GMS400 – Lecture 1
ISIS - Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (Syria)
ISIL - Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Daesh - Arabic acronym formed from the initial letters of the group's previous name in Arabic
"al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil Iraq wa al-Sham"
- Although it does not mean anything as a word in Arabic, it sounds unpleasant and the group's
supporters object to its use.
- Daesh also sounds similar to an Arabic verb that means to tread underfoot, trample down, or crush
The Latest Challenge in the Middle East
- Islamic State is one of the most dangerous jihadist groups, after its gains in Syria and Iraq.
- ISIS was formed in April 2013, growing out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which was chased out of Iraq by
American troops. It moved across the border to Syria.
- It has since been disavowed by al-Qaeda, but has become one of the main rebel groups fighting
government forces in Syria and Iraq.
- This Islamic (Sunni) fundamentalist group, which has fighters from across the world, has announced
the establishment of a "caliphate" - an Islamic state - across parts of Northern Iraq and Syria and forced
many minority communities from their homes.
- ISIS revels in indiscriminate brutality, espousing a religious philosophy so uncompromising it appears
almost nihilistic. The areas it has secured have been kept under control by an endless stream of
floggings, mutilations, beheadings and crucifixions. The targets can be well-chosen or arbitrary, but no
one is spared – Shia opponents, Sunni rivals, captured soldiers or “immoral” women.
ISIS Presence in Syria and Iraq ISIS Enters Iraq Again (2014)
- In 2003, the USA led a “coalition of the willing” countries to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein,
the ruthless Iraqi President who had invaded Kuwait.
- When American troops officially withdrew from Iraq in 2011, they left the weak Iraqi military to control
extremist groups. There were already almost daily bombings of Sunni and Shia sites, killing many
people on both sides.
- In June 2014, ISIS militants launched a major offensive in northern Iraq. They overran the country's
second largest city, Mosul, in only two days as 30,000 soldiers dropped their weapons and fled.
Emboldened, the jihadists advanced southwards with the support of Sunni Arab tribesmen and other
militant groups, seizing a series of towns, military bases and oil refineries before being stopped not far
from the capital, Baghdad
- The Iraqi army was in chaos, basically dropping their weapons, abandoning their equipment like tanks
and Humvees, and running away, which helped to arm ISIS with the latest weapons.
The Brutal Rule
- The group has gained a reputation for brutal rule in the areas that it controls.
- Torture and summary executions are rife in secret prisons in Syria run by ISIS, Amnesty International
- Their report in December 2013 alleges that, in areas they control, ISIS forces have committed
numerous serious rights abuses, such as abductions, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-
treatment, and unlawful killings.
- Some of those held by ISIS, including children as young as eight, were suspected of theft; others of
"crimes" against Islam, such as smoking, alcohol consumption or sex outside marriage, the report
added. Others were seized for challenging ISIS's rule or because they belonged to rival rebel groups.
- Hostility to ISIS grew steadily in Syria as it regularly attacked fellow rebels and abused civilian
supporters of the Syrian opposition.
- In January 2014, rebels from both Western-backed and Islamist groups launched an offensive against
ISIS, seeking to drive its predominantly foreign fighters out of Syria. Thousands of people are reported
to have been killed in the infighting, but ISIS is still there. Cash Rich
- The US said the fall of Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, posed a threat to the entire region. It may also
have made ISIS the most cash-rich militant group in the world.
- Initially, the group relied on donations from wealthy individuals in Gulf Arab states, particularly Kuwait
and Saudi Arabia, who supported its fight against President Bashar al-Assad.
- Today, ISIS is said to earn significant amounts from the oil fields it controls in eastern Syria, reportedly
selling some of the supply back to the Syrian government. It is also believed to have been selling looted
antiquities from historical sites.
- Before the capture of Mosul in June 2014, ISIS had cash and assets worth about $900m (£500m).
Afterwards, this rose to around $2bn when ISIS looted the local branches of Iraq’s Central Bank.
- It now has control of oilfields in Syria and Iraq.
Who is Supporting ISIS and Why?
- The Syrian government is supported by Russia and Iran, which is the leader of the Shia Islam sect.
- ISIS is supported by several Persian Gulf states, which thought that supporting rebel groups in Syria
would facilitate the end of President Assad's regime and the reordering of Syria into a Sunni power,
breaking Shia Iran's link to the Mediterranean.
- Turkey for its part operated a highly questionable policy of border enforcement in which weapons and
money flooded into Syrian rebels, with Qatari and Saudi backing.
- The pull of ISIS, a group that has outperformed all others in combat and put into place a slick media
campaign in dozens of languages to attract young men and women to its cause, has proven highly
- In every activity - from fighting, to organisation and hierarchy, to media messaging - ISIS is light years
ahead of the assorted motley crew of opposition factions operating in the region.
James Foley went missing after being seized in Syria in 2012.
August 20, 2014: Islamic State publishes online a video showing the beheading of James Foley, an American
journalist who was abducted in northern Syria in 2012. The group says his death is revenge for the US military
intervention in Iraq. The group is believed to be holding as many as 20 foreign hostages. ISIS Fighting the World:
Attacks in Egypt, Lebanon, Indonesia and France
A Russian passenger plane was brought down by a bomb in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on 31 October, 2015, killing
all 224 people on board, mostly tourists. IS claimed responsibility, with a spokesman claiming this was "in
response to Russian air strikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land".
- At least 41 people were killed in two suicide bombings in the Lebanese capital, Beirut on November 12,
2015. The Islamic State (IS) militant group says it was behind the attacks in Burj al-Barajneh, a mainly
Shia southern suburb and Hezbollah stronghold. Hezbollah forces are fighting IS in neighbouring Syria.
- Both bombings were suicide attacks, and the body of a third would-be bomber was found nearby.
Paris Attack – November 13 , 2015h
- Friday night's deadly attacks in Paris by gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a major
stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously - leaving at least 129 people dead and hundreds
- The attacks have been described by President Francois Hollande as an "act of war" organised by the
Islamic State (IS) militant group.
- Three co-ordinated teams appear to have been behind the attacks, using the same type of assault
rifles, and wearing the same type of suicide vests.
- France has increased its air bombing raids on IS in Syria and Iraq, mainly on Raqqa, which is the de-
facto capital of ISIL in northern Syria.
- According to one French journalist who was a prison of ISIL for 10 months,
"These air strikes are actually helping ISIS propaganda. They allow it to tell the Syrian population, especially in
Raqqa, that they are being trapped in the city, that they are being pounded by the air forces of so many
countries.” ISIL is the only group strong enough to protect them, which helps ISIL recruiting. Attack in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 14 , 2016th
- Two people were killed and 20 others were wounded after five attackers went on a bombing and
shooting rampage in the Indonesian capital Jakarta last week. The five assailants died in the attack
claimed by ISIL.
- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has claimed responsibility for the coordinated
bomb and gun attacks in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, a news agency linked to ISIL reported on
- At least seven people, including five attackers, were killed in the explosions and gun battle between
police and the attackers in the central business district of the city.
- "A group of soldiers of the caliphate in Indonesia targeted a gathering from the crusader alliance that
fights the Islamic State in Jakarta through planting several explosive devices that went off as four of the
soldiers attacked with light weapons and explosive belts," the group said in a statement.
Bastille Day (July 14 , 2016) in Nice, France
- Children and adults, local residents and tourists were all among the dozens killed when a truck
ploughed into crowds on Nice's famous seafront Promenade des Anglais, on the French Riviera, a
renowned playground for the cosmopolitan elite.
- Of the 86 who died, 10 were children and teenagers.
- The driver was a radicalized “lone wolf” who believed in ISIL’s message.
Radicalization Lone Wolves
- “Radicalization”: becoming an extremist and believing in ISIS’s message to fight against most of the
- The 2 motivations for radicalization
o A. Bad experiences in the current country: racism, bullying, fights in the family, lack of
education or job - anything that really, really frustrates you and alienates you from your hosting
o B. The second set of factors are positive factors - quests for justice, significance, honor,
freedom; helping to defend the poor, the weak; changing society for good i.e. joining ISIS or
following its directives.
- Generally, this is done on-line through videos (self-radicalization), but it can also start with a leader in
the person’s community.
- “Lone wolves” are individuals who carry out an attack by themselves because they were radicalized,
but they have never officially been part of ISIS. o This is what most countries now fear
The Battle for Mosul
- ISIS captured Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in 2014, along with many small towns around it.
- They fortified the city with wrecked automobiles, knocked down buildings for a clear line-of-sight by
snipers, built tunnels, and stock-piled weapons.
- The Battle of Mosul started in October 2016. It is a joint offensive by Iraqi government forces with
allied militias, Iraqi Kurdistan, a