It shouldn’t be a surprise that Islamic State was quick to claim responsibility for Monday’s suicide attack in Manchester that killed 22 people. As its last territory in Iraq’s second city of Mosul falls to U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and its Syrian capital Raqqa is encircled, the group is increasingly desperate for legitimacy. Attacks on the West are one of its few remaining options.
Although IS claimed the attack as revenge against “Crusaders”, neither U.S. nor U.K. authorities have attributed blame to the group.
Whatever the truth, Islamic State faces another, perhaps more serious problem. Its attacks on Europe may be monstrous, but they yield a declining political return.
Islamic State wants its atrocities to foster divisions, driving a wedge between native populations and more recent Muslim migrants. That would bolster the group’s argument that only a radical Middle Eastern caliphate is capable of protecting Muslims, and potentially drive new recruits both to fight its regional wars and conduct attacks farther afield. But that doesn’t seem to be happening.