Iraq News
Terrorism

Iraqis turn a deaf ear to ISIS recruitment ploys

By Khalid al-Taie

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Smoke billows as Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service forces advance in west Mosul's al-Najjar neighbourhood on May 22nd during the offensive to oust the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'. Iraqi victories in Mosul have stymied the group's recruitment attempts, officials say. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Despite resorting to threats and taunts in a bid to attract new fighters following crippling losses in Mosul, the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) is having little success in bolstering its ranks, Iraqi officials told Diyaruna.

The group has been calling on Iraqi youth to enlist via mosque loudspeakers and its bases in areas near the border with Syria, residents of these areas report.

But these calls are falling on deaf ears, as no more than a few people are responding.

Anbar provincial council member Naeem al-Koud told Diyaruna he has been in touch with local residents who are trapped by ISIS on the Syrian border areas such as al-Qaim and Albu Kamal.

"These people are telling us that the terrorists and their leaders are in a bad position due to loss of life and military defeats in Mosul caused by heavy air raids by the international coalition," he said.

As it seeks to bolster its ranks, he added, the group has been "trying to both incentivise and threaten new recruits, particularly teenagers and youths, to join the fighting and pump up its numbers on the battlefield".

Recruitment troubles

According to besieged residents, al-Koud said, the group is facing significant hurdles when it comes to recruitment.

This is despite its direct meetings with residents and its recruitment attempts via mosques and media centres, where it has been prevailing upon people to join its ranks in Mosul, he said.

"The militants are resorting to terror tactics and issuing threats to force locals to volunteer to fight, but even then, no one is responding to their calls except for a negligible number of men," al-Koud said.

"People are now aware of ISIS’s true nature and the falsehoods it has spread, and they are not willing to join and support the group, even if it costs them their life," he added.

The group has been engaged in a self-promotional campaign, which includes online videos that show it recruiting and training new members.

"Through these videos, ISIS is seeking to raise morale among its existing members and to create the illusion that it is still going strong and is able to attract more fighters and launch its attacks," al-Koud said.

No source of power

While ISIS is trying to label itself as an invincible force, the truth of the matter is that it is "without any source of power", said security adviser Fadel Abu Ragheef.

"The relationship between ISIS members and residents of areas they control in Iraq and Syria is dead, and militants cannot bring life back to it," he told Diyaruna.

"People feel repulsion and resentment towards terrorists, and locals no longer want the fighters in their midst, no matter how much they threaten, pressure and terrorise them," he said.

Low recruitment levels have led to a steep decline in the group's ranks, he said.

ISIS currently has no more than a few thousand fighters scattered across the cities and towns under its control, such as al-Hawija, eastern al-Shirqat and al-Qaim, Abu Ragheef said.

Coalition airstrikes have targeted the group's sources of revenue, he said, which has affected its ability to attract fighters, and foreign fighters in particular.

Money used to be a big draw for foreign fighters, he said, but now the group is "bankrupt and can no longer pay out large salaries and support whole families".

Meanwhile, civilians in areas of western Anbar that are still controlled by ISIS "are paying a high price" for refusing to join the group or help its elements, said Anbar provincial council member Athal al-Fahdawi.

"The group will not think twice before killing or imprisoning any person that breaks its rules," he told Diyaruna.

Fleeing residents are recounting stories of unspeakable violence at the group's hands, he said, adding that "we have to move fast to save the trapped locals".

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