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ISIL’s post-caliphate insurgency continues in Syria and Iraq. Although ISIL has not reclaimed territory, and is still losing senior leaders and fighters, the ISIL threat in both countries persists. ISIL is still active elsewhere in the Middle East, although its strength varies. Online propaganda is a key tool and still resonates with disenfranchised individuals who can quickly mobilise to violence, including attacking Westerners.
Al-Qaʻida-affiliated or linked groups are still exploiting civil strife and ungoverned spaces. Their presence in Yemen and north-west Syria is an enduring threat to Western interests. Elsewhere, individuals and groups, driven by various ideological objectives—some backed by Iran—have attacked targets in Egypt, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
While COVID-19 has not significantly changed terrorist threats in the Middle East so far, its longer term effects are not yet clear. Travel restrictions have temporarily reduced the exposure of Australians, but terrorists’ intent to attack Australia is unlikely to change.