What kind of threat does the Islamic State pose?


Where does it come from?
The origins of IS can be traced back to the terrorist group named “al-Qaeda in Iraq” (AQI) which was created a year after the US invasion of Iraq and was pledged to Ben Laden. After its leader (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) died in 2006 it became the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) but began a slow decline.

In 2010, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai (better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) became the leader of ISI and started rebuilding its assets. In 2013 it was very much renewed and started new fronts such as al-Nustra against Bashar al-Asad in Syria.

In April 2013, the group reunited its forces in Iraq and Syria into the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in a move that was condemned by its brother organisations al-Nostra and al-Qaeda. ISIL was on a rise however and many fighters left other armed forces for it.

Between December 2013 and June 2014, ISIL captured vast portions of Iraq and Syria, including the important town of Mosul in June. That is when Baghdadi announced the creation of a caliphate and changed the name of his group to Islamic State.


What are its motivations?
IS wants to create a caliphate (a Muslim state led by an all-powerful caliph who is a descendant of Mahomet) in Iraq and Syria, but also Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and more.
Its partisans want to impose the strict Sunni interpretation of Islam to the whole area. They believe they are the only true believers, thus targeting non-Muslims and non-Sunni Muslims alike.


What are its methods?
IS uses footmen from all around the world, attracted by their expansive online “advertising” methods, and claims of purification. Many European Muslim extremists have already travelled to the Middle-East to join the ranks of this terrorist organisation. The western world has of yet not found an effective counter to this recruitment campaign.

The group reportedly has $2bn (£1.2bn) worth of resources at the moment, initially from private funds and now fuelled by the oil they have captured. This allows them to “import” and equip their fighter with light and heavy weaponry. They even have tanks captured from the Iraqi and Syrian armies. The number of ground troops it has deployed may be as high as 31.000 according to US intelligence.

Because of their extremist belief in Sunni Islam, they have beheaded, crucified and organised mass shootings in the different regions under their control. Muslims all over the world have denounced them, to the point that al-Nostra and al-Qaeda, have warned them against such acts of brutality.


Where is the conflict now?
Right now the conflict is concentrated in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have organised a resistance in Kobani, near the Turkish border, and have been resisting for over a month now with little help from the Western countries and none from the Turkish troops. The Iraqi army is defending Baghdad and its surroundings but has been pushed back in many towns leading to the capital.

Millions of refugees are on the road or in neighbouring countries, having been thrown for their homes by the advance of the armed group.

To this day western countries have carried out many airstrikes against key objectives, but have yet to decide to send ground troops in order protect what is left of IS-free territory in Iraq and Syria. They have however raised their alarm level to maximum after IS promised bombing attacks against many countries, including France, the UK, the US and Australia.



Laurent Favier


Sources : BBC, the Guardian, CBS, NYTimes, CNN

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