ISIS 101
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Politics and Activism

ISIS 101

Its Origins, Operations, and Opposition

ISIS 101

Most American fifteen year olds have aspirations of going college, interests in sports, and video games, and may even be in the middle of receiving their driver’s license.  Surprisingly, in countries around the world, like Austria, there have been fifteen year olds committing their life to radical Islam, with aspirations of leaving home to birth kids for a cause they know little about.

This growing problem in the world is due to the rising threat of the terror organization known as ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq & Syria. Understanding ISIS’s origins, its current operational means, and the international response, are all key in showing you how ISIS is a threat to the world.

ISIS is an organization based on extreme Islam. It has had many influences from the Middle East that have helped promote its radical message. ISIS' radical view was easily activated through various components of a failing Middle East that allowed them to advance in major portions of Iraq and Syria. 

The goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic Caliphate or State, under which it hopes to promote the teachings of Radical Islam, as well as promote Sharia Law, a strict code of Islamic conduct. Their ideology roots from the Muslim Brotherhood political party of the Middle East. This is Sunni* sect ideology promotes anti-western messages, religious violence, and regards those who don’t believe in Islam as “infidels.” This "Islamic State" is represented by a black flag with Arabic words that translate to,"There is no God, but God and Muhammed is his messenger."

ISIS was born on the back of the Syrian civil war. They are made up of a mix of Al-Qaeda fighters, Sadam Hussein-era Iraqi soldiers, and other radical Islamists world-wide, including those in Western nations. They have a wide network of fighters, especially throughout the Middle East and North Africa.   

Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi is the “supreme leader” of the Muslim Caliphate and has only been seen once, in a 2013 YouTube video where he has called on the 1.6 billion Muslims world-wide to join his efforts. ISIS currently controls major portions of Iraq and Syria with goals of expanding their “state” to the Mediterranean and to Jordan.  

ISIS’s smooth operations allow it to be a versatile and threatening organization. ISIS’s operations are unlike any terror organization we’ve seen before, including the ways they finance, recruit, and market, as well as through the atrocities they commit. ISIS is mainly funded through the banks it has robbed and oil fields it has taken over.  

In fact, it has so many oil fields under its control that it able to make about $1-3 million a day. ISIS sells its oil for discount prices such as $30 a barrel; this is compared to the usual $100 a barrel price. ISIS is also funded through forced taxation, and has international support from some of the mid-eastern countries. Unfortunately, U.S. tax dollars have indirectly funded the weapons they use as well. This has happened as Iraqi soldiers have abandoned posts, leaving behind thousands of guns, ammunition, and machinery.   

ISIS has a marketing scheme unlike any terror organization seen before. They use many mediums such as Twitter, YouTube, and to promote their radical message. This radical message is broadcast in variety of languages using a diverse group of people, including English speakers and Westerners. Most videos are used to incite fear in those watching. In a multitude of videos, they show scenes of mass killings, bombardments of churches and even mosques (yes their own religious temples). In other videos, current fighters are shown in nice hotels bragging about the nice accommodations they will have if they come join.   

On Twitter this summer, they used #WorldCup2014 in hopes to grab attention from those tweeting about the event. It was successful. They have recruited peoples of all backgrounds, ages, and races, including a large number of French, British, and Australian fighters. They have even gotten teenagers to join the cause. Women have increasingly become a part of their strategy. They believe the women’s part is to both take care of the fighters, and reproduce for the “new state.”   

Through, ISIS fighters open the floor to questions about the organization and even encourage users to talk about its goals, including ways to get to Syria.   

ISIS has recently shown videos where they have beheaded Westerners in attempts to boost their fierce image. Those killed include two U.S. journalists, one British journalist, and even a French tourist. This has been something unseen before from previous terrorists, as most reporters have had amnesty in the global community, including Al-Qeada. ISIS is also known for its killings in mass graves and attacks on those who don’t believe in their way of Islam. Those who are non-believers are considered “infidels.” They have attacked Coptic Christians, local tribes like the Yazidis, and even other Muslims, mostly of the Shia sect.   

This attack on both the innocent and on religious freedom has been recognized by the global community, which has caused many state players to act. Although there has been some previous support in the past years, the recent U.S. involvement has prompted other countries to join in on an international coalition aimed at eradicating ISIS.   

The U.S. intervened in August when a tribal group known as the Yazidis were attacked and forced to retreat into the mountains with little food or water. After a cry for help, the U.S. provided humanitarian relief and air strikes to the area. This was the first major intervention.    

Since then, Obama and congress have designed a plan to continue to fight ISIS through airstrikes and a small ground force of about 1000 soldiers tasked with assisting Iraqi soldiers only. Obama stands firm in his decision not to send ground troops in. The global coalition that has formed includes over 50 nations of the EU, the Arab League, which consists Middle Eastern countries, NATO, the UN, Iraq, Syria, and even Russia and Iran. On top of continuous U.S. airstrikes, last week the community saw airstrikes from neighboring Arab countries like Jordan, & the UAE.   

Other initiatives to stop this growing threat have begun in the homeland of many countries, especially the western countries. Countries like the U.S., and U.K. have tapped into chatrooms, monitored those coming and going to the Middle East, and set up intelligence all over the world in order to prevent foreign attacks.  

Leon Panetta, in a recent interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes said, “We have waited two years too long to get in there.” Obama wasn’t willing to arm Syrian rebel troops due to the lack of organization and trust. While he was strongly advised to go through with it, he didn’t want the weapons falling in the wrong hands. 

Pannetta says that Obama is not the only one to blame: Iraq’s previous prime minister, Al-Maliki, wouldn’t allow even minimal troops to stay in Iraq when the U.S. pulled out in 2011. “We gave too much hope to the Iraqi army. They did half of what we thought they could do,” says Pannetta. “This threat is growing fast, and it’s becoming a bigger issue than Al-Qeada ever was.”   

In an exclusive interview with CNN, an ISIS defector told that ISIS was ready for the airstrikes. He claims they knew about the surveillance efforts of ISIS, including the satellite tracking, and were able to move resources quickly to prepare. While outposts and oil fields were damaged, they were able to move resources pre-attack. He alluded to the fact that they have other finances than just the oil fields.   

The effects of this conflict are felt everywhere in the world but seem to be more prevalent in the countries surrounding ISIS. The effects of both the Syrian Civil War, and the ISIS crisis have sent millions fleeing to neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and others. King Abdullah II of Jordan said in a recent interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, that he had 1.6 million refugees in his country, or roughly 20% of his population. This number is equivalent to about 65 million in the U.S.    

The recent band of forces against ISIS is weakening their capabilities, but it will be a long process before they are completely depleted. The international community finally notices ISIS’ growing and capable violence. Obama says it will take months, maybe even years before we can completely eradicate the problem.   

Hopefully we will continue to resolve the conflict of ISIS in the coming months and years. Now when you see ISIS in the headlines, you will understand their goals, operations, and opposing parties. If we continue to fight against this cancerous organization, we will help promote a more peaceful Middle East, and save the lives of many innocent civilians, but we will have to be willing to stay in for the long run.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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