What You Need To Know About ISIS
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Politics and Activism

What You Need To Know About ISIS

You've heard about ISIS from horrific images on the news, but what do you really know about this terrorist group?

What You Need To Know About ISIS

An Anniversary: One Year of ISIS

It has been more than a year since ISIS' leader declared himself "caliphate," or ruler, of the Muslim community. The month of June was marked with a few victories by rebel fighters, and more death at the hands of the Islamic State. Read about the current events involving ISIS, learn about their history, values, goals, strategies, and American involvement so far.

Current News

June 27, 2015

Islamic State (IS) fighters launched a surprise attack on the town of Kobani, Syria, killing more than 200 civilians before they were pushed out by Kurdish forces, also known as the YPG. Experts say the attack was to avenge their recent defeats by the Kurds.

Kuwait City, Kuwait. A suicide bomber kills 25 Shiite worshipers at the Imam Sadiq Mosque.

June 26, 2015

Within three hours, three ISIS-related terrorist attacks rocked the countries of France, Tunisia, and Kuwait, killing at least 64 people. Earlier that week, sympathizers around the world were called to cause mayhem at home during Ramadan by IS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

"Muslims, embark and hasten toward jihad...go to make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels," said al-Adnani in an audio recording.

Kurdish militia and Arab rebels sitting at the entrance of Tal Abyad, Syria on June 16.

June 16, 2015

Kurds and Syrian rebels took back control of Tal Abyad, Syria which is close to the Turkish border. This victory will affect ISIS' ability to attract volunteers and sell oil.

This could be the "beginning of a large scale decline process for IS," said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at American University in Beirut.

A Very Brief History

ISIS means the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It's also referred to as Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Islamic State (IS), and Daesh, the Arabic acronym. However it is important to know that ISIS is not a legitimate "state" in terms of political science.

Originally ISIS was an affiliate of the Sunni terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. However, Al-Qaeda's senior leadership severed ties with ISIS before February 2014 when Baghdadi openly defied Ayman Zawahiri, who had urged ISIS to focus on Iraq and leave Syria to al-Nursa Front.

ISIS Leader: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Also Known As: Abu Duaa, Dr Ibrahim al-Samarrai, "The Invisible Sheikh"

The United States labeled Baghdadi a "terrorist" in October 2011.

What Does ISIS Want?

Put simply, they want to "establish an Islamic State that doesn't recognize borders, on the Prophetic methodology."

Using the takfiri doctrine, IS fighters are committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. Muslim "apostates" are the most common victims.

Baghdadi declared himself as the "caliphate," or the ruler, of the Muslim community. This is not only a political entity, but also a vehicle for salvation. His declaration is required to implement Sharia in Iraq and Syria, or in his perfect ideal "Islamic State."

Three Core Values

1. Devotion

IS fighters constantly spout off Koran texts, taking the religious teachings quite literally. Immoral acts like committing adultery is punishable by stoning.

They are "smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day," said Bernard Haykel, Princeton scholar.

2. Territory

In addition to Iraq and Syria, ISIS has gained online territory, allowing conservative Muslim women to join, to hopefully, build a complete society.

3. The Apocalypse

They impatiently await the arrival of the Mahdi, who will lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world. According to Prophetic narration, there will be a battle in Dabiq, Syria against the enemy of Rome and the Anti-Messiah Dajjal. In this battle, Jesus will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and the Muslims will defeat the enemy. After this battle, the countdown to the apocalypse begins.

Rome, of course, is not the same empire it once was. The enemy, translated into modern terms, could reference Turkey, or any "infidel" army, which could include the United States.

Why So Successful?

Military expertise and brutality has been the two techniques that have led this terrorist group to its success so far. Videos have been shared on social media of beheadings, torture, lighting people on fire, burying people alive, and tauntings by ISIS fighters.

They have also taken advantage of government forces in Iraq who were lacked the motivation to fight back. The group continues to manipulate local Sunni tribes and ex-Baathists who have felt pushed away by the Iraqi government.

American Involvement... So Far

The U.S. has aided Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian rebel forces with aerial bombing campaigns since the beginning of this conflict.

The first major defeat happened almost a year ago in August, with Kurdish and Iraqi forces, and an aerial bombing campaign by the United States, pushing ISIS off the Mosul Damn, a key piece of infrastructure.

September 2014: Bombing campaign against the group into Syria.

February 2015: US military states that ISIS is "losing ground" in Iraq.

July 4, 2015: U.S. military aided the Kurdish rebels in Raqqa city, Syria with "some of the most intense airstrikes to date."

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