The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Terrorism


Political analysts agree that both the traditional and modern terrorist groups are formed with the intention of destabilizing governments (Moghadam 52). Using terrorist activities, such groups force governments to comply with certain demands. Terrorism activities have been on the rise in contemporary times, and they have become a means of airing people’s grievances to governments across the world. Allegedly, terrorism communicates a certain message to the ruling governments, and it is closely linked to politics (Arango, Barnard, and Hwaida 27).

In addition, terrorism poses a major threat to global security. The Internet has facilitated the tremendous growth of terrorist activities due to ease of communication and anonymity (Sekulow, Sekulow, and Ash 87). This paper will explore the nature of terrorist groups today. The paper will use the case for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is a terrorist group that operates in Iraq and Syria, to illustrate the extremes of terrorism in the contemporary times.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is among the highly organized terrorist groups across the world (Keeney and Winterfeldt 1807). The group has great influence in Iraq and Syria, which are its operating bases. The group exploits citizens by collecting taxes from businesspersons in the two countries (Sheena 98). The United States of America has declared the group a terrorist organization that poses a great threat to international security.

Therefore, the US has vowed to pursue the group until its disintegration (Keeney and Winterfeldt 1804). All the areas under the group’s control are governed by Sharia laws, which are based on Islam. The group has established law courts based on Sharia laws that are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that justice is administered in accordance with the set rules. ISIS was originally an al-Qaida group, and it was originally formed in Iraq (Sheena 66).

The group was initially incorporated in Iraq, but later on, it spread to Syria. The group has been described as a terrorist group by both the United Nations and Amnesty International, who have described the group’s activities as inhumane (Moghadam 46). The group traces its origin to the al-Qaida group, which was founded by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in 2003, in response to the United States’ invasion of Iraq in the same year (Jordan 224).

The group merged with other insurgent groups in Iraq to form the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which later became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria following the capture of some parts of Northern Syria. The group is currently under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has successfully managed to expand its territories through capturing major cities in both Iraq and Syria (Sekulow, Sekulow, and Ash 59). The group enjoys great support from the Iraqi Sunnis, who are opposed to the country’s ruling government due to alleged discrimination directed to them by the authorities.

ISIS is one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the world. Since its formation, the group has been involved in terrorist activities that have resulted in mass killings of both military and civilians. The leadership of the group has claimed responsibility for major attacks directed towards the government and the public at large. Statistics reveal that by 2014, the group had approximately 50,000 Syrian fighters on top of 30,000 fighters from Iraq (Sekulow, Sekulow, and Ash 89).

The group is closely linked to al Qaeda even though it is alleged that in the recent past, al-Qaeda has distanced itself from the group due to the domineering attitude by its leaders as they seek to merge the two groups and exercise a central control (Sekulow, Sekulow and Ash 82). The group has recruited experienced foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia and from other Arabic states with the intention of strengthening its forces.

Main objectives of ISIS

ISIS’s primary objective is to set up a caliphate in areas dominated by the Sunni groups in Iraq. The group’s intention is founded on the basis that the Sunni are opposed to the government due to alleged mistreatment and discrimination (Sheena 39). The discrimination perception held by the Sunni has seen the group succeed in recruiting extra members from the Sunni communities in both Iraq and Syria. The self-proclaimed caliphate state is working hard to keep all the Muslims across the world under its control.

The group’s source of funds

ISIS is among the richest terrorist groups in the world (Arango, Barnard, and Hwaida 27). The group accumulates lots of wealth from criminal activities. Even though there have been allegations about the group acquiring funds from outside donors, the monies raised from donations form an infinitesimal percentage of the group’s total budget (Moghadam 56). According to research conducted by the RAND Corporation in 2013, outside financing accounted for only 5% of total budgets between the years 2005 and 2010 (Sekulow, Sekulow, and Ash 91).

According to the report, 95% of the operating budgets within the aforementioned period were raised within Iraq (Sekulow, Sekulow and Ash 91). Given that the group is slowly penetrating Syria, it benefits from levying taxes from locals in parts where it controls. It is estimated that the group makes about 12 million dollars in Mosul alone from taxes (Sekulow, Sekulow and Ash 91).

The group also makes money to the tune of $ 3 million dollars per day from illegal sale of oil in the black market (Sekulow, Sekulow and Ash 94). Recent reports from intelligence community indicate that the group has successfully captured 11 oil fields located in Iraq and Syria. Kidnappings and human trafficking are yet other sources of revenue for the group (Keeney and Winterfeldt 1814). The group has been accused of kidnapping women and selling them as sex slaves in exchange for money (Jordan 224).

In addition, the group earns a considerable amount of money from ransoms. The group kidnaps people before demanding money in order to release them. The most recent incident involved four French and two Spanish journalists who were kidnapped only to be released after their respective governments had paid millions of dollars to the terrorists (Sekulow, Sekulow and Ash 87). The group received a major boost when it successfully acquired control over Mosul. It is alleged that the group stole huge amounts of money from banks in the city to finance its activities.

ISIS survival tactics

The terrorist group endeavors to marshal support from the local communities in Iraq and Syria through embracing “social responsibility” (Moghadam 62). The group has established social welfare initiatives aimed at aiding the poor in society. The aid is afforded to the needy through the supply of oil and food coupled with and the provision of free medical services (Sheena 78). The supported community is expected to observe Sharia laws and maintain the spirit of Muslim brotherhood on which the group is founded (Jordan 224).

Significance of Syria capture

The outbreak of a civil war in Syria was a major boost to the former ISI as it enabled the group to capture most parts of Northern Syria (Arango, Barnard, and Hwaida 27). The capture meant that the group was no longer decentralized, and thus it would avoid an operation by the Iraq’s army. In addition, the group captured extra oil fields located in Syria before gaining control over a large section on which it would levy taxes, thus increasing its income. In addition, the capture afforded to the group a venue through which it could shift resources from Iraq to Syria and back, thus eliminating chances of attack from a central point (Sekulow, Sekulow and Ash 73).

Weaponry and operations

ISIS tactics include suicide attacks accomplished simultaneously in different parts of Iraq and Syria and it is thus hard to deter such attacks (Moghadam 54). The financial power coupled with the group’s ability to recruit experienced foreign fighters ensures the group’s success in most of its undertakings. For instance, during the Samarra invasion, the group hired experienced fighters who used bulldozers to destroy barricades that had been constructed during the colonial era (Sheena 66). This aspect demonstrates the group’s power over the Iraq and Syria’s armies in the region. Analysts suggest that the primary objective of the group could be to capture oil fields surrounding the newly captured city of Mosul and if the group were successful in the aforementioned mission, it would emerge stronger than it is today.

ISIS has a wide variety of weaponry acquired through seizure (Jordan 224). As the group expands its territories, it benefits from the weaponry left behind by the defeated opponents. The group acquired large quantities of weapons in the Syrian Civil War and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 (Keeney and Winterfeldt 1804). The weapons have facilitated the group’s terrorism operations, which enable it to acquire extra arms in the process.

The recent capture of the Mosul city saw the group acquire aircrafts that would further boost their operations (Sekulow, Sekulow and Ash 33). The group is a major threat to the international security especially after it acquired nuclear materials with the ability of manufacturing dangerous nuclear weapons in 2014. The nuclear materials had been stored at the University of Mosul and the terrorists stole them following the capture of the city.


Most political analysts link terrorism with politics and religion. Terrorist activities are thus meant to compel governments to alter or rather abandon certain policies. Terrorism is believed to communicate a certain political message to the ruling government. Terrorism activities have been on the rise today and have become the means by which people communicate their needs to the government. The groups blend themselves as terrorists and target certain government properties or people linked to the government. A good example of such a terrorist group is the ISIS, which is a terrorist group operating in both Syria and Iraq. The group’s main goal is to establish a caliphate where all regions dominated by Muslims will be brought under a central control. ISIS main supporters are the Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria who argue that they have been mistreated and discriminated by successive governments in the two countries.

Works Cited

Arango, Tim, Anne Barnard, and Saad Hwaida. “Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War.” New York Times 8 Dec. 2012: 27. Print.

Jordan, David, James Kiras, David Lonsdale, Ian Speller, Christopher Tuck, and Dale Walton. Understanding Modern Warfare, New York: Cambridge Press, 2008. Print.

Keeney, Gregory, and Detlof Winterfeldt. “Identifying and structuring the objectives of terrorists.” Risk analysis 30.12 (2010): 1803-1816. Print.

Moghadam, Assaf. “Motives for martyrdom: Al-Qaida, Salafi Jihad, and the spread of suicide attacks.” International Security 33.3 (2009): 46-78. Print.

Sekulow, Jay, Jordan Sekulow, and Robert Ash. Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore, Brentwood: Howard Books, 2014. Print.

Sheena, Ivan. When terrorism and counterterrorism clash: the war on terror and the transformation of terrorist activity, New York: Cambria Press, 2007. Print.

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