Islamic State Calls for Attacks on Arab Nations, Shifting Focus from U.S. and Europe

A Syrian pro-government militia member holds a captured Islamic State group flag in June 2017 outside the city of Raqa, which later fell to the Syrian Democratic Forces in October 2017
AFP/George OURFALIAN

Islamic State (ISIS) spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir issued his first statement in ten months on Sunday, in the form of an audio recording distributed on ISIS social media channels.

The statement notably included a call for ISIS followers to attack “apostate” Arab nations in the Middle East, rather than demanding terrorist attacks against European or American targets.

The New York Times cites the new statement as evidence the Islamic State’s “canvas has shrunk and it is returning to its roots as a regional insurgency.

In contrast, Muhajir’s previous statement in June 2017 called for lone-wolf attacks in Europe and Russia. His debut speech in December 2016 described ISIS as a global power able to strike military and civilian targets in every part of the world

The new Muhajir recording instead tells the ISIS faithful that attacking Arab nations is just as good as fighting “their American Crusader allies, or the Russians, or the Europeans.” In fact, he calls for attacking Middle Eastern enemies of the Islamic State more vigorously because they are apostates who are “more fierce and vicious against Islam.”

Muhajir specifically called for attacks on Iraq during its elections in May, urging Sunni Muslims to boycott the polls and promising that voting could be hazardous to their health.

“Our judgement will apply to those who call for them and participate in them,” he said of the Iraqi elections. “The voting centres and those in them are targets for our swords, so stay away from them and do not walk nearby.”

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s suicide bomber attack in Kabul, which killed at least 57 people and wounded another 119. The attack targeted civilians who were seeking to obtain voter registration cards.

The ISIS spokesman did set a few moments of his speech aside to taunt the United States.

“Look at you, you evildoer, confused and lost, and with your goals scattered. You are now forced to beg and go along the wishes of your supposed adversaries,” he said, evidently hectoring the U.S. for allowing Russia and Iran to gain the upper hand in Syria.

.