By 2009, almost all of AQI
terrorists were either dead or in prison, and the group became shadow of
itself. But they learned a valuable lesson that dissent from Sunnis under its
rule too could be disastrous. That’s why, years later, ISIS slaughtered members
of Sunni tribes, such as Iraq’s Abu Nimr and others in masses. They see brutality as the best
way to prevent a replay of the 2006 uprising that led to their downfall.
After Zarqawi was killed
in US airstrike in 2006, Abu Ayyub al Masri took over and announced the
creation of the Islamic State in Iraq.
They were able to rise from AQI ashes in
large part because of Iraq’s own catastrophic internal politics.
By 2010, Iraq had relatively good security, a generous
state budget, and positive relations with the country’s ethnic and religious
communities. But it was allowed to be squandered. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki
stripped the political opponents from power, appointed the cronies to run the
army, and also killed peaceful protesters.
the Iraqi state on sectarian lines, giving privileges to the Shia majority over
the Sunni minority. This fuelled Iraq’s existing sectarian tensions and Sunni
Iraqi who falsely believed themselves to be Iraq’s majority (due to Saddam
propaganda) and saw Maliki as depriving them from their rightful control of the
state. He by his actions deepened their belief that the Iraqi state was not legitimate.
2011: War in Syria
By this time Masri was killed in a 2010 US – Iraq
operation. This opened the door for Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, a militant who had joined earlier.
Baghdadi took over the group, and when a civil war
broke in neighbouring Syria, members of the group went there to fight against
Syrian government forces.
During the Iraq War, AQI was
frequently visiting back and forth between Syria and Iraq for resupply, so it
had lot of contacts in that country. When Syrian ruler Bashar-Al-Assad began
shooting and using chemical weapons on his own people, and the peaceful
uprising turned into a civil war, AQI saw an opportunity to establish a
Then in August
2011, Baghdadi sent his top deputy, Abu Mohammad al Joulani, to Syria to set up
a new branch of the Al Qaeda in the country. Joulani succeeded and established
Jabhat al Nusra in January 2012. Their fighters quickly proved themselves to be
one of the most effective on the Syrian battlefield, and swelled their ranks
with new recruits.
group was still in Iraq. They had not became ISIS. But to understand how they
did, we have to see the larger forces that opened his way.
Back in 2012,
foreign donations played very crucial role in growing the organization from
poor organization it was then into a monster which it is today.
In 2012, money
flew to Syria from the Gulf states from places like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and
Qatar. The key investments did not came directly from countries governments,
but from private individuals who were living
there and wanted to see the Assad regime fall or perhaps to promote extremism.
donors since faded in their importance, they were invaluable at that point of
time. These individuals acted as high rollers that time, providing them the
seed money. Once they are on their feet, and capable of raising funds through
other means, like kidnapping, oil smuggling, selling women into slavery, etc.
While the Gulf
financers intent may have been to hurt Assad, but they actually ended up into
the strategy of promoting extremism.
In April, 2013 Baghdadi renamed
themselves as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and merged with their
Syrian counterpart of Jabhat-Al-Nusra. This pissed off Al Qaeda’s Headquarter,
because they were already establishing a separate Al Qaeda in Syria and wanted
it to remain separate. The two groups fought mini war amongst themselves and they
officially separated with AQI and rebranding itself into the ISIS we hear
today. It is important to note that the tiff between the two groups was global
and concerned some egoistic issues (like if Al Qaeda should rule territory or
kill Sunnis), as well as matters (like if Osama Bin Laden’s lieutenants, who
had been on the run since 2001, should be calling the shots). This intra-jihadi
battle was waged on the fields of Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and northwest Africa,
as well as in jihadi forums.
Establishment of ‘Caliphate’
On June 10, 2014 around 800
ISIS fighters defeated around 30,000 Iraqi troops to capture Mosul, Iraq’s
second largest city. Then in the next two days, ISIS swept through Iraq’s
heavily Sunni north-west and central provinces coming, to their peak and
extremely close to the capital city of Baghdad.
The conquest of Mosul and
much of northern Iraq led Baghdadi to declare his winning territory a caliphate. By this, Baghdadi meant that ISIS was now a state and
not just any other state but the Islamic legitimate state. All Muslims,
Baghdadi said, were obligated to support Islamic state in its struggle to hold
and expand their land.