04 September 2014
The meteoric rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its declaration of an Islamic State straddling the two Arab countries raises the spectre of a militant Islamist state in the heart of the Middle East East close to the borders of US allies like Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. If the threat to Israel and Jordan is primarily security-based, to Saudi Arabia it is also ideological, with IS tracing its roots to the philosophy of 18th century warrior-jurist Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab and other Islamic sources on which the kingdom was built.
With its military advances in large swathes of Syria and Iraq, IS has achieved extremist control of the largest chunk of territory in recent times. It is the first jihadist group to seize control of resources like oil fields and refineries. They add to significant revenues earned from extortion and kidnapping as well as a revived flow of funding from individuals and charities in the Gulf. The group has currently seized seven oil fields and two smaller refineries in northern Iraq, in addition to its Syrian assets.
IS’ focus on control of territory rather than spectacular international suicide attacks makes the United States and Europe less of an immediate target. As a result, IS projected the brutal and demonstrative killing of American journalist James Foley as retaliation for US air strikes rather than the launch of an anti-American terror campaign. Western policymakers and intelligence officials fear nonetheless that foreign volunteers joining the group’s ranks could return home as hardened global jihadists.
… James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 05/09/2014