The Islamic State (2003- ) or IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria/Levant), has taken over much of eastern Syria and western Iraq. In Arabic it is called Daesh.
From ISIS to IS: It dropped the bit about “Iraq and Greater Syria” on June 29th 2014, the first day of Ramadan 1435 AH. Setting its sights higher, it declared its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to be caliph, the “leader for Muslims everywhere”, and itself a caliphate:
“the legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas.”
It was founded in 2003 to fight the US in the Iraq War, joining forces with al-Qaeda a year later.
In 2011 the US had nearly crushed their forces in Iraq but then pulled out of the country.
In 2013 ISIS and al-Qaeda parted ways. Al-Qaeda said ISIS was too violent, that beheading people and posting it on video was giving al-Qaeda a bad name. ISIS said al-Qaeda leaders had “deviated from the correct paths.” (The Taliban has also warned the IS to avoid extremism.)
ISIS set about creating a caliphate, a dream of Osama bin Laden’s that al-Qaeda no longer seemed interested in. It took advantage of:
- Syria’s civil war.
- Iraq’s disintegration along religious and ethnic lines into a Kurdish north-east, and Arabs into a Shia south and a Sunni west. (Shia and Sunni are the two main branches of Islam.)
- Arab Sunni discontent with both governments, which give them little say, even though Syria and Iraq are 75% and 35% Sunni.
The IS has been taking over the Sunni parts of both countries.
Jihad: The IS is fighting a holy war against Shia Muslims, Christians and Yazidis:
- Christians have been living in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, for 1,600 years. After the IS took over, it told them to convert, leave or be killed. A hundred thousand have fled.
- Yazidis, who have been in the region 4,000 years, are not even allowed to convert: they are shot on sight. That counts as genocide. They worship seven angels, which the IS sees as seven devils.
The US: In August 2014, after Christians were threatened, the US sent its air force back into Iraq, bombing IS positions.
IS practices: beheadings, suicide bombing, kidnapping, torture, death penalty, assassination and genocide.
Rule: It rules 6 million people. It is appointing preachers at mosques. Its sort of Islam is more extreme than that of the region. The IS does not allow music, smoking, unveiled women or football. It has won few hearts and minds. Like Saudi Arabia, they push Wahhabism, a strict form of Sunni Islam.
Income: kidnappings, oil fields, selling electricity, taxes, money from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and, from the banks of Mosul, more than $400 million.
Wealth: maybe like $2 billion.
Strength: an army of maybe 20,000 men tops, many of them foreigners from Chechnya, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Britain and France.
Where are they now: IS troops now stand 30km (18 miles) north of Baghdad, holding position. Its army is far too lightweight to take over the city on its own.
Thanks to Wordynerdygirl for suggesting this post.
– Abagond, 2014.