ISIL's purpose to 'exploit divisions, enhance prestige'

Militants believed to be part of the group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are pressuring Jordan in connection with a hostage crisis involving a Japanese captive. What could ISIL's purpose be in escalating the crisis?

The following is an excerpt of views expressed by Khalid Amin, director of the media bureau at Iraq's Science and Technology Ministry and an expert on national security, in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Some people say the war situation is not good for ISIL, as seen by the recent withdrawal of its fighters from Ayn al-Arab, a strategically important battlefield in northern Syria. But I think that's an optimistic view.

ISIL is poised to protect at any cost the supply line between the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and Raqqa, northern Syria. The group, however, is not so interested in keeping the other areas currently under its control, except for oil field zones.

The US-led international coalition of willing nations is continuing its aerial bombing campaign, but it won't be able to oust ISIL from all the areas it controls now at any time soon.

The three main forces in Iraq - the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds - are inclined to protect only their own areas and peoples.

The Kurdish forces are focusing on protecting the Kurdish autonomous region in the north; the Shiites on Diyala Province, a central part of Iraq where many Shiites live; and the Sunnis on Anbar and Salaheddin provinces.

ISIL is trying to take advantage of such divisions in their goals. Iraq's fight against ISIL will be a long war of attrition.

If the Jordanian government agrees to release Sajida al-Rishawi, a death-row inmate who was involved in the 2005 simultaneous bombing attacks in Amman, ISIL will have succeeded in showing - not only to Iraqis and Syrians but to the rest of the world - that it is an influential force that can make a deal on an equal footing with a nation-state.

ISIL is aiming to raise its prestige in the Islamic sphere and drive a wedge between the coalition of willing anti-ISIL nations. [If Rishawi is released,] ISIL will at the very least attain the goal of enhancing its prestige.

Interviewed by Kenichi Kubo,

Yomiuri Shimbun Cairo bureau chief