Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS): An in-depth look at ISIS

30 May 2019 12:24 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



  • ISIS’s use of social media has been described by one expert as “probably more sophisticated than that of most US companies”
  • Whether Sunni or Shia, Salafi or Sufi, conservative or liberal, Muslims – and Muslim leaders – have almost unanimously condemned and denounced ISIL not merely as un-Islamic but actively anti-Islamic
  • Terrorism is not driven by poverty and low levels of education which conforms with previous research


...Continued from yesterday


Communications, Propaganda

ISIS is known for its extensive and effective use of propaganda. It uses a version of the Muslim Black Standard flag and developed an emblem which has clear symbolic meaning in the Muslim world.   

Social Media

ISIS’s use of social media has been described by one expert as “probably more sophisticated than that of most US companies”. It regularly uses social media, particularly Twitter, to distribute its messages. The group uses the encrypted instant messaging service Telegram to disseminate images, videos and updates.   
The group is known for releasing videos and photographs of executions of prisoners, whether beheadings, shootings, caged prisoners being burnt alive or submerged gradually until drowned. Journalist Abdel Bari Atwan described ISIS’s media content as part of a “systematically applied policy”. The escalating violence of its killings “guarantees” the attention of the media and public.   
Along with images of brutality, ISIS presents itself as “an emotionally attractive place where people ‘belong’, where everyone is a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”. The “most potent psychological pitch” of ISIS media is the promise of heavenly reward to dead jihadist fighters. Frequently posted in their media are dead jihadists’ smiling faces, the ISIS ‘salute’ of a ‘right-hand index finger pointing heavenward’, and testimonies of happy widows.   

Finances of ISIS

According to a 2015 study by the Financial Action Task Force, ISIS’s five primary sources of revenue are as follows (listed in order of significance): proceeds from the occupation of territory (including control of banks, petroleum reservoirs, taxation, extortion and robbery of economic assets)   
Kidnapping for ransom, donations from Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, often disguised as meant for “humanitarian charity”, material support provided by foreign fighters, fundraising through modern communication networks. Since 2012, ISIL has produced annual reports giving numerical information on its operations, somewhat in the style of corporate reports, seemingly in a bid to encourage potential donors.   
In 2014, the RAND Corporation analyzed ISIS’s funding sources from documents captured between 2005 and 2010. It found that outside donations amounted to only 5% of the group’s operating budgets, and that cells inside Iraq were required to send up to 20% of the income generated from kidnapping, extortion rackets and other activities to the next level of the group’s leadership, which would then redistribute the funds to provincial or local cells that were in difficulties or needed money to conduct attacks. In 2016, RAND estimated that ISIS finances from its largest source of income — oil revenues and the taxes it extracts from people under its control — had fallen from about $1.9 billion in 2014 to $870 million.
In mid-2014, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service obtained information that ISIS had assets worth US$2 billion, making it the richest jihadist group in the world. About three-quarters of this sum was said to be looted from Mosul’s central bank and commercial banks in the city.   

Mass Killings 

On 30 August 2016, a survey conducted by the Associated Press found that around 72 mass graves have been discovered in areas that have been liberated from ISIL control. In total, these mass graves contain the bodies of approximately 15,000 people killed by ISIL. The report stated that the mass graves were evidence of genocides conducted by ISIL in the region, including the genocide of Yazidis. Seventeen graves were discovered in Syria, with the rest being found in Iraq. At least 16 of the graves in Iraq contained remains that were not counted, as they are located in dangerous conflict zones.   
On 6 November 2018, a United Nations report revealed over 200 mass graves of thousands of ISIL’s victims that were discovered. The grave sites, which may contain up to 12,000 bodies, were found in the northern and western Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Anbar.   

Islamic Criticism

Around the world, Islamic religious leaders have overwhelmingly condemned ISIL’s ideology and actions, arguing that the group has strayed from the path of true Islam and that its actions did not reflect the religion’s real teachings or virtues. 
Whether Sunni or Shia, Salafi or Sufi, conservative or liberal, Muslims – and Muslim leaders – have almost unanimously condemned and denounced ISIL not merely as un-Islamic but actively anti-Islamic. ISIS is a banned terrorist organization at present but still can pose an “imminent threat all over the world.   


Saudi Arabia

Although Saudi Arabia’s government rejected the claims, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia of funding ISIL.Some media outlets, such as NBC, the BBC and The New York Times, and the US-based think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy have written about individual Saudi donations to the group and the Saudi state’s decade-long sponsorship of Wahhabism around the world, but have concluded that there is no evidence of direct Saudi state support for ISIL.   


There were numerous allegations against Syria for unofficially supporting ISIS. Several Islamist prisoners were released from Syrian prisons at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, which many sources have suggested indicated as a strategic attempt to strengthen jihadi factions over other rebels, The Syrian government bought oil directly from ISIL, and the Syrian government and ISIS jointly ran a HESCO gas plant in Tabqah. The facility supplied electricity to government-held areas and government-run power plants supplied ISIL-held areas. A report on 25 June 2015 said that ISIS kept gas flowing to Assad regime-controlled power stations.   
However, according to The American Conservative an April 2017 report by UK security and defence information provider IHS Markit, stated that the Islamic State fought Syrian government forces more than any other opponent between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017. According to the report “43 percent of all Islamic State fighting in Syria was directed against President Assad’s forces, 17 against the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the remaining 40 percent involved fighting rival Sunni opposition groups”.   


Turkey has been accused by experts, Syrian Kurds, and United States Vice-President Joe Biden of supporting or colluding with ISIL. A raid by US special forces on a compound housing the Islamic State’s “chief financial officer”, Abu Sayyaf, in July 2015, produced evidence that Turkish officials dealt directly with ranking ISIL members. According to a senior Western official, documents and flash drives seized during the Sayyaf raid revealed links “so clear” and “undeniable” between Turkey and ISIL “that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara”.   
Turkey has been further criticized for allowing individuals from outside the region to enter its territory and join ISIL in Syria.[576][577] With many Islamist fighters passing through Turkey to fight in Syria, Turkey has been accused of becoming a transit country for such fighters and has been labelled the “Gateway to Jihad”. Turkish border patrol officers are reported to have deliberately overlooked those entering Syria, upon payment of a small bribe. 
A report by Sky News exposed documents showing that passports of foreign Islamists wanting to join ISIL by crossing into Syria had been stamped by the Turkish government.An ISIL commander stated that “most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies”,adding that ISIL fighters received treatment in Turkish hospitals.   


Qatar has long been accused of acting as a conduit for the flow of funds to ISIL. While there is no proof that the Qatari government is behind the movement of funds from the gas-rich nation to ISIL, it has been criticised for not doing enough to stem the flow of financing. Private donors within Qatar, sympathetic to the aims of radical groups such as al-Nusra Front and ISIL, are believed to be channelling their resources to support these organisations. According to the US Treasury Department, a number of terrorist financiers have been operating in Qatar. 
Qatari citizen Abd Al-Rahman al-Nuaimi has served as an interlocutor between Qatari donors and leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Nuaimi reportedly oversaw the transfer of US$2 million per month to AQI over a period of time. He is also one of several of Qatar-based al-Qaeda financiers sanctioned by the US Treasury in recent years. According to some reports, US officials believe that the largest portion of private donations supporting ISIS and al Qaeda-linked groups now comes from Qatar rather than Saudi Arabia.   
In August 2014, German minister Gerd Müller accused Qatar of having links to ISIL, stating: “You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops. The keyword there is Qatar.” Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah rejected this statement, saying: “Qatar does not support extremist groups, including ISIL, in any way. We are repelled by their views, their violent methods and their ambitions.”   

United States

Rand Paul, junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky, has accused the U.S. government of indirectly supporting ISIL in the Syrian Civil War, by arming their allies and fighting their enemies in that country.The US assisted the moderate Syrian opposition from 2013 to 2017, but whether that assistance was commandeered by ISIL allies remains unclear.   

ISIS are well educated

An October 2016 World Bank study found that “ISIL’s foreign fighters are surprisingly well-educated.”Using the fighters’ self-reported educational levels, the study concluded that “69% of recruits reported at least a secondary-level education”of which “a large fraction have gone on to study at university”and also that “only 15% of recruits left school before high school; less than 2% are illiterate.”
The study also found that foreign fighters are often more educated than their countrymen where those “from Europe and in Central Asia have similar levels of education to their countrymen” while those “from the Middle East, North Africa, and South and East Asia are significantly more educated than what is typical in their home nations.” The report notes that its conclusions that terrorism is not driven by poverty and low levels of education which conforms with previous research. However, the report did find a strong correlation “between a country’s male unemployment rate and the propensity of the country to supply foreign fighters”.   

Foreign Nationals by Country joined ISIS

Australia, 5 had joined. Belgium Up to 2018, an estimated 450 individuals had travelled from Belgium to join the civil war in Syria and Iraq. France Up to 2018, an estimated 1700 individuals had travelled from France to join the civil war in Syria and Iraq.   
Germany Up to 2018, an estimated 940 individuals had travelled from Germany to join the civil war in Syria and Iraq. Netherlands In the 2012 to November 2018 period, above 310 individuals had travelled from the Netherlands to the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Sweden Up to 2018, an estimated 300 individuals had travelled from Sweden to join the civil war in Syria. United Kingdom in 2014 up to 400 UK citizens had joined ISIS. Sri Lanka 32 Sri Lankans had joined ISIS as of 2016, and few of them have returned.   

Abuse of women and children   

A United Nations report issued on 2 October 2014, based on 500 interviews with witnesses, said that ISIS took 450–500 women and girls to Iraq’s Nineveh region in August, where “150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIL fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves”. In mid-October, the UN confirmed that 5,000–7,000 Yazidi women and children had been abducted by ISIS and sold into slavery. In November 2014 The New York Times reported on the accounts given by five who escaped ISIS of their captivity and abuse. 
In December 2014, the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced that ISIS had killed over 150 women and girls in Fallujah who refused to participate in sexual jihad. Non-Muslim women have reportedly been married off to fighters against their will. ISIS claims the women provide the new converts and children necessary to spread ISIS’s control.   

Option for Christians

Christians living in areas under ISIS control face four options: converting to Islam, paying a religious levy, leaving the “Caliphate”, or death. “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of religious levy; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword”.   

ISIS - Neither Islamic nor State

In a speech in September 2014, United States President Barack Obama said that ISIS was neither “Islamic” (on the basis that no religion condones the killing of innocents) nor was it a “state” (in that no government recognises the group as a state), while many object to using the name “Islamic State” owing to the far-reaching religious and political claims to authority which that name implies. 
The United Nations Security Council, the United States,Canada, Turkey, Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom and other countries generally call the group “ISIS “, while much of the Arab world uses the Arabic acronym “Dāʻish” (or “Daesh”).France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines among Islam, Muslims, and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.   

Who created ISIS?

Answer is USA.   
Answer was confirmed by former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband ! “ 2003 invasion of Iraq caused the creation of ISIS.”   

Why do they choose Sri Lanka, WHY?

Jonah Blank, a Principal Investigator and Senior Political Scientist for RAND Corporation’s answer was that “It appears that ISIS didn’t choose Sri Lanka, but that a group of Sri Lankans chose ISIS.”   
In other words, Sri Lanka was chosen as a soft target of opportunity. In many other parts of the world it would have been difficult to pull off such an ambitious large-scale co-ordinated attack without triggering intelligence warnings and intervention from security services. Indeed, such multi-actor attacks are relatively rare precisely because they are so difficult to bring to completion without being found out and interrupted. Conditions in Sri Lanka represented a perfect storm of political failure, denial, and lack of appropriate capacity.   
To be explicit precise, political leadership of the country facilitated the attack together with defence heads due to incompetency and inexperience and more than that sheer negligence of their responsibilities on citizens and undermining national security.They must be held responsible for negligence and failing in their duty either to pre-empt or prevent the suicide attacks, that resulted in deaths of more than 250 innocent citizens which amounts to violation of fundamental rights of those killed, wounded and citizens.   
Shame. No leader seems to be taking responsibility ?   
Writer is the former security forces commander (wanni), The Competent Authority for Internally Displaced Personnel in North, The Colonel Commandant of the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, World top ten in National Defence Studies (China), A Doctor in Economics and the Architect of Wanni Bogaswewa settlement with 36 years of Active Military Service. Presently 
working as International writer and International Researcher.   

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