News / Middle East

Terrorist Group is Fusion of a Quasi-State, Radical Islam

Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.
Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014.

The group calling itself “The Islamic State” continues its drive to conquer and rule a piece of the Middle East. Its violent campaign to spread its extreme form of Islam challenges the governments of both Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.  A massive relief crisis is ongoing as hundreds of thousands of people flee its wave of terror and murder.

Radicals from all over the world are joining the Islamic State, driven by their shared desire to impose a radical brand of Islam in every land they conquer and create a ‘Caliphate” - an Islamic religious governing authority.

“The aim [of those supporting the Islamic State] is not power,” said Middle East analyst Tawfik Hamid of the Potomac Institute. “Their aim is to use power to achieve an ideological belief [the Caliphate]. The difference is huge – in the former case, they would sacrifice their ideology if this would help them gain power.”

But with the Islamic State, the opposite is true.

“They are not ready to make ideological concessions to reach power,” said Hamid.

The “Islamic State” was proclaimed in June. It asserted a Caliphate ruled the Syrian and Iraqi territory the militant group holds. And military operations continue to seek additional territory.

The Islamic State was formerly called ISIL – “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” – the name it took in April, 2013. That, itself, is an outgrowth of what was called al-Qaida in Iraq, or AQI, which came together in 2006. The proclaimed head of the Islamic State, whose nom de guerre is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, became the leader of AQI in May 2010, and then ISIL. 

In 2013 al-Baghdadi moved operations to take part in the rebellion against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.  He had a falling out with the Syrian Sunni radical group Jabhat al-Nusra – the Nusra Front, and the rift caused al-Qaida leader Ayman Zawahiri to disown ISIL and al-Baghdadi.  But in June 2014, reports say al-Nusra agreed to send its fighters to join the Islamic State, giving its thrust into Iraq even greater energy.

Many intelligence estimates have pegged al-Baghdadi’s force at some 15,000. If al-Nusra, which has a similar force strength, has indeed merged there could be 30,000 fighters under the Islamic State’s black banner.

“The fighters are very heavily Iraqi/Syrian,” said Raffaello Pantucci at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “There are substantial bodies of people from across the world. The biggest community is from the Gulf [Saudi, Kuwait], but there is also a big group from North Africa [Tunisia and Libya seem very well represented]. Then from across Europe, a smaller number of North Americans, and then random clusters of Central Asians, Southeast Asians, Australians, and a few from Africa.”

The Islamic State, like al-Qaeda and other radical Islamists, use the Internet as a recruiting tool and a means of projecting terror.

“Their multimedia campaign is very slick and quite well controlled.They are active on social media, produce high quality videos with clear and easy messages,” Pantucci said. “Their videos and messages are clearly well received, as people re-tweet them and consume them with great vigor. The terror and violence they deploy in this direction is something of a trademark that obviously their followers enjoy and find appealing.”

The Islamic State posts videos to show its prowess on the battlefield. It is also uploading scenes of opponents getting shot dead and other forms of execution, including crucifixion. 

Violence is a highly valuable tool to the Islamic State because it achieves the goal of control without any compromises to the group’s ideology. Much of that violence has been facilitated by the capture of weapons abandoned by the Iraqi army in Mosul and other cities, and with weapons brought into Iraq from Syria.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst Anthony Cordesman as saying “You lost approximately three divisions worth of equipment and probably at least three depots in that area [Mosul].”

Much of the equipment taken by the Islamic State when the Iraqi army fled Mosul was front-line American weaponry.  Multiple reports say the loot included U.S. Stinger surface-to-air missiles, artillery pieces, Humvees, and heavy trucks, not to mention piles of assault rifles and ammunition. Because of this, the United States recently accelerated transfers of weaponry to the Kurdistan Government’s Peshmerga military, and initiated air operations in support of Peshmerga and Iraqi army movements.

While many call for robust military operations to crush the Islamic State, there must be a political solution, said RAND analyst and author Colin Clarke.

“Make progress on stabilizing Syria” and resolve its civil war”, he said. “Iraq desperately needs new leadership that is perceived by the Iraqi population as inclusive of all minorities.”

Clarke blames outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s Shi’a “sectarianism [that] is in large part responsible for the popular support Sunnis now offer the Islamic State.”

A new Iraqi government – with a new prime minister and president – must move quickly and take decisive actions both militarily and politically to address the Islamic State.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jonas Nduli
August 15, 2014 7:55 PM
Let's not play down the current state of the Muslim community, today. ISIS may be the latest group to hit the headlines - but they are by no means a small, isolated entity crazies. Viewing them as such would be a serious error. They are from the mainstream Sunni doctrine and consider themselves as 'good Muslims'. Accordingly, they have tens-of-thousands of well wishers or supporters, from around the world. Somehow, over a number of decades, millions of Muslims have started supporting and actively working with - Islamist groups in central Africa, North Africa and across the Middle East. The risk presented by these people today, is huge.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid