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OWEN BENNETT-JONES | Oct 26, 2016

JUST two years ago, it was said the jihadis could conquer Baghdad. Today they are on the run. When it began its assault on Mosul, the Iraqi army said it hoped to liberate the city within two months. Even if that turns out to be somewhat optimistic, few doubt the city will fall. And the battle for Mosul comes shortly after the militant Islamic State group’s defeat in the Syrian city of Dabiq where, needless to say, the prediction of a final, apocalyptic showdown between the forces of good and evil failed to materialise.

However, assessments of its strength depend on the timescale you are using. The violent jihadist ideologues have the advantage of thinking not in terms of five-year electoral cycles but as far as a century ahead. They may be on the back foot right now but, taking a longer-term perspective, the establishment of the ‘caliphate’ has shown that restoration of Muslim power is possible…

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