News / Middle East

Iraqi Militants Make Gains Aided by Local Tribal Support

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in Mosul, June 23, 2014.
A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in Mosul, June 23, 2014.

As Iraq's Sunni militants and their allies add border crossings near Syria and Jordan to their list of captured territory, many observers wonder what’s next.  U.S. officials have warned that the militants, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), could spread into Jordan, while some see them moving toward the Iraqi capital. Some analysts say ISIL's strategy is just part of the group's greater agenda of erasing modern borders and building a caliphate across the whole region.

The takeover of the Traibil border post with Jordan and the Al-Wajeed entry point to Syria were part of the ISIL’s primary agenda of creating a cross-border state, according to Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation.

"ISIL does not want to take over Iraq as it is currently constructed. In fact, I think that ISIL is probably going to be perfectly content not to try its hardest to take over Baghdad. I think what ISIL is looking to do is create a jihadi state in the primarily Sunni areas of western and northern Iraq and into eastern Syria," says Fishman.

Fishman says the way the militants will carry out their strategy can be seen from how they operated in Syria.  ISIL is fighting in the country’s civil war and has taken control of towns along Syria’s eastern border.

"This is not a group that has tried to go on the offense against Damascus. This is not a group that is trying to dominate every square inch of Syria. And they’re going to do the same thing in Iraq. They’re going to say: What can we control? Where can we dominate? Where can we establish governance?  And, where can we establish a base of operations for the long term?" – says Fishman.

Success through alliances

Part of ISIL’s success, according to Fishman, lies in its ability to form alliances with local Sunni militias, tribal groups and other organizations, one of the most surprising being the Naqshbandi army, a group closely associated with the remnants of the Iraqi Baath party of Saddam Hussein’s old regime.

"This is not a natural alliance. Jihadis and the old Iraqi Baath party don’t like each other. They have very, very different ideologies, very different ideas of who should be in charge and what the rules for society ought to be. And yet they’ve been able to cooperate, it seems in recent days, for this military offensive," says Fishman.

He says the best way to attack ISIL is not through military actions but by breaking the political alliances that have given it strength.

"It was losing those alliances originally that weakened the group in 2007 and it is regaining them; that has given it renewed strength today," says Fishman.

U.S. officials are urging Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form a new, inclusive government that will encourage the country’s Sunni population to re-assess and potentially break their allegiances with the militant group.

U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said these new alliances could potentially affect military efforts in the country.

"So there's a window of opportunity here, I think, to get the Sunnis to re-assess. If you could find a new government that they felt hopeful about, I think we could form an alliance politically and militarily that would affect the momentum on the ground," says Graham.

Maliki has rejected the calls, saying any new government that ignores the results of the country's April election would be a “coup against the constitution and the political process.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a recent visit to Iraq that support from the U.S., which is sending 300 military advisers, will be intense, sustained, and effective if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Moustafa from: Jordan
June 25, 2014 7:15 PM
All Iraqi to the leader were terrorist, USA train terrorist in Iraq, after training turn the gun back to USA.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs