Unpacking the Islamic State

“The Islamic State is an alarming phenomenon. It may wither and die as quickly as it has emerged, or it may prove to be the catalyst for major change within the region and beyond.”

In the November 2014 publication, “The Islamic State“, the Soufan Group details the complex story of how the Islamic State (IS) evolved and eventually adopted the ideology it has today. The Soufan Group is a private company that “provides strategic security intelligence services to governments and multinational organizations,” according to their webpage. They provide reports, training, and security services meant to equip clients with essential knowledge to be prepared for emergency security needs. The Special Report on The Islamic State unpacks the group’s leadership, structure, [military, financial, administrative, and recruitment] operations, and objectives in detail. Included in the report are supporting charts, graphs and photos. 

The authors point to several factors identified as the most important in helping the Islamic State to survive. The first factor is the deep sectarian faults in the region, and the growth of Iranian regional influence. The second, a complete lack of confidence in Arab rulers to treat the ruled fairly. “For so long as the governance in so many countries fails to meet the expectations of the people, there will be a steady flow of hopeful recruits to the ranks of The Islamic State.” The third is the perception that the international coalition of more than 60 states, led by the United States, is a Western-led onslaught on Muslim religion and independence. Fourth and fifth, the message of the Islamic State appears clearer and more consistent than that of its opponents, and this leads to a lack of attractive alternatives for those who join IS to find “identity, purpose, belonging or spiritual fulfillment. […] Sixth is that despite the international opposition to the discriminatory and repressive practices of the Syrian and, to a lesser extent, the Iraqi Governments, nothing convincing is being done to force a change.” The final factor is the painfully evident cultural, educational and religious stagnation in so much of the Middle East and North Africa. 

This special report includes timelines detailing the evolution of the Islamic State, from January 2004 to August 2014. Some of the images are graphic. The report also includes maps of the regions, including maps produced by The Islamic State. 

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/unpacking-the-islamic-state