscenity. We support and are part of this community and will defend its right to exist and its values”.

And be willing to question Islamic attitudes to violence and religious beliefs.

In the Tennessee town of Chattanooga in the US they have set an example by doing just that.

Last July four Marines and a Sailor were killed in Chattanooga, recently described as America’s “most bible-minded city”, by a young Moslem who grew up there and who went on a mindless rampage.

Mindful of President Obama’s call for Moslems to both condemn violence and build stronger ties to their non-Moslem neighbours, Bassam Issa, the president of the “Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga”, has been giving talks in local schools and colleges.

In them Mr Issa tells students that “What’s happening right now is not religious, even though IS and Al Qaeda are covered as a religious thing. In reality, it’s political.”

And he is right. It’s the politics of domination through control, violence and murder rather than the ballot box.

Dr. Mohsin Ali, a child psychiatrist and another member of the Chattanooga Islamic Society, said “We can’t ignore the fact that violent extremists use an interpretation of the very same books and texts that we use. I feel like the Muslim community does need to do more”.7-strategies-to-defeat-the-islamic-state-in-2016

The day after the killings in Chattanooga at a memorial service for the killed servicemen, Dr Ali told the congregation that he and other Moslems in the city were grieving alongside everyone else.

He then asked the Moslems in the Baptist Church to stand as a sign of the allegiance to Chattanooga and to peace. When dozens of Moslems stood, the rest of the congregation applauded loudly.

That’s the way forward. Coming together rather than tearing apart.

We are all in this – our religious or non-religious beliefs are irrelevant.


Using the events of IS and its followers to justify anti-Moslem beliefs, actions and opinions is just ignorance and blind stupidity.

It’s a sign of the immature using their inadequacy and personal anger (whatever the origins) to dump on others. If you feel that way, look deep inside yourself – not at scapegoats.

Apart from which Moslems are not hereditarily more violent than the rest of us.

The whole history of Christianity is full of violence against “non-believers” and non-conforming sects. Buddhists (the supposedly “peaceful religion”) are accused of dreadful atrocities against the Rohingya in northern Myanmar (Burma). “Spreading atheist thought” is a crime punishable by imprisonment in Saudi Arabia.

At the end of the day we are all fellow human beings put on this planet presumably to exercise our individuality and creativity. Therefore, our diversity should be celebrated and respected as our community’s strength – not undermined or attacked and made into its weakness.


Sectarianism, the belief that my sect (of the same religion) is better than your sect, is about as bright as the stupidity of anti-Moslem feelings described above.

And it is probably the biggest problem affecting the Middle East today, polarising the Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, on one side and the Shiites (Shia), led by Iran, on the other.

In fact, the rise of the Islamic State can be traced back to Sunni suppression and sectarianism in Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussain, a Sunni who had persecuted the Shia (and Kurds) for years, Shiite politicians gained power in Iraq and excluded the Sunni.

Some of the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq were taken over by former Sunni military officers in Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, who fanned the flames of Sunni dissent, and hey presto the Islamic State emerges with an extreme Sunni orientated philosophy.

Considering the difference between Sunnis and Shiites is based on who they revere as the family leaders of Prophet Mohammad’s legacy and all the clashes, deaths and abuses that have followed, it’s up there with the Inquisition which the Roman Catholic Church imposed on others in various forms in Europe between the 12th and 19th Centuries, killing and torturing tens of thousands.

Pointless abuse which seeks to impose thought control on others.


According to research at the beginning of December, the Islamic State rakes in about $80 million a month, $1.1 million a day coming from oil sales alone. The rest of their income comes from emptying banks, selling antiquities, ransoms and local taxation (“zakat”).

However, IS has grown so rapidly that, according to the Financial Times, its accounting procedures are out of control and they are unable to verify who claims what.7-strategies-to-defeat-the-islamic-state-in-2016

According to the report an IS “Emir” known as Abu Fatima Al-Tunisi ran off with $25,000 worth of “zakat”, leaving a note on Twitter for his “comrades” saying, “What state? What caliphate? You idiots.”

Then there is the problem of “50,000 ghost soldiers”, with commanders drawing salaries for say 250 men a month, when in fact they only have 150 in their brigade.

To deal with the problem IS sent round administrators who paid the salaries in person, but then they made deals with the commanders to get a cut, with the same result.

In other words, corruption within the Islamic State is rife, again saying much about the spiritual nature of the organisation – or lack of spirituality in general.

At the same time, the Coalition and Russia should continue dismantling IS oil processing plants, tankers and well heads, making them unusable, and the world’s financial markets should block any attempts to do business with them or seize any transferred funds where they are identified.

Turkey, Israel and Assad have all been accused of buying IS oil and it is probably true as it comes through middle-men who ship it around the Middle East for a profit until its origins are obscure.

Easy to say that people should stop paying ransom bribes – but more difficult to adhere to when members of your family and community are imprisoned and brutalised by members of this loathsome organisation.


As I said at the beginning, I am no lover of military solutions – but sometimes there is no choice because IS and their followers are bloodily killing anyone they can.

Precision bombing by Coalition aircraft has done a remarkably good job with few collateral civilian deaths, hitting IS military targets time after time and empowering groups like the Kurds to advance and take territory away from the Jihadists.

Preferably there should be no civilian deaths at all but clearly IS hangers-on do know by now what they are in for if they stay.

By contrast, random and indiscriminate bombing by the Assad regime and now the Russian Air force too, has killed thousands of innocent civilians in the last 4 years and Assad’s Air Force are by far and away the biggest killers of civilians in Syria, far more than IS.


In 2015 the Kurds in northern Syria have nearly tripled the territory they control, while at the same time they have helped to reduce the size of the IS caliphate by 14%.

One of the reasons that the Kurds (YPG/YPJ) in Syria have been so successful, apart from their innate determination and passion to survive, is that IS have found themselves stretched on too many fronts fighting too many battles and the Kurds have taken advantage of that.7-strategies-to-defeat-the-islamic-state-in-2016

According to analysis by the security company IHS Jane’s, IS activity in areas it controls has recently been most intense around Baghdad in Iraq and Damascus in Syria and much less near Kurdish controlled areas, suggesting they were overstretched.

When the Kurdish YPG for instance launched a campaign to retake Tal Abyad in northern Syria near the Turkish border, the forces of the Islamic State were widely spread elsewhere fighting battles in central and western Syria and in Iraq.

“The remaining forces in Tal Abyad were so depleted that they had to be re-enforced with… religious police units from Raqqa,” says IHS Jane’s.

While IS will continue no doubt to use the strategy of surprise, popping up unexpectedly in the most unlikely places, all other sides battling them on multiple fronts will put their fighters and their command and control structures under severe strain. That tension can’t be maintained indefinitely.

Along with this, arm, train and equip those who are most effective against IS and send in special forces not only to guide and help forces like the Kurds with air support but to conduct raids to take out the IS leadership.


As long as everyone keeps up the pressure, time itself will see the Islamic State degrade and self-destruct.

Firstly, disillusion will set in, with the foreigners in particular discovering the caliphate is not the “earthly paradise” it was cracked-up to be. Living in dirty, and uncomfortable, dangerous conditions with bombs raining down and expensive food and electricity in short supply is probably not what they signed up for.

Escaping is not so easy either. A 17 year old Austrian girl who travelled to Syria to join IS last year, Sabra Kesinovic, is thought to have been beaten to death as she tried to escape in November. Many other potential escapees have been caught near the Turkish border and shot.

Secondly, a number of Sunni tribes who originally gave their allegiance to IS have also changed their mind and some have paid a terrible price for their “disloyalty” – around 900 members of the Al-Shaitat tribe in eastern Syria are believed to have been executed, crucified and beheaded.

The Islamic State’s aim with this is to spread terror and prevent further physical desertions, but it won’t prevent the loss of hearts and minds, it will only accelerate it.

Thirdly, the Islamic State is also riddled with corruption, as mentioned earlier. That will only increase as those in a position to take advantage of it will recognise a “sinking ship” when the see it and get out with their booty while they can.

Fourthly, IS was very successful in winning hearts and minds initially in areas it went into by providing food handouts and community services including financial support. With time that will become more and more difficult to sustain and be outweighed by its cruel and unjust treatment of those it believes have transgressed their rules.

And with time, those who were attracted to IS for “spiritual” reasons will eventually see that the whole organisation was cynically built around a religious philosophy to justify its actions, when in fact almost everything it does is against all modern definitions of decency and humanity and decidely “unspiritual”.


Can the Islamic State be eliminated completely? Probably not. Like Al Qaeda it will linger on in the warped minds and heads of those with vengeful personal agendas looking for an excuse to justify themselves.

But like Al Qaeda, it can be contained.

There is no shortage of problems in the world that need solutions, but this is the most pressing and like the Nazi threat of World War ll it must be met head on. Implementing the above 7 strategies to defeat the Islamic State in 2016 will go a long way to make that happen.

Peter Clifford  24th December 20157-strategies -to-defeat-the islamic-state-in-2016

My thanks to the New York Times, Vice News for source material for this post.

About the Author Peter Clifford

Peter Clifford has worked for over 40 years as a healer, counsellor, psychotherapist, lecturer and workshop leader empowering people worldwide to be the best that they can be.

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  • Wisdom says:

    Great Insights Peter! Surprised (& amused) to read about corruption among the Daesh. Agree with your well-thought out approach in extermnating Daesh; and with your underlying messasge that it is about winning peoples’ trust!

    Am observing a few green-shoots (Hasakah, Sinjar, Ramadi…). Hope we have more in the New Year.

    Am surprised reading about action around Tishrin dam… Is Manbij ripe for picking? Will Turkey (again) play the bawling kid?

    Wishing You, Your Dear Ones, (& Readers of your suberb blog): A (Belated) Merry Christmas & A Happy 2016

    • Many thanks Wisdom and New Year Greetings to you. Yes, I do think Manbij is under threat and will hopefully be captured soon. Whether the US can stop Turkey moaning about the SDF/YPG being in Aleppo province remains to be seen. At the moment the Turks are busy trying to destroy the HDP! PC.

  • Joseph Dunford says:

    Peter Clifford, your analysis was so stunning. You gave a genuine insight into what fuels Daesh’s reign of terror and how to truly stop it.

    Firstly, the kharijites are just the kind of distorted Islam that Daesh is doing, and so that is an important step for Muslim leaders to take by routinely condemning them as today’s kharijites. Secondly, the Syrian Democratic Forces (the Kurdish-Arab-Christian alliance) has been making lightning progress across northern Syria, seizing the tishrin dam and now pushing onwards to Manbij and Jarabulus, whilst the Iraqi forces (security and police troops and Sunni tribesmen) are well into liberating Ramadi and pushing onto the rest of Anbar province, showing that resilience from local forces in standing up to the terrorists. Thirdly, targeting their finances (oil, ransom for hostages, taxation on local population, sales of artefacts and private Saudi-Qatari donations) and cutting their supply lines by sealing the Syrian-turkey border is a key diplomatic step in stopping Daesh’s future recruits and weapons and thus starving them of their much needed power to continue terrorising us. Finally, they of course claimed to be invincible when they conquered Mosul and all the other places before, but as Kobane, Sinjar and the current advances show, they are not, and they can be defeated if all these important steps are taken by the West instead of just bombarding them without a proper strategy.

    Daesh may be brutal and strong today, but they will gradually get weaker and less sophisticated in their propaganda, and more syrians and Iraqis will rise up against them because of their tell-tale discrimination of innocent residents etc. And in the meantime as well, I sincerely want all the western leaders to take all the measures that Peter has stated, because this proper, diplomatic process is ultimately, the only way to truly stop Daesh and like-minded groups by exposing them as ultra-extreme distortions of Islam, similar to the ku klux klan being a severe distortion of Christianity. All the proper Muslims of the world, keep standing strong against those barbarians perverting your faith, and don’t turn your back on your Christian, Jewish and Kurdish brothers just because of Daesh’s endgame of total division etc. And all those people who are scoffing at our new strategies, read what the analysts have to say, like Peter, because they have the true way out of the crisis with their supreme knowledge of the war zone. And finally, everyone, keep up the strong faith in the face of this recent darkness, and know that, if this coherent strategy works out, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and Daesh will be finished like a fish out of water, God willing. People of all faiths and none, are as one against this common enemy disguising itself as an Islamic state as part of their gruesome endgame upon the civilised world. Peter Clifford, after the Christmas break, you keep up your first class reporting of the reality on the ground, and we all keep praying that you report continued progress from the reformed Iraqi government, the Syrian Democratic Forces and the worldwide coalition against Daesh. Do what you do best, and show to everyone who the true freedom fighters of Syria are (namely the groups mentioned above), and the ones who can truly stop Daesh by rising up from within. Cheerio!

    From a Christian who sympathises with the peaceful Muslims.

  • Very well said, Peter. Clearly ISIS cannot win if the strategies you propose here are adopted. Indeed, ISIS cannot win in any case, it can only create — with the help of hysterical reactionary forces in the West — a broader conflagration, a war on Islam. The people of Rojava have shown us the route to peace. Inclusive, democratic, gender equal. ISIS is crumbling as you say from its own internal contradictions, its rule by terror corruption. Very much appreciate your contribution to our understanding.

  • Briant says:

    Merry Christmas Peter
    The theological power within the Muslim world of Saudi Arabia is in my opinion also of paramount importance. If Isis are ever to establish a caliphate they must first remove the King of Saudi.

    People claim that Saudi Arabia is the source of Isis because both practise a version of Islam called Salafism. Salafism is rooted in the word salaf, or “forefathers”, and refers to the way the prophet Muhammad’s followers in the religion’s first three generations practised Islam. And while it is true that the kingdom espouses Salafism, Isis’s claim that it is Salafi has no theological basis, because the group is in fact a continuation of a crude sect known as the Kharijites…

    • Merry Christmas Briant and a Happier New Year.

      I think the relationship with Saudi Arabia is that there are some pretty ultra orthodox religious types there and they saw IS as promoting that orthodoxy, even giving it seed money to start. I hope the blindfolds have been removed from their eyes. The Kharijites was a new one on me … making it even more complicated! PC.

  • Vinko says:

    Hi Peter,
    Thanks for your contributions and all the best in forthcoming year. Still your blog is one of my first tasks to check every day.

    Let’s play a scenario technique. Suppose ISIS would win. What would be consequences. Stakeholders playing proxy war should have an idea of them (see illustration of tanks in your text) or is this just the coverage for something else.

    Untill there is nothing to grab or steal (land, ressources, people) there will be no peace. We should support weak sides, who are losers by definition: Kurds, other ethnic minorities without asking anything in exchange. Are we capable to do so? This could be the end of the so called nation states in the Middle East (majority of them). Can we swallow this?

    Or is this just a prelude to a “thirty years war”.

    Somewhere in between one could politely offer refreshing option of democracy grown endogenously, not being imported from abroad.


    • Thanks Vinko for your comments. Can’t disagree with much of that. Unfortunately, so many powerful countries involved and they all have their own agendas. I am not optimistic. A complete break up of the Middle East is more than likely. PC.

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