Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, is a renowned German journalist and publicist who travelled through Turkey to Mosul, the largest city occupied by Isis, after months of negotiations with the group’s leaders.
He plans to publish a summary of his “10 days in the Islamic State” on Monday, but in interviews with German-language media outlets has revealed his first impressions of what life is like under Isis.
For those of us viewing these developments from a great distance, it’s a confusing time.
On the one hand, the battle over Kobane seems stalemated. It’s being progressively destroyed but neither the Kurds nor the IS have yet been able to gain a clear upper hand. Given this was a target of choice for the IS, just now that looks a little like a defeat.
On the other, they seem to be consolidating their hold on vast tracts of Iraq and Syria. And, if Todenhöfer is to be believed, viewed by many as saviours or liberators.
Once within Isis territory, Todenhöfer said his strongest impression was “that Isis is much stronger than we think here”. He said it now has “dimensions larger than the UK”, and is supported by “an almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any other warzone”.
“Each day, hundreds of willing fighters arrive from all over the world,” he told tz. “For me it is incomprehensible.”
Ultimately, its “success” will probably rest more on its administrative capabilities than its military prowess. If it can consolidate military gains and turn conquered territory into a comparatively safe, supportive hinterland, almost anything becomes possible. If it can’t, in time the whole thing will probably unravel.
Update: CNN interview with Todenhöfer.
(h/t FB Ali)