News / Middle East

Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Developmenti
X
September 02, 2014 6:14 PM
The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by suprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. 

Even before U.S. forces left Iraq in 2011, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) was forging a professional military force, stoking Sunni unrest, mounting brutal bombing campaigns - and barbaric killings. It boasts of 50,000 fighters in Syria and 30,000 in Iraq while recruiting 6,000 more last month alone.

This is a group whose cruelty alarmed even al-Qaida, but is successfuly exploiting the Syrian civil war and sectarian rule in Iraq to assemble arms, wealth and influence at great speed, says David Kilcullen, the architect of the Iraq War troop surge in 2006.

Kilcullen currently heads CAERUS, a security and intelligence strategy firm in Washington. He says ISIS has overshadowed al-Qaida.

“It is much more capable militarily, it’s much richer, it controls territory, it controls key infrastructure and it is really a much more dramatic threat than we have seen from al-Qaida," Kilcullen said.

"They have literally made millions of dollars by kidnapping and ransom. They are now the richest terror group in the world, north of $500 billion worth of resources,” he said.

Both in Syria and Iraq, ISIS is creating embryos of governance following the path of Hezbollah, which operates as a state-like entity in Lebanon.

“We are even seeing them now in the towns and the cities that they are occupying, both in Iraq and in Syria, actually taking on a lot of the functions of the state," said Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow at the influential Washington-based Atlantic Council.  "They are actually engaging in what we would call ‘hearts and minds strategies.’”

“They are levying taxes, they’re running bakeries and they are allowing people to go to school," said David Kilcullen. "They’re running a court system, and they are also running hospitals and public works.”

Many experts claim it is the military success of ISIS that draws other groups to it. But others argue that ISIS has not been truly battle-tested.

Brian Jenkins, a senior advisor at the global policy think tank, RAND Corporation, says Iraq’s predominantly Sunni area was easy prey.

“It wasn’t so much that ISIS was this formidable fighting force and defeated the Iraqi military; it’s that simply the Iraqi military folded and left a vacuum that ISIS was able to fill,” he said.

“The big news was that they were defeated and lost control over the Mosul dam," Benitez said. "That was their first serious setback. That’s a good sign. Now, if the publics in these countries can see that they are losing militarily, a lot of their support will start to wither away.”

Jenkins cautions that the sands have permanently shifted in the Middle East.  He says Iraq and Syria have irreversibly ceased to exist.  

“Syria now is a mosaic of government-held territory; territory held by this group, by that group, by another group," he said. "That will continue in a kaledoscopic fashion. Iraq has been de facto partitioned into Sunni areas, Shi’a areas, Kurdish areas.“

Many experts see the rise of ISIS as the most significant development in international jihadism since  9/11.  Observers note that ISIS has taken over the mantle of leadership of global jihadist terrorist networks against the West. Major radical movements - from Abu Sayyaf and Jamaat Islamiyya in East Asia to Boko Haram in Africa - have switched their allegiance from al-Qaida to this new ruthless terrorist organization.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid