Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham

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Belgian citizen Abdelhamid Abaaoud, said to be the planer of the Nov 13, 2015 terror attacks in Paris, poses with Quran and ISIS flag in front of a Humvee

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Arabic: الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام‎ ad-Dawla al-Islāmiyya fi al-'Irāq wa-sh-Shām) abbreviated as ISIS or sometimes ISIL with L for "Levant" (acronym in Arabic: داعش‎, Da'āsh) is an al-Qaeda linked group fighting in both Syria and Iraq and pushing for a unified Islamist state spanning both nations. ISIS joins previous al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra as representatives of the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi tradition in the region, but in a more confrontational and extreme way that more often leads them to attack fellow opposition fighters as well as government, Kurdish, and other forces.

The group is infamous for their slick media productions in print and video aimed in Western languages at a Western audience.

On June 29, 2014, weeks after it conquered large parts of north-western Iraq including Mosul, the organization issued a declaration changing their name to "Islamic State", pronouncing the real life existence of that state in tradition of the caliphate and declaring their leader al-Bagdhadi from now on to be Caliph Ibrahim whom all Muslims must swear allegiance to. Some Islamist groups in Africa and elsewhere have since accepted the "Caliph" while others denied his legitimacy.

Some of the adventures that followed are covered in other articles found in the category about the group.

Split with al-Qaeda and Nusra Front

  • On al Baghdadi's disobedience of Dr Zawahiri - Shami Witness, June 15, 2013
    In Raqqah, JN and ISIS can be considered one and the same.In Deir ez Zor and Hasakah too, that’s the apparent case. But in Aleppo, it’s clear that JN and ISIS are two distinct entities now, issuing statements using separate names, but clearly co-operating with each other. We haven’t seen presence of ISIS in Idlib yet, but lots of presence of quite militarily successful JN units. In Lattakia, we have seen at least one suicide bombing carried out in name of ISIS; the status of who is who in Lattakia is unclear.
    About Hama and Homs(specially in the iconic Battle of Qusayr), so far it seems JN and ISIS labels and banners are being used interchangeably, and so are the claims of responsibility.
    Damascus ISIS carried out at least one suicide bombing in Harasta, though my general understanding is here also JN and ISIS names are used interchangeably. For eg. the attack on the Shia international brigade Liwa Abu Fadl al Abbas was carried out in the name of ISIS.
    Deraa is a special case. Long home to a quite cohesive Jordanian jihadi-trained JN unit, they remained separate from the disputes. Jihadis in South are firmly JN.

Ideology

"See you in Dabiq" video: New ISIS Video Shows Armageddon Battle With the West, 'end of the world' video showing final battle with 'crusaders', Dec 11, 2015.

Origins / Backing

Timeline

  • (2003) How Disbanding the Iraqi Army Fueled ISIS, Time, May 28, 2015
The Bush Administration tapped Paul Bremer to head the so-called Coalition Provisional Authority on May 11, 2003. Twelve days later, he issued an order wiping away the Iraqi military, with a pledge to build a new one from scratch, untainted by any ties to Saddam’s regime.
In November 2006, trained and equipped Ministry of Defence forces numbered 134,700. (Brookings Institution 2006:25). The goal of the MNSTC-I is to reach a troop threshold of 137,000 by the end of 2006, a target which appeared clearly in reach. However, these figures belie serious problems that confront the process. For instance, the numbers of soldiers trained and equipped does not convey their readiness to engage in military operations. The MNSTCI uses a four-point classification scheme to determine unit readiness, with Level 1 ascribed to fully capable soldiers and Level 4 assigned to ‘incapable units’ (Fallows 2005:61). By December 2005, only 50 out of the 102 battalions formed were in the 1-3 range, with most of those falling into levels 2 and 3 (Cordesman 2006:ii).
“If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria… and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”
  • (2013) CIA ramping up covert training program for moderate Syrian rebels, Washington Post, by Greg Miller, October 2, 2013.
the CIA program is so minuscule that it is expected to produce only a few hundred trained fighters each month even after it is enlarged...The agency has trained fewer than 1,000 rebel fighters this year, current and former U.S. officials said...the agency has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in Jordan in recent weeks in a push to double the number of rebel fighters getting CIA instruction and weapons before being sent back to Syria.
  • August, 2013: ISIS involved with JaN, Ahrar al-Sham and others in capture of Menagh Air Base (Levant Report), Latakia offensive and massacres (Monitor blog), establishes their capitol in Raqqah.
  • late 2013-early 2014: Nusra-IS split. Jihadi ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi called upon Muslims to reject the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and urged its members to leave the group and join the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
  • 21 Jan., 2014. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announces plans to 'march on Bagdad', warns Americans on direct confrontation:
Our last message is to the Americans. Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching

Sources

The official Kuwait News Agency said police arrested a Lebanese citizen described as the ringleader named Osama Khayat, who admitted to helping IS recruit fighters and raise money that was sent to IS-related bank accounts in Turkey. The Interior Ministry said Khayat also admitted to closing weapons deals in Ukraine and using Turkey as a route to send weapons to IS fighters in Syria, where the group controls territory.
According to Cyberberkut (RIA.ru), in late September 2015 (21-27 of September) Ukrainian state-run defense enterprise "Ukroboronprom" was negotiating to deliver S-125 surface to air missile system "Pechora" to Qatar, with a help of a Polish company, and routed via Bulgaria and Turkey. "Pechora" is an old but capable SAM system which can hit targets at up to 18 km altitude, and can pose a danger to military or commercial aircraft. Timing of those negotiations coincide with deployment of Russian air forces to Syria. Russian airstrikes officially started on 30 of September, but rumors about this were circulating earlier (first report on actual Russian strikes appears to be dated 25.9. Reports of such plans appeared as early as late August. Qatar is believed to be supplying armed opposition groups in Syria. Qatar has advanced Western weapons, and access for more if needed for its own defense. There seem to be little point in acquiring an old (1960-s design) Soviet SAM (especially from Ukraine, as servicing and maintenance cannot be assured), unless it is forwarded somewhere further.
Ahmet Sait Yayla was Chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Operations Division of Turkish National Police between 2010 and 2012, before becoming Chief of the Public Order and Crime Prevention Division until 2014. [...] he had personally witnessed evidence of high-level Turkish state sponsorship of ISIS during his police career, which eventually led him to resign. He decided to become a whistleblower after Erdogan’s authoritarian crackdown following the failed military coup in July.

Fighters Profile

'The Caliphate’s Global Workforce', West Point, April 2016 (stats on available records- 37 pages).

Actions

  • Jihadist rebels in full control of northern Iraq province, Al Akhbar, Jun 10, 2014
  • Islamic State's Homs offensive endangers Syria's energy supply, As Safir translated by Al Monitor, July 23, 2014
  • ISIS consolidates, Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books, August 1, 2014
  • Iraqi forces take back Tikrit from ISIS, official says, CNN, 31.3.15
  • IS militants 'enter Yarmouk refugee camp' in Syrian capital, BBC, 1.4.15
  • The Fate of 23 Hostages in Syria, NY Times, Oct. 25, 2014
  • The Middle East Wars: Islamic State SITREP - John Rambo, The Saker, November 11, 2015
  • A video, Addressed to the UK government...Rusvesna/Mail Online, Jan 3, 2016, as appeared.
  • "The secret of "Captain Petrenko." The terrorists of ISIS captured the "FSB officer"?" -AIF, 21 Sept. 2016
    Video published claiming to show 'captured FSB agent' 'Captain Petrenko', a freelance/non-staff employee of the 2nd operational department of the FSB of Russia in Moscow in the rank of captain, from Tsaritsin, Moscow region. Petrenko appeals to Putin, Russia, and FSB for his release. It is noted by an 'Alpha' veteran' that it is impossible for a non-staff employee to have a rank of captain, and that non-staff is not sent on FSB missions to hot spots. Also, there is no city of Tsaritsyn, only a Moscow district Tsaritsino, not a city on its own. (Tsaritsyn is also an old name of Volgograd). Video linked by AIF is no longer available. Earlier story, Magomed Khasiev executed by Anatoly Zemlianka, mentioned.
    • Beheading video appears - Rusvesna, 9 May, 2017. Screenshot with Petrenko in a robe resembling those used in Russian prisons, and a Russian-speaking executioner behind is shown. Video itself is not linked 'by ethical considerations'.
    • Russian MOD: 'all our servicemen are alive and well, and perform their duties with their units', denounce 'actions of some media outlets, regularly replicating information throws of international terrorist groups', Interfax, May 9, 2017
    (Does not explain who is shown on video and what is his fate; those videos not easily available).
    Video discussed in Western media, Site Intel. It was uploaded on youtube on May 9, 2017 (Полный Банкрот. Из Халифата с любовью. is one of youtube versions). Unedited copy (killing on camera) is out there as well. Original post, “Complete Bankruptcy”, al-Furāt Media Foundation, May 8, 2017, reposted on some translaton/jihadi studies websites.
    A video detail: while you are fighting us, you are being encroached by military might of the West (with recent deployment videos to illustrate).
  • Claims responsibility for Iran attack -Vocativ, June 7, 2017

Life under ISIS

Life after return ?

It was announced that the program to return such people to Chechnya was later discontinued, RIA (google translated), Nov 28, 2015.

Media