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Middle East Complexities: Culture and Conflict: ISIS/Islamic State

This guide provides resources to help understand and analyze the often conflicting cultural, religious, political, and historical forces at work in the Middle East. It also served as a companion resource to FV's Spring 2015 Syria Global Gatherings.

ISIS / Islamic State

The group that named itself “the Islamic State” has existed under various names and in various shapes since the early 1990s. Intense turmoil in Syria and Iraq has created socio-political vacuums in which jihadi groups have been able to thrive. The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had proven to be the strongest and most dynamic of these groups, seizing large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. Shortly after routing Iraqi forces and conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS boldly announced the establishment of a caliphate and renamed itself the Islamic State (IS). Resources under this tab focus on ISIS, but refer to News Resources and Syria: Current Conflict tabs within this guide for additional resources.

Profiling the Islamic State, Brookings Institution Analysis Report

How did ISIS become such a powerful force? What are its goals and characteristics? What are the best options for containing and defeating the group? In a new Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper, Charles Lister traces IS’s roots from Jordan to Afghanistan, and finally to Iraq and Syria. He describes its evolution from a small terrorist group into a bureaucratic organization that currently controls thousands of square miles and is attempting to govern millions of people. Lister assesses the group’s capabilities, explains its various tactics, and identifies its likely trajectory. (December 1, 2014)

Foreign Fighters Flow to Syria

ISIS Learning Module

Prepared by Professor Jennifer Medeiros, this useful document links to a variety of sources detailing the history and evolution of ISIS, as well to current news stories involving the terrorist organization. Dr. Medeiros is using these sources in her PSC (Political Science 201) course, International Relations, as part of a unit called "Military Force and Terrorism."

ISIS, News Sources

The Origins of ISIS (Islamic State)

Published on Nov 17, 2014 by the Brookings Institution. Longtime CIA veteran and counterterrorism expert Bruce Riedel details the origins and history of ISIS and how the extremist group's self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came to power.

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