Who and What is ISIS/IS?
The dramatic victories of the Islamist militant group—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the summer of 2014 culminated in the declaration of the Caliphate or Islamic State (IS) under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. These twin events have alarmed the international community. ISIS and the Islamic State has been the subject of enormous literature that often baffles due to the profusion of unverified and contradictory information. Telling the story of ISIS and its creation, the Islamic State is a work in progress. Confusion still reigns concerning who ISIS is—a fact that was also reflected in the endless and fruitless debate over what to call it.
More important are the questions about ISIS that have arisen during the course of 2014. What does it want? What accounted for its astounding military successes? Similarly, what was behind its leader’s decision to declare a Caliphate? Will it replace Al-Qaida, with whom it has been feuding, as the primary Islamist militant group? Will the United States and its allies succeed in defeating the Islamic State or merely just thwart it? What will happen to its followers, particularly the thousands of foreign fighters, if concerted and effective military action by the United States and its allies manage to destroy the Islamic State’s system of control over people, territory and infrastructure in both northern Iraq and eastern Syria? This report is a reconstruction from a multitude of open sources seeking to provide a concise overview of its origins, ideology, goals and military operations in Iraq and Syria from 2003 to the present in order to help governments understand and deal with this phenomenon.
About the Author
Ahmed S. Hashim is Associate Professor of Strategic Studies in the Military Studies Programme at RSIS. He focuses on security and defence issues from the Middle East to South and Southeast Asia, dealing specifically with insurgency and counter-insurgency, terrorism and counter-terrorism, defence policies of nations from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. His most recent publications include: When Counterinsurgency Wins: Sri Lanka’s Defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. Forthcoming studies include: “The Evolution of Iranian Defense Doctrine,” in Walter Posch (ed.), The Iranian Security Structure, London: Routledge, 2015; and Small Wars: Too Big to Ignore, London: Hurst; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.
Central Asia / Conflict and Stability / Policy Reports / Terrorism Studies
Last updated on 12/12/2014