What is ISIS and Its History

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Following a fast scaling and concomitant regional victories, the Islamic State, otherwise called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has currently, taken operational order and administration of the worldwide jihadist development, overshadowing Al Qaeda Central (AQC), which assaulted the US country on September 11, 2001.

ISIS, arguably represents the biggest terrorist threat to the international community and to peace in the world. World leaders addressed numerous counter-ISIS initiatives. As of 2014, ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq have been targeted by NATO and US-led troops. Yet ISIS manages to exists despite military opposition from world nations, indicating that attempts to destroy the organisation have not yet been entirely successful.

What is ISIS? Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, ISIL or Daesh): a radical Sunni Muslim organization whose aim is to restore an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the region encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, and southeastern Turkey.

Described as a despicable terrorist organization by political directions, the organization has developed in a brief timeframe. Despite the fact that its fortress is as of now situated in the northeastern Syria and it has effectively executed terrorist attacks and crimes against humankind in different areas, in this way undermining worldwide wellbeing and security. ISIS is a terrorist organization where funding is focal and critical to its activities.

Weapons, assaults, pay rates to fighters, universal transportation and well-working purposeful publicity machine-all these things cost a great amount of money. Without money related help, ISIS’s impact would be essentially decreased. Its financing as an idea is very dubious, continuously evolving, which makes it marginally difficult to explore and investigate. In any case, ISIS is such an important, fascinating and contemporary topic, that I believe deserves more observation and analysis.

ISIS was established in 2004 out of al-Qaeda in Iraq under the leadership of Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and was the first to receive significant international attention in 2014 when the group successfully captured large areas in Iraq and Syria. Between 2014 and 2018, an estimated 40,000 people from 120 countries fought in Syria and Iraq. In 2015, the Global Terrorism Index publicly declared that ISIS was the deadliest militant organisation to have killed about 28,000 people since 2013. The global society as a whole is influenced by the actions of ISIS and endangered by the danger posed by the organization. ISIS has been differentiated from other extremist groups by its violence, embodied in the executions, torture and social media campaigns which I will analyse during the making of this paper.

Everything has improved in recent years, as in 2019, for the first time since 2014, ISIS was no longer the most deadly terrorist organization in the world. In 2018, ISIS was responsible for 1,328 deaths, a 69 per cent decline from the previous year and an 85 per cent decline from its highest in 2016. The dramatic decline in their activity in recent years has been driven mainly by the success of the local forces and the US-led international coalition that defeated military the group in Syria and Iraq. But this does not mean that the organization has been completely defeated, based on claims made by ISIS leaders, the goal of the group is to capture, influence and hold territories in the near term and, in the long term, to rebuild the caliphate and establish a permanent presence.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze and examine how an organization such as ISIS was and still is able to influence the world trough communication and different ways such as social media. The research questions of this paper are as follows: how did ISIS gain so much power during the last 20 years? How are they able to recruit so many soldiers trough different communication methods? How can they post so many violent articles/videos online with the purpose of scaring people without them being taken down instantly? How did they manage to relase a violent game with the purpose of making different people thinking about joining their organization? The information in this paper is gathered based on documents, reports, articles and verified news.

What is ISIS?

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is a challenge to the international system just because it has been the advanced world’s most cruel and one-minded enemy since the end of World War II. In her article ‘The Failure of Indirect Orientalism: Islamic State’ (2014), political science scientist and author Julide Karakoc claims that the increase and growth of ISIS is obviously a repercussion of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Probably the most popular theory of ISIS formation is to blame US intervention. Even tough Saddam Hussein’s regime raped, tortured and mass murdered its citizens completely arbitrarily, many politicians and writers yet consider that the invasion was not justified.

Several Western leaders, including Barack Obama for instance, and an additional FATF report, stated that ISIS is ‘un-Islamic’ and has absolutely nothing to do with Islam . This assertion seems very strange by looking at the religious bloodline of ISIS, whereas Islamic is a religion, Islamism is an urge to impose on culture a type of that religion. ISIS is participating in a universal gunpoint campaign to spread Islam, making the group undeniably Islamic.

It also sounds implausible to insist that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam at all because every major decision or law performed by ISIS is in accordance with the ‘Prophetic Methodology,’ which is to be taken in precise detail after Muhammad’s prophecy and example. ISIS fighters are convincing throwbacks to early Islam, and are loyally copying its patterns of war. Their actions include things like slavery, beheadings, and crucifixion that are not recognized as part of their scripture by modern Muslims.

History of ISIS

ISIS’ ideological origin was already created in the early 1990s as a spin-off to Afghanistan’s Soviet invasion. The 1979 attack shook Muslims so strongly around the world that almost 20,000 foreign fighters joined the Afghan forces. One of them was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-Palestinian who was poor, uneducated and had a criminal background, who arrived in Afghanistan just around the time of the war in 1989.

Al-Zarqawi established his own terrorist group with his supporters in 1999 called Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-jihad. Osama bin Laden was also fascinated together with his rebels and he decided to create the al-Qaeda network. The two people formed their groups independently for years, without them knowing each other. But how did al-Qaeda and JTWJ end up together and create al-Qaeda in Iraq, which became the Islamic State’s foundation in Iraq and Syria? To understand the outcome, it is crucial to look at the chain of events that began a few decades ago in the Middle East.

During 1968-2003, the Arab nationalist Ba’th Party governed Iraq, standing against foreign rule and establishing a single Arab state. Saddam Hussein became the party’s leader in 1979, agreeing completely that Ba’ath should not mix religion with politics. However, he had to renege because of the effects after Hussein invaded Islamist Iran in 1980. For many reasons, 1986 was a terrible year for the Hussein regime. The Iran-Iraq war was still going on and Iraq lost a few of its peninsula and its tight gateway to the Gulf. International leadership speculated publicly that Iraq would lose this war.

In addition, Iran’s propaganda machine was extremely talented to illustrate Iraq in a bad light, as an atheistic government, and as Islam’s enemy. As the nation was obviously getting defeated, the Iraqi people argued that the governing party and its ideology were incorrect. Public religiosity started to rise due to the concerns about Iraq and its future: wars, international restraints, inflation, and high unemployment resulted in individuals turning to God, making visits to mosques popular.

Hussein launched his campaign of faith in 1993. The Iraqi leaders created a completely new order, inspired by harsh Shariah law. Thieves were mutilated, government started to behead gays and prostitutes. New mosques rose, studying Quran’s teachings became a duty, and clerics became leaders of the society. All nightclubs were closed and liquors sales were banned.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 primarily because of three distinct factors: its alleged connections to nuclear weapons and the al-Qaeda terrorist group of bin Laden, plus the dictatorship of the Sunni minority population over the Shias and Kurds. Hussein was called the ‘Stalin of Iraq’ overseas as he ran secret service agents who murdered, raped, tortured, and robbed on his behalf. In the name of ‘Iraqi Freedom’ and ‘War on Terror,’ the United States conquered Iraq in a couple of weeks to save the locals from the captivity of Hussein and imprisoned Saddam Hussein. The scenario led, unfortunately, in a very opposite result than was expected.

In Iraq, a ‘energy vacuum’ was left instead of constructing peace and democracy for the state: the nation no longer had a government or a community. Iraq fell into chaos and anarchy as both opponents tried to seize the throne. This altered everything in the jihadist community. Al-Zaraqawi and bin Laden moved to Iraq from Afghanistan to create a Sunni extremist resistance and fight against the United States. In 2004, al-Zarqawi proclaimed his al-Qaeda allegiance to gain access to their money and fighters. The organizations merged and in Iraq its name became al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Hussein was executed in 2006, and it was time to set up a fresh government to stabilize the confused atmosphere of Iraq. Power was shared somewhat equally between Sunni, Shia and Kurds in order to maintain peace. Iraq therefore had a Kurdish chairman, a Sunni parliamentary head, and a Shia prime minister. New Prime Minister Al-Maliki assured the world that by enhancing democracy and stopping oppression, he could create a beneficial shift in Iraqi politics. However, al-Maliki’s government quickly turned out to be extremely corrupt, incapable and unpopular after the U.S. army left Iraq in 2011.

Al-Maliki betrayed his promises of sharing political power, imprisoning and executing large numbers of Sunni protesters. The Sunni-Shia struggle dropped into a bloody civil war. Since then, Iraq has been separated into three sections by Kurds, Sunni and Shias, all residing in their own fields. The United States thought it had attacked a government supported by terrorists, but it turned out not to be true, making al-Zarqawi and bin Laden working together and developing a retaliation plan together.

ISIS in recent years

In 2010, a big wave of demonstrations and protests in the Arab world, also called the Arab Spring, were caused by the Tunisian revolution. Egypt, Libya, and Yemen’s rulers have been compelled out of power. ISIS, a tiny and unsuccessful Sunni rebel group in Iraq at that moment, decided to move to Syria to take benefit of its disorganized system and population. The recruited spies collected data about Syrian cities and their residents so that ISIS could later blackmail these individuals and spread their impact in significant fields. The Free Syrian Army stated in June 2013 that if international forces did not provide assistance, the war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad would soon be lost.

The US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel started sending billions of dollars worth of cash, fighters, and arms to the Free Syrian Army in a few weeks. ISIS was able to take over these assets somehow, which gave a notable kick-start to the group. In June 2014, just next year, ISIS returned to Iraq and captured vast land territories in Sunni-populated regions, like Mosul, and proclaimed the start of their monarchy. As a result, it transformed from a ‘no-name group in Syria’ into a feared, well-equipped, rich organisation and grew internationally.

ISIS’s military flood in Syria and Iraq in 2013 and 2014 was a reality check for territorial and worldwide forces. In spite of being prepared by the United States and costing anyplace between $8 billion and $25 billion, the Iraqi security powers were broken like a house of glass in the mid-year of 2014 by ISIS’s raid, which was completed by a numbering just in the hundreds or probably the low thousands, catching neighboring states and the great powers off guard.

As indicated by the New York Times, a military that once counter 280,000 personnel, one of the biggest in the Middle East, was presented to have a couple of 50,000 men by certain assessments. In June 2014, around a month later before ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, with a population of scarcely 2,000,000 individuals, US president Barack Obama said that it is not a genuine risk to America and its territorial partners or interests.

From 2013 until the late spring of 2014, ISIS overran Iraqi, Syrian, and Kurdish security powers and rival Islamists too. The group’s ability was affirmed by the seizure of al-Raqqa and Deir al-Zour territories in Syria in 2014 and the speedy collapse of four Iraqi divisions overnight in Mosul and somewhere else in norther Iraq under the ambush of outnumbered fighters in summer 2014. By the end of 2014 ISIS occupied about 33 percent of Syrian and Iraqi territory and drew closer and closer to the boondocks of Iraqi-Jordan-Saudi Arabia, with critical supporters systems in both Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

ISIS and its system of likewise invested aggressors carried out enormous suicide bombings and made various deadly invasions of Lebanese territory, capturing dozens of Lebanese security forces and traumatizing an already socially and sectarianly polarized community. Furthermore, the tentacles of the organization spread to Yemen, North Africa, Afghanistan, Nigeria and beyond, exposing the fragility of the Arab state system and the existence of deep ideological and communal divisions within the Middle East and Islamic societies. Due to the strong competition between worldwide and regional powers, the efficacy of the US and Russian coalitions was restricted by the end of 2015.

This gave ISIS the safety and the possibility of a loophole at Egypt’s Sharm al-Sheik Airport in November 2015 and smuggled a homemade bomb on a Russian jet that murdered 224 passengers. The group also conducted a huge operation with seven suicide bombers in Paris on November 13, 2015, killing and injuring hundreds of people. A day previous ISIS hit a crowded neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon, leaving a trail of blood and destruction with two suicide bombers. Later that year, on December 2, 2015, two of the group’s ‘followers’ a man, twenty-eight-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook, and a mother, twenty-nine-year-old Tashfeen Malik, assaulted a social service school in San Bernardino, California, USA, killing at least 14 individuals and wounding 21.

After these incidents, Russia and the Western powers, particularly France, started to coordinate indirectly with each other, reinforcing assaults on regions held by ISIS in Syria, although this coordination is still in its infancy . President Obama said that he was open to cooperating with Russia in the ISIS campaign if President Vladimir V. Putin starts targeting the group, although the two major powers have divergent interests in Syria.

Unlike the amazing increase of ISIS, Al Qaeda Central appears to be low by comparison, the past leading group of worldwide jihadism. It had fewer than three thousand combatants and no territories of its own during the height of its strength in the early 1990s, a borderless, stateless, transnational social movement. ISIS threatens not only the survival of civilian-war-stricken Syria and the Iraqi state established after the U.S. invasion and occupation in 2013, but also the stability of neighboring Arab countries.

However, Arab countries are partly accountable for the development of non-state armed actors like ISIS. If the chaos in Iraq and Syria had not supplied ISIS with a fertile ground for its implantation, expansion, and consolidation, maybe today, they would not be such a big threat to the international safety. Arab countries’ inability to represent their citizens’ interests and build an inclusive national identity powerful enough to create social cohesion also contributed to its development. Arab regime’s dependence on tyranny, corruption, and coercion led to the collapse of the connection between state and society. Groups such as ISIS exploit these political weaknesses and these dismal social and economic circumstances by challenging the ideology of the state.

An intense aerial bombardment by the US-led coalition helped secure the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) victory in Raqqa, which was established in 2015 by the Kurdish Common Protection Units (YPG) militia and a number of smaller, Arab factions. Estimates of the number of fatalities vary. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said that at least 3250 people had been killed, including 1130 civilians. Other groups say that the total was higher.

The UN estimates that some 270.000 people fled their homes during the SDF offensive. The huge task of rebuilding the city may take years. Clearing operations are already underway to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and to remove landmines. The US-led coalition against the so-called Islamic State (IS) claims that 98 per cent of the territory has been recaptured once occupied by the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq’s government announced in December 2017 that’s its war against the IS had ended almost four years after the group had first seized parts of the country. That month, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, after IS had been left to control only a few pockets of land.

Cite this paper

What is ISIS and Its History. (2021, Apr 15). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/what-is-isis-and-its-history/

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