Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) stunned the world when it overran an area the size of Great Britain on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border in a matter of weeks and proclaimed the birth of a new Caliphate. In this timely and important book, Abdel Bari Atwan draws on his unrivaled knowledge of the global jihadi movement and Middle Eastern geopolitics to reveal the origins and modus operandi of Islamic State.
Based on extensive field research and exclusive interviews with IS insiders, Islamic State outlines the group's leadership structure, as well as its strategies, tactics, and diverse methods of recruitment. Atwan traces the Salafi-jihadi lineage of IS, its ideological differences with al Qaeda and the deadly rivalry that has emerged between their leaders. He also shows how the group's rapid growth has been facilitated by its masterful command of social media platforms, the "dark web," Hollywood blockbuster-style videos, and even jihadi computer games, producing a powerful paradox where the ambitions of the Middle Ages have reemerged in cyberspace.
As Islamic State continues to dominate the world's media headlines with horrific acts of ruthless violence, Atwan considers the movement's chances of survival and expansion and offers indispensable insights on potential government responses to contain the IS threat.
In 2014, when ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced establishment of the Caliphate, the news went viral, writes Palestinian journalist Atwan (After bin Laden) in this deeply researched, relentlessly discouraging account of the latest terrorist bogeyman. Al-Baghdadi, an Iraqi, helped found one of the militant groups that sprang up in Iraq following America's 2003 invasion. By 2010 he was chosen by the Shura Council to lead the pugnacious Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and he expanded into Syria, allying with other insurgents many supported by Western nations who were fighting Bashar al-Assad. In 2013 Baghdadi merged the groups to form ISIS. Atwan provides a thorough overview of the group's structure, philosophy, and recruitment methods particularly its digital media savvy. The sheer awfulness of ISIS left the group shorn of any support its previous incarnations might have enjoyed; Western and regional powers, including Iran, oppose ISIS with money and arms. However, the woeful Iraqi army is the only one confronting ISIS on the ground. The result has been steady military success, with ISIS now controlling large areas of Iraq and Syria. Few readers of this painful, lucid account will quarrel with Atwan's assertions that Western ignorance, hypocrisy, and self-interest contributed to the rise of ISIS, and that there is little sign of Western leaders growing any wiser.