For ambitious Islamic terrorist groups you thrive or die depending on how much positive (or scary) media attention your activities generate. Both al Qaeda and now ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) have experienced both extremes. While Shia and Sunni states in the Middle East are uneasy allies against ISIL everyone, including the media, is beginning to realize that ISIL has peaked and is now in decline. Despite recent ISIL attacks in Belgium and last November in France, the list of failures and desperate situations is long. The Belgium and France attacks were the result of a massive ISIL effort since early 2015 to carry out an attack in the West. This involved sending hundreds of motivated and trained operatives to Europe and activating support networks there. That has all been compromised now as an enraged Europe does not back off, as ISIL followers were told, but comes on even more ruthlessly against the Islamic terrorist supporters in their midst. The mass media works both ways for those who use this global information tool to terrorize.
The ISIL setbacks are many. In the last year they have lost over 20 percent of the Iraqi and Syrian territory they held at the height of their success in late 2014. Another disappointment is what happened among distant Islamic terror groups that, in 2015, pledged loyalty to ISIL and considered themselves part of the ISIL caliphate. That has clearly not worked out. Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria and Philippines all had major Islamic terror groups that declared themselves part of ISIL in 2015 and only in Libya is the local ISIL franchise making any progress and that’s because Libya is in chaos and the main thing motivating the many other Libyan factions to unite is the shared belief in the need to destroy ISIL. That is a common reaction and in Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, the Philippines and several other countries that motivation was well enough organized to do major damage to the most fanatic local Islamic radicals, the sort of men who seek to join and sustain ISIL. Many of the failed ISIL branches were desperate after discovering that an earlier affiliation with al Qaeda did not help much either. ISIL was supposed to be a solution but turned out to be another problem.
The sad truth is that this cycle of rise and decline of Islamic terrorism has been going on for centuries. It is part of an even more ancient (about a thousand years old) cycle of Islamic conservatism periodically becoming popular and powerful enough to stifle technical, political and economic progress in Moslem states. This is something most Moslems prefer to ignore and discourage open discussion about the problem. That is largely because at its peak, anyone openly criticizing this backwardness is often labeled a heretic or blasphemer and killed. That cycle is peaking again (with ISIL) and while there are more Moslems openly discussing the need to break this cycle once and for all the cycle is still alive and well and ready to reload and return. That is even easier now because of much improved and cheaper mass communications.