They’re (ISIS) an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group that at one time flew the pirate flag of al-Qaida, and have now embarked upon their own jihad to instil the sharia and the caliphate. All the same goals, but with themselves calling the shots. Remember, the jihad is all about the instilling of the sharia. Full stop.
ISIS guerrilla-terror group issues warning to America
We’ll be hearing a lot more about ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (also rendered Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) – in the coming days. ISIS overran the major Iraqi city of Mosul in the last week, and is close to establishing itself in control of western Iraq, and Iraq’s major water supplies from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a shadowy figure who doesn’t make public appearances and doesn’t even reveal his face to most of his own fighters. This is presumably in part because he’s an ex-U.S. detainee (not of the Guantanamo facility but of the Camp Bucca prison in Iraq), who was released by the U.S. in 2009, but who now has a $10 million price on his head. He takes stringent precautions to avoid capture.
But it’s also a measure to cultivate a mystique, in my opinion. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has big plans for the region. Up to now, the stated goal of ISIS has been uniting Iraq and Syria (part of the territory of “al-Sham,” or “ash-Sham”*) in a great sharia state. Recently, ISIS has proclaimed an intention to invade and conquer Jordan as well (with a specific threat to slay King Abdullah). This is a natural progression, and Lebanon and Israel can assume they are in ISIS’s target sights as well. (Regarding Israel, ISIS and al-Baghdadi have been relatively demure, not loudly emphasizing Israel as a target. But as indicated here, a recent proclamation from ISIS in early 2014 alluded to jihad in Gaza. This theme will inevitably become more important in the future.)
The rhetoric common in ISIS videos – and in particular of a video (below) which is represented as a sort of manifesto by al-Baghdadi – has a combination of regional, territorial, and global allusions. It depicts a growing movement, implicitly on a path to political power, which is consolidating territorial gains and building a pyramid of loyalty from both local peoples and jihadhi fighters, the latter of whom come from different parts of the greater Middle Eastern region.
In the meantime, ISIS has now announced its intention to seize Baghdad. Not that we didn’t see that coming, but the speed and seeming hubris of the announcement are an indication of al-Baghdadi’s confidence, and apparent contempt for the staying power of the Maliki government.