Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) | My Paper Hub
OverviewThe Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant ...
The Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant (ISIL) is also synonymous with acronyms such as IS to mean Islamic
state, Daesh (Arabic) or ISIS to mean Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The
group is a Sunni Jihadist organization that gained worldwide popularity in
early 2014 when it formed a quasi-state after eliminating Iraqi government
forces from major cities. It officially declared the formation of a
"caliphate" in June 2014. Caliphate refers to a state governed by
Islamic laws, otherwise known as Sharia under caliph who is God’s deputy on
Earth. Since then, the group has demanded Muslims worldwide to migrate to the
states controlled by them and pledge their loyalty to their leader Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi. Numerous countries and bodies worldwide including the United
Nations consider ISIL as a terrorist group ("What is 'Islamic State'? - BBC
ISIL was formed by Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian citizen, in 1999. Zarqawi later formed al-Qaeda in Iraq
(AQI) in 2004 to join forces with Osama Bin Laden after the United States
invaded Iraq in 2003. The Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) was formed as an umbrella
organization following Zarqawi’s demise in 2006. However, the group faded due
to attacks by US troops and the establishment of Sahwa councils that opposed
its brutality. Sahwa (Awakening) was formed by Sunni Arab tribesmen. Isi
regained capabilities when Baghdadi became its leader in 2010. Within three
years’ time, the group was back to propagating attacks in Iraq and rebelling
against Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad through the al-Nusra Front (Hashim, 2014).
"Islamic State in Iraq
and the Levant" was born in 2013 after Baghdadi joined his forces from
Iraq and Syria. The group soldiered on even in Syria despite rejection by the
al-Qaeda and al-Nusra leaders. By the end of the year 2013, the group
concentrated on expanding in Iraq at the cost of a political disagreement
between the government and the minority community; Sunni Arab. The group took
over the central city of Falluja with the help of former followers of Saddam
Hussein and Sunni tribesmen. Isis moved southwards towards Baghdad while
scaring off the nation’s religious and ethnic minorities around June in 2014
after taking over Mosul city. By end of that month, after taking over many
towns and cities, the group declared the formation of a caliphate and
thereafter changed its name to "caliphate"(Hashim, 2014).
When, where and
Since its formation in 1999,
ISIL has pledged to protect the Muslim community against infidels and eliminate
all that hinders God’s rule on Earth which is their mission or goal. Their
militia is always ready for a confrontation with the United States Troops since
they view it as a holy war between them (true Muslims) and their enemies at the
end-of-times as described by the Islamic prophets about the apocalypse.
Isil was reported to be
controlling around 210,000 sq km in Tigris-Euphrates river basin (which equates
to the size of the United Kingdom) in September 2014. The US department of
defense later declared one year later that their operations had made IS lose
control of about 20-25% of Iraq and Syria’s populated areas where they once
did. The militia had lost approximately 20,000 sq km in Iraq which translated
to around 37% of what they controlled a year earlier, and approximately 4,000
sq km in Syria, translating to about 10% ("What is 'Islamic State'? - BBC
Despite the loss, Isil still
captured new territories including oilfields, towns, military facilities, major
roads, and cities around the same time. As of December 2015, Isil was believed
to be in control of an expansive area in eastern Syria and western Iraq with an
estimated over 8 million residents. The group now enforces the sharia law in
over 18 countries worldwide including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Other aspiring
areas include; Somalia, Indonesia, Mali, Philippines, Egypt, and Bangladesh.
Isil has affiliate groups in the following provinces; Yemen, West Africa,
Somalia, Sinai, Caucasus, Algeria, Libya, and Khorasan.
Trend & Reasons
The initial Isil army was
believed to have more than 30,000 fighters. However, as of early 2016, the
numbers in Syria and Iraq were reported to range between 19,000 to 25,000 by
intelligence. This decline was attributed to the high number of U.S air strikes
and battlefield deaths in the region as well as recruitment issues and
desertions. However, the numbers in other areas like Libya and Pakistan are growing
possibly because the group is trying to replace their dying soldiers with
foreign fighters since they’re not direct targets. The group is said to have
attracted over 25,000 foreign fighters including 250 Americans while others
come from neighboring Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco (Tilghman, 2016).
Key Leaders of
ISIL and its Ideology
Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, a
former US detainee heads and runs Isil. He had two deputies; one in Syria and
another in Iraq but both were killed. Baghdadi is believed to have a cabinet of
senior leaders who advise him and local governors to conduct operations in
Syria and Iraq. There are councils on military matters, security, media,
finance, intelligence, foreign fighters’ assistance and legal matters (confirm
executions). There’s an additional shura council to ensure all decisions by the
councils and governors abide by Isil’s interpretation of sharia. Baghdadi
doesn’t tolerate any opposition, threat, or contradiction. Most of ISIL's
leaders were former intelligence officers and military officers who worked for
Saddam Hussein and were fired after his Ba’ath government was overthrown.
The group is a theocracy
believed to have been created from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood that
dates back to the 1920’s in Egypt. It’s therefore guided by modern global
jihadist principles including al-Qaeda’s hard line ideology. It promotes religious violence and adheres to
the extremist interpretation of sharia and Islam. Other observers trace Isil’s
ideologies to; Anti-Zionism, Wahhabism, Salafi jihadism, Caliphatism,
Antisemitism, and Salafism
other Terrorist Groups
ISIL has demanded other
jihadist groups across the world to accept their supreme authority. Most of
them have including some from al-Qaeda, a rival group. By November 2014, 60 different
jihadist networks from 30 countries had pledged loyalty to ISIL including Boko
Haram (West Africa, Jundallah (Pakistan), and Abu Sayyaf (Philippines).
Past Events and
History of Violence
Upon its rise in mid-2014,
Isil is reported to have massacred thousands of its rivals and eliminated many
other religious and ethnic minorities. Inside IS territories where Sharia is
applied; religious minorities are forced to choose between converting, dying or
paying a special tax while women are forced to dress in full veils. Beheadings
in public are commonplace. On August 2016, the Associated Press discovered
about 72 mass graves in areas liberated from the group’s control. The mass
graves contained over fifteen thousand people massacred by the ISIL. Seventeen
of these graves were traced in Syria and the others in Iraq. Around 16 of the graves
found in Iraq, were located in unsafe conflict zones. The remains in these
graves were not counted; instead, they were only estimated.
ISIL is considered a
terrorist organization by numerous countries and international bodies including
Amnesty International and the United Nations. Amnesty International has filed
charges that Isil with an ethnic cleansing of the highest order in northern
Iraq whereas according to the UN, the outlawed group is responsible for war
crimes and human rights abuses. The group is popularly known for destroying
cultural heritage sites and sharing videos in which they behead civilians, aid
workers, soldiers or journalists.
ISIL is the richest Jihadist
group globally with assets ranging between $800m to $2B. The militant group
initially relied on Islamic charities and private donors from the Middle East
region who wanted the Syrian president Assad ousted. Three-quarters of the $2B
the organization owned in mid-2014 are argued to have been looted from the
central bank of Mosul and other commercial banks in the city. However, the
group has devised self-funding means since then. It’s reported that the group
makes around $ 100 m a week through selling crude oil and refined products to
local merchants. Such revenue is said to have declined due to air strikes on
oil infrastructure ("What
is 'Islamic State'? - BBC News", 2015).
The group is said to raise
millions of dollars monthly through looting, extortion, robbing, and ransom
payments from kidnapping. They demand payments from people who conduct
business, pass by or live in their territories while claiming to provide
“protection” to them. Religious minorities or non-Muslims are required to pay a
special tax. Other sources of funding include;
• Stealing livestock
• Raiding banks
• Controlling sale of crops and livestock
• Selling antiquities
• Selling abducted women as sex slaves
Assessment and Future of Isil
ISIL members are jihadists
adhering to Sunni Islam extremism. They’re very intimidating and conduct
crucifixions, bombings, mass shootings and beheadings to terrorize its
adversaries. They use both small arms and heavy weapons such as anti-aircraft
guns, truck-mounted machine-guns, surface-to-air missile systems, and rocket
launchers. They also deploy the use of armored vehicles, bomb proof trucks, and
tanks captured from Iraqi and Syrian armies. They’re reported to have a
flexible supply chain that ensures their fighters don’t run out of small arms
and ammunition. They’re said to coerce both men and women into their army and
brainwash children to adhere to their ideologies before subjecting them to
thorough training on how to use firearms and weapons. One cannot object to the
leaders or leave the group once they’ve joined or else they risk being killed
together with their families. The group believes the rest of the world
including other religions and some Muslims are unbelievers who want Islam destroyed
and are therefore enemies or targets. Whereas their tactics seem intimidating,
their future looks deem. It’s reported that all ISIL's fighters including the
foreign ones have been reduced to a total of 12,000 fighters. However, the
group is down but not out as they’re always planning retaliatory attacks on
their “enemies” including Russia, US, UK, and France among others countries (Zehlin, 2014).
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