With the Physical Caliphate in Ruins, IS Propaganda Is Calling on Jihadists for Patience and Steadfastness

How has the Islamic State's messaging changed since its state has been destroyed? Adam Hoffman analyzes recent trends.

Logo of the Islamic State's "Ajnad Media" and the nasheed "Dawlati Baqiyya" [My State Remains]

Logo of the Islamic State's "Ajnad Media" and the title of the nasheed "Dawlati Baqiyya" [My State is Remaining]. 

During the last few days, IS released the latest episode in its video series “Inside the Khilafah” over pro-IS Telegram channels, as well as on YouTube and other video-sharing websites. While a previous video in the series featured the group's violent takeover of the city of Marawi in the Philippines and the destruction of a Catholic church, the recently released video features no fighting or conquest of new territory. With no territory left under its control in Iraq, after the Iraqi military declared in early December that it had "fully liberated" all of Iraq's territory of "ISIS terrorist gangs," and with many of its fighters dead in the battle of Mosul or as a result of the anti-IS Coalition's efforts, official IS propaganda strikes a very different tone now.

The IS militant in the video promises that the Russians, Shi'is, and Alawis will be "exterminated by the mujahedin." As in most IS propaganda products, he also calls on "the lions of the Islamic State" to "rise against kuffar" and speaks of "a tremendous victory." But as this promise seems so far-fetched, in light of the massive loss of territory and IS fighters during the last few months, the video also tries to justify the present predicament of the IS by saying that "the path of jihad was not paved with roses." Instead of immediate victory over all the group's enemies and the pleasures of an Islamic utopia, which were central themes in IS propaganda videos from two and three years ago, the present video emphasizes the importance of patience and steadfastness. According to the IS's narrative, only those who have "a little patience" and believe in Allah will witness the "tremendous victory" promised to the true believers.

The calls for patience and steadfastness are consistent with other IS media products from the last few months, which emphasize the need for patience and the "remaining" of the IS's caliphate, even in the face of its physical destruction by the Iraqi military and Coalition forces. In June, the IS published a nasheed titled "My State is Remaining [Dawlati Baqiya]", and in November another nasheed was published under the name "My state will not be vanquished". Unlike the videos, nasheeds are meant primarily for the IS's own fighters and supporters, and according to the narrative presented in these nasheeds despite all the successes against the group, the Islamic State "is remaining, not vanishing."

Thus, with no territory left to rule in Iraq, the loss of al-Raqqa in Syria, and with its media activity now in sharp decline (Rumiyah magazine, considered as one of the IS's propaganda flagships, has not been released since September 2017),  the IS seems to be trying to boost the morale of the few remaining fighters in its ranks, pleading with them for "a little patience" until things improve and the group will again be victorious. The question, however, is whether anyone is convinced by the apologies made for the current situation and believes that things will indeed turn for the better for a group that is already widely celebrated as defeated.