The Islamic State (ISIS)


The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“Sham” is Arabic for the Levant) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a Sunni terrorist group which controls territory in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. The group recently claimed to have established a Caliphate, with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as its Caliph. It was founded in early 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to combat American and coalition forces and replace the newly establish Iraqi government with an Islamic state. Originally known as Jama’at Al-Tawhid Wa’al-Jihad, or The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad, it became the official al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq after Zarqawi swore loyalty to Osama bin Laden in late 2004. Severely weakened by American forces during the Surge, it has re-emerged as a significant fighting force fed by the sectarianism of the Malaki government and chaos of the Syrian civil war. In February 2014, al Qaeda disowned the group following a dispute with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate. From its base in Iraq’s Anbar province, it has swiftly and dramatically consolidated power in Sunni-dominated areas on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.


Pentagon Readies Aggressive ISIS Proposals for Trump

The Defense Department is prepared to provide the new administration with military options to accelerate the war against ISIS in Syria that could send additional US troops into direct combat, CNN has learned. These options would inherently increase the risk for US troops compared to what President Barack Obama was willing to accept. The options […]


U.S. Increases Support for Turkish Military Operations in Syria

U.S. aircraft have begun regular aerial intelligence surveillance in support of Turkey’s offensive against the Islamic State in northwestern Syria, in anticipation of increased U.S. support for the flailing Turkish military operation around the town of al-Bab. The increased support comes after weeks of U.S. military and diplomatic talks with Turkish counterparts, and Russian airstrikes […]


Airstrikes By Russia Buttress Turkey in Battle vs. ISIS

Russian warplanes have carried out airstrikes to support Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria against the Islamic State, an important evolution in a budding Russian-Turkish partnership. The deepening ties threaten to marginalize the United States in the struggle to shape Syria’s ultimate fate. The air missions, which took place for about a week near the strategically […]


U.S.-backed Fighters Approach ISIS-held Dam in Syria

Kurdish-led fighters are approaching a strategic dam controlled by the Islamic State group in northern Syria after days of fighting that killed a senior ISIS military commander, a spokesman for the U.S.-backed forces and others said Tuesday. Talal Sillo of the Syria Democratic Forces said the fighters, with the support of U.S., French and British […]


Reconsidering Safe Zones in Syria

The situation in Syria remains bleak, with no end in sight to its five-year civil war. President Bashar Assad’s forces and their Russian and Iranian backers continue to lay waste to rebel-held territory, leaving the rebels with shrinking leverage to pressure the regime into a lasting political settlement. Meanwhile, the Islamic State (ISIS) holds key […]


The Saudi-led Coalition Is Not Ready to Fight the Islamic State

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited Saudi Arabia last week hoping to reassure nervous Gulf allies that American security commitments remain in force in the wake of last year’s Iran nuclear deal. In exchange, the White House was hoping to encourage the Gulf states to play a more active role in the […]


Israel Bolsters Its Sinai Border Amid ISIS Threats

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio message this weekend threatening Israel with a devastating attack. The message was Baghdadi’s most direct warning yet against the Jewish state, but one that will not have come as a surprise in Jerusalem. Israel deems the group’s branch in Egypt’s neighboring Sinai Peninsula its most effective […]


Putin’s S-400 Power-Play in Syria

Russia is upping the ante in the Eastern Mediterranean in response to the downing of its fighter jet by Turkish F-16s last week. Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed S-400 air-defense missiles in Syria and expanded fighter escorts for bombing operations. While Moscow has predicated its intervention in Syria on supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime’s […]


Should the U.S. Continue to Use Incirlik?

Turkey’s cabinet announced July 29 that the United States and coalition members targeting the Islamic State (ISIS) would be permitted to fly combat missions from Incirlik air base in south Turkey. This U.S.-Turkish facility is well positioned near the Syrian front, and offers the coalition greater tactical flexibility. It could certainly help in the effort, as […]


The Folly of Turkey’s Syrian Buffer Zone Plan

Ankara raised the prospect last weekend of a military operation to create a buffer zone along its Syrian frontier. While Turkey is officially part of a 60-nation coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), this military initiative would instead be focused on a different threat: the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (PYD) in Syria. […]


The Islamic State’s Growth in Libya

The Islamic State (ISIS) has made gains throughout Libya since fall 2014, when local Islamist forces pledged allegiance to the “caliphate.” This map tracks those gains as well as major attacks by the group. View full screen map here.


Defeating the Islamic State’s Suicide Drivers

The Pentagon announced last week that it will deliver 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets to help Iraqi forces combat the Islamic State (IS), after the jihadist group seized Ramadi, the strategically important Anbar province capital. While not a sophisticated or expensive weapon, the AT-4 could prove a valuable addition to the arsenals of Iraqi ground forces […]