The Middle East’s media has gone gaga over Gaza - and rightfully so - but there’s hellish happenings elsewhere in the region that demand their share of world awareness. The brutal tactics against both civilians and military enemies of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are providing some of the internet’s most horrifying images ranging from stonings, suicide bombings, crucifixions and beheadings. So, what is the backstory to the growing unrest that threatens to knock the region back to a pre-Arab Uprising era?
Since 9/11, the Western benchmark for terrorism has been al-Qaeda. To put ISIS in context, consider that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri renounced ISIS last year because of its brutal tactics! Initially, the groups were aligned, but philosophical evolution of ISIS prompted its declaration as an independent body.
ISIS militants aspire to erase contemporary Middle Eastern borders, beginning with the porous line between Syria and Iraq, aiming to create a holistic “Islamic state” based on a strict interpretation of Sharia Law.
This national transformation from moderate/secular to fundamentalist/religious is being achieved in part by propaganda (painting a cross-border caliphate of like-minded peoples) but more through armed force and violence. ISIS boosted its military power with vehicles and weaponry left by the retreating Iraqi army. What they don’t steal, they purchase with their deep pockets filled with confiscated cash and natural resources.
Populist “support” results from ISIS violence and terror tactics.
Speaking on ISIS victories in Iraq, Henry Habib, professor emeritus of political science at Concordia University told Canadian Broadcasting Channel news, "It's like the beginning of an earthquake."
Here are 13 facts that summarize the group's genesis and give a glimpse into what they aim to achieve.