3-4 / 2015 Content

90 (2015) 3-4: The “Islamic State”

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Andreas von Arnauld / Tobias Debiel / Christian Tomuschat

Debate: The Participation of German Armed Forces in the Fight Against the “Islamic State”

Foreign Policy Without Strategy

Anton Hofreiter

Syria as a Prism for Challenges of Foreign Policy:
Why the Anti-IS Mandate Affirms Europe’s Responsibility in the Middle East

Norbert Röttgen

Focus Articles

The Status of the “Islamic State” under International Law

Christian Tomuschat

Notwithstanding the name it has given itself, the “Islamic State” (IS) remains a criminal terror organisation that enjoys none of the sovereign rights of a State under international law. The IS does not meet any of the constitutive criteria of a State: territory, population, governmental authority. Its main activity is located in the territory of States that, although deeply weakened by internal anarchy, still enjoy the recognition of the international community. Accordingly, the arbitrary control exercised by the IS over some territorial fragments in Iraq, Libya and Syria lacks the requisite consolidation. Moreover, as specifically borne out by the case of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), the international community is not prepared to acknowledge sovereign rights of an entity that on its part categorically rejects the basic principles of the international legal order. Even though the IS lacks the legal status of a State, any State victim of an armed attack by it enjoys the right of self-defence even in the absence of the consent of the State that holds territorial jurisdiction. When after the eventual defeat of the IS criminal prosecution will have to be instituted against the members of the murderous battle units of the IS, the international community, given the vast dimensions of the crimes committed, will have to face up to challenges of almost insurmountable dimensions if it insists on conducting the relevant trials according to the procedural guarantees inherent in the rule of law.


The Right of Self-Defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

Ignaz Stegmiller

Airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are being conducted by the U.S., UK, Australia, France, Russia and others. Most States do not intervene on the territory of another State without attempts of legal justification: the principle claim is that their actions are covered by the right to self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter – but this claim appears to be on shaky legal ground. Self-defence as an exception to a core provision of the UN Charter (the prohibition of the use of force) should be construed narrowly. An “armed attack” has to “occur” in order for a State being able to rely upon individual self-defence. Only under very exceptional and narrowly construed circumstances are anticipatory acts in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter. Furthermore, the notion of “armed attack” does not include Non-State Actors – however, self-defence can be triggered by attacks committed by de facto regimes. It is submitted to treat ISIL as such a de facto regime, meaning that its violations of Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter can lead to the right to self-defence by victim States and, upon their request, third States.

“Remaining and Expanding”: Ideology, Organisational Structure and Strategy of the “Islamic State”

Sebastian Lange

The conditions in the Middle East offered the jihadist group of the “Islamic State” opportunities to conquer territory and establish an societal order in accordance with Salafistic ideology. The utopia of a “Caliphate” as well as budgetary pressures account for the primary strategic goals of its leadership: the consolidation and expansion of the quasi-State. The counter-strategy of containing further expansion has the potential of weakening the IS. Elements of military combat, by contrast, run the risk of strengthening the organisational resilience of the group – and might even increase its capability to mobilise forces.

Return to the Caliphate? Historical Origins and Present Aftermath of Jihadism’s Sacral Geography

Sebastian Huhnholz

The existence of the “Islamic State” is not accurately explainable without an analysis of its ideological backgrounds, its geographical narratives and religious topographies; it thus becomes necessary to conceptualise the spatial-political embedding of this form of Sunni fundamentalism. We are, however, currently lacking in knowledge of geographical interpretive schemes which underlie jihadi acting. This article therefore proposes a three-dimensional analytical framework for a more differentiated understanding of jihadi spatial politics. In a first step, the sacral geography of jihadism shows up powerful memorial sites of historical and utopian spheres of Islam. Secondly, so-called micropolitical spatial practice is analysed to explain individualistic elements of jihadi fundamentalism under conditions of Muslim diaspora and globalisation. Finally, some geopolitical dimensions are used to clarify the global escalation of jihadism after “9/11” and to frame critical views on its connection with refugee dynamics now facing Europe.

Spatial Control as a Factor of Terrorist Violence: The “Islamic State” and the Influence of Territorial Control

Max Hoffmann

This article examines the costs and benefits of the IS’s control of territory in Iraq and Syria and investigates its impact on the use of terrorism. Besides the material impact of such control, the ideological connotations of territory are reconstructed through the analysis of several statements of the group. The study shows that the control of territory seems to benefit the IS in the short and medium term, but causes problems for the group in the long run. The impact of spatial control on terrorist violence is formulated in three theses: territory encourages terrorism, facilitates its use and changes the logic of terrorist violence itself.

Women Fighters in the “Islamic State” and Al-Qaida in Iraq: A Comparative Analysis

Jennifer Philippa Eggert

Until February 2016, there were no confirmed cases of female combatants with the so-called “Islamic State” (IS). How can the change now taking place be explained? Focusing on individual, organisational, societal and security-related aspects, this paper identifies the causal factors for the inclusion of female fighters in IS and in a very similar terrorist organisation, Al-Qaida in Iraq. The comparative analysis of the two organisations shows that it is highly likely that the first confirmed case of female IS fighters in Libya in February 2016 will not remain an exception if, in the group’s perception, the security context continues to change in favour of IS’s opponents.

General Article

Governing Fragmented Peace: Potentials and Pitfalls of Polycentric Security Provision in War-Torn Societies

Tobias Debiel

As a result of diverse privatisation trends, the division between public and private authority in the field of peacebuilding has been blurred, not at least in the context of UN missions and with regard to the provision of public security. This development as well as the increasing recognition of local authorities contributes to the emergence of polycentric forms of governance that are appropriately captured neither by liberal nor by post-liberal approaches. War-torn societies typically oscillate between these polycentric and rather oligopolistic forms of governance. As a consequence, groups with purchasing power or clientelistic networks benefit from an asymmetric protection against threats. The lack of inclusion and clear responsibilities, accordingly, poses severe normative challenges. The contribution sketches two counter-strategies: the re-invention of public authority and the deconcentration of power through “democratic experimentation” at the local level.