The Washington Post reports on serious internal difficulties within the “Islamic State.”
Most striking are the growing signs of friction between the foreigners lured by its state-building experiment and local recruits, who have grown resentful of the preferential treatment meted out to the expatriates, including higher salaries and better living conditions.
Foreign fighters get to live in the cities, where coalition airstrikes are relatively rare because of the risk of civilian casualties, while Syrian fighters are required to serve in rural outposts more vulnerable to attacks, said an activist who opposes the Islamic State and lives in the town of Abu Kamal on Syria’s border with Iraq. The activist spoke on the condition of anonymity.
New restrictions on travel in and out of areas controlled by the Islamic State have been imposed in recent weeks, including a prohibition on truck drivers transporting men without permission, the activist group says. Public executions, a core component of Islamic State discipline, have in recent weeks been extended to about 120 of the group’s own members, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Some were accused of spying and one of smoking, but suspicions are widespread that most were simply fighters caught trying to flee.
Meanwhile, territorial losses in northern Syria and elsewhere in Iraq are contributing to the sense that the group that stunned the world with its triumphant sweep through Iraq and Syria last summer is now not only on the defensive but also struggling to find a coherent strategy to confront the multiple forces ranged against it.
Foreigners continue to volunteer, streaming across the Turkish border into the Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa, according to residents there. The city’s population has been swelled by thousands of Europeans, Asians, Arabs and Africans. Upon arrival they are given cars and apartments, and they mill about among the city’s cafes and markets, lending a cosmopolitan air to streets where foreigners once were rare, according to Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, the pseudonym of one of the founders of the Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently group, who now lives in Turkey.
Many of the foreigners show little inclination to travel to the front lines, he said. “They just want to live in the Islamic State,” he said. “They didn’t come to fight.”
How useful they would be to the Islamic State’s military efforts is also in question, said the Carnegie Middle East Center’s [Lina] Khatib.
“Ultimately, they are only attracting people on the margins of society, without much education or useful skills,” she said. “It’s not exactly bolstering their military capability.”
My guess in that Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John,” has been nowhere near an actual battle, which might require genuine courage– as opposed to sawing off the heads of defenseless prisoners, which may require certain characteristics, none of which happen to be courage.