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.

Syria declares victory over Islamic State

Syria’s army declared victory over Islamic State on Thursday, saying its capture of the jihadists’ last town in the country marked the collapse of their project in the region. The army and its allies are still fighting Islamic State in desert areas near Albu Kamal, the last town the militant group had held in Syria, near the border with Iraq, the army said. But the capture of the town ends Islamic State’s era of territorial rule over the so-called caliphate that it proclaimed in 2014 across Iraq and Syria and in which millions suffered under its hardline, repressive strictures.

Assad says Syria war does not end in Deir al-Zor

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said the victories of the Syrian army and its allies against terrorist organizations do not end in Deir al-Zor province where Islamic State has its last significant stronghold, his office reported on Tuesday. He also indicated that he might take the war to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls more than a quarter of Syria, by saying the war targeted those who seek to “divide and weaken states”.

Hezbollah media unit: Islamic State leader reported in Syrian town

A Hezbollah-run news outlet said on Friday that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reported present in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal during the Syrian army and its allies’ operation to clear it. The military unit did not say what had happened to Baghdadi, give further details or identify its sources. The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said on Friday it had no “releasable information” on Baghdadi’s whereabouts.

Counter-ISIS Campaign to Intensify, Mattis Says

The U.S.-led coalition will accelerate its campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today in a joint press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, with Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen. “We will further accelerate this fight to free people from ISIS’ crushing occupation and [the] enemy’s terror threat to […]

Islamic State Developing New Weapons Despite Losses: Arms Monitor

Islamic State militants have developed an improvised explosive device (IED) that can be launched from rifles or dropped from an aerial drone, an arms monitoring group said on Wednesday. Conflict Armament Research (CAR) said the Sunni militant group was “promoting the development of ‘own-brand’ weapons” to provide its insurgents with otherwise unavailable armaments. “The (IED) […]

US-Backed Forces Enter Major Jihadist-Held Syria Town

A US-backed alliance of Arab-Kurdish forces entered the key jihadist-held town of Tabqa on Monday as they pursued their campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have set their sights on Tabqa and the adjacent dam as part of their broader offensive for the city of Raqa, the […]

Pentagon Chief: US Committed to Helping Egypt Combat ISIS

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis vowed Thursday that the United States will aid Egypt in its battle against terrorism, pledging to strengthen the military bond between the two countries strained during Barack Obama’s administration. “We agreed on the need for a renewed and strong security partnership, as the new administration comes in,” Mattis said of his […]

Dawn of the Jihadi Drone Wars

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported February 23 that it had downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the Mediterranean after it was launched from the Gaza Strip. According to IDF sources, an Israeli F-16 shot down the UAV, which it said belonged to Hamas, before it was able to cross into the country’s airspace. […]

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.