News / Middle East

ISIL's Agenda in Iraq

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014.
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014.
Amanda Scott
The Iraqi militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have taken control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in addition to a central bank and at least 12 towns and cities, including the country’s second largest, Mosul.
Territory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic StateTerritory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic State
x
Territory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic State
Territory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic State


For some, the group’s advance into Iraq after fighting in Syria came as a shock, but taking over parts of Iraq was always at the top of ISIL's agenda - Syria was just a path to getting there.

Islamic state
 
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
 
  • Formed by members of al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria and Iraq
  • Aims to establish an Islamic emirate across Syria and Iraq
  • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
  • Believed to have 5,000 to 7,000 fighters
  • Has launched high-profile attacks in both countries
ISIL Sunni extremists have long had a goal of trying to create an Islamic state, or caliphate, stretching across Iraq and Syria and possibly other parts of the Middle East.  

The group came out of the ashes of the Islamic State of Iraq, which was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant who died in 2006.  After his death, it disbanded, resurfacing as al-Qaida in Iraq. 

When its current leader, Iraqi-born Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was released from a U.S. prison in 2008, he reconstituted the I-S-I, the group of al-Zarqawi, adding the words “and al-Sham” (ISIS), which translates to “the Levant” (ISIL) or “Greater Syria.”

Loretta Napoleoni, an expert on terrorist financing, says the addition of Syria to the name was both a strategic and financial decision for Baghdadi.

“The same people who sponsored al-Zarqawi were sponsoring him to fight the Assad regime, because they wanted a regime change in Syria.  But in reality what he did was use this money as a source of seed money to start his own independent financial construction to bankroll his return to Iraq.”

Napoleoni says the sponsors, whom she identified as individuals from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were essentially “used” by Baghdadi, who spent his time in Syria to consolidate his group and build capital by smuggling and seizing strategic areas, particularly oil fields, held by other rebel groups.

“What they have done is sell oil or sell back some of the oil fields to the regime of Assad, and in exchange they got quite a lot of money.  So with these funds they have accumulated in four years of civil war in Syria then they were able to move back to Iraq and launch their attack on the Sunni areas of Iraq. They have managed to construct their own economy, so they are totally independent, “ said Napoleoni.

Breaking ties with al-Qaida

And it is that independence, both in terms of finances and in direction, that led the al-Qaida command to strongly disavow any ties to the militant group.

“While they're an offshoot of al-Qaida, they have broken with al-Qaida and we have some pretty good reporting that they have fought with the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq as well," noted Ken Pollack, a national security expert with the Brookings Institution.

"The al-Qaida affiliate still takes orders from Ayman al-Zawahiri and the al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan.  ISIL doesn't; it does its own thing.  But it shares the same very virulent form of Islamist ideology, it is absolutely determined to fight the Shia, and of course Iraq is dominated by a Shia government," Pollack added.

The militants also are estimated to have thousands of fighters, many of them Westerners who believe in the vision of a borderless caliphate.  Baghdad hopes the militants can be stopped before it comes to that.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Peter Penguin from: usa
June 23, 2014 11:28 PM
Well done. -- An analysis by an Arabist, supporting your use of "ISIL" vice "ISIS", may be viewed here:
worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2014/06/isil-vs-isis.html

by: meanbill from: USA
June 19, 2014 10:47 AM
The Iraq military is (Sunni and Shia) troops, and only a foolish person wouldn't recognize that when the Iraq military fights the Sunni terrorist, (the Sunnis in the Iraq military won't fight against them, and just might shoot the Shia troops in the back), -- (SO?) -- Now, the (Sunni and Shia) military troops can't trust each other, knowing the Sunni troops are probably helping the Sunni terrorists....

The Sunni troops must be disarmed. or at least segregated from the Shia troops, till after the Shia led government wins this war against the (ISIL) and revolting Sunni troops.... (think about it?) -- Iraq will only win this war, when they solve the problem of having the Sunni enemy in their army....
In Response

by: Ahmed Said
June 19, 2014 12:48 PM
This is exactly why there is a war going on. its because the shia have been pushing sunnies aside. this is what happens when shia have power just like nassereen in Iran when they got power they killed and persecuted the sunnies and established a shia religious stae. I think the problem between shia and sunni is due to the fact the shia wouldn't stop insulting the companions and the wifes of the prophet Mohammed PBUH. Until they stop they will never get along

by: Anonymous
June 19, 2014 8:59 AM
regional risky game played by USA, Saudi Arabia and others with regard to maintaining their interest in the region or threatening one and support the other considering the allies and non allies .......

by: John Poole from: Ardmore, PA
June 19, 2014 8:00 AM
"Borderless" is perhaps the natural state of things in the MidEast.
Western culture seems to believe very strongly in the need for definite borders. Westerners imposed arbitrary borders where perhaps we shouldn't have so it shouldn't surprise us that others who live in those regions may want to erase them.

by: Goldingen from: Mittawa
June 19, 2014 6:36 AM
The question is: who benefits? Who is making considerable political gains and increases own financial capital thanks to events in Iraq? Whose principal item of export soared in price and apperantly reduced to zero the sluggish Western sanctions? Who has managed to divert the public attention from the Ukraine to other geographical places?

by: meanbill from: USA
June 19, 2014 12:39 AM
MY OPINION? -- Only the "Sunni" Saudi King (who this US President bowed to), has the power to form a Sunni Caliphate, and declare himself Caliph of Sunni Islam. -- and the area that she's talking about borders on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Syria...

MY OPINION? -- This US President bowed to the higher power, and that was the "Sunni" Saudi King, who'd be the Caliph of Sunni Islam. ..... REALLY

by: Rudy Haugeneder from: Canada
June 18, 2014 11:29 PM
I wonder if young Shiite men and women around the world are making plans to join the spreading and increasingly sectarian war. If not yesterday and today, definitely tomorrow, next week, and next month. If so, expect a new breed of Shiite extremists to use Sunni extremist suicide tactics to attack and destroy their enemies, including oil fields, refineries, shopping centers, seaports, airports, etc. Nobody will be safe anywhere once it becomes a global sectarian war.
In Response

by: Ahmed Said
June 19, 2014 12:53 PM
ISIS represent a Muslim minority group smaller the the 15% shia of the Muslim world. the differences between the two however cannot be reconciled due to the gap that exist in what each sees as fundamental to faith.

by: D_Mann from: Upinya
June 18, 2014 8:30 PM
Kind of funny how plenty of people I served with over there (the ones that actually gave a thought to the whole thing) in 2004 and 2006 were saying that once we left, the Sunnis would be pissed that the Shiites were in put in charge of the place, and would likely just come in and try to undo what was done by our forces. I guess they were right.
In Response

by: John Poole from: Ardmore, PA
June 19, 2014 8:56 AM
Many who never had to actually visit Iraq sensed that nothing good could come from foreign invaders trying to impose their will on various tribes and competing religious sects. The ghost of Saddam is chuckling and shaking his head at the arrogant stupidity of American rulers. The clueless Paul Bremer was working with only Plan A (sweeping up the rose petals). There was no plan B, Too bad Bremer isn't forced to live with the mess he made but he's probably very comfortable back in some placid suburb of DC and has put the "unfortunate" consequences of our invasion out of his mind.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs