This ISIS has evolved into an organised and structured extremist organisation that is in the process of consolidating its power as a government within the Islamic Caliphate. The ISIS controlled areas are managed by a hierarchy of governance structures that manage the day to day life of residents, collect income, maintain law and order and enforces its ideology of Islamic Extremism. The ISIS also relies on localised alliances and foreign fighters that support defensive and offensive military sustainability. The transformation of the ISIS represents:
- An organisation incomparable to al Qaeda in terms of structure, tactics and financial resources; but, unlike AQC has been able to integrate the best of a formal heiarchy with loose networking "self starters";
- A shared ideology with al Qaeda (formation and consolidation of an Islamic Caliphate), though much more brutal in its interpretation than bin Laden ever envisioned. Moreover, IS considers itself exclusive in its representation as the only legitimate religious authority;
- The new leader in terrorism tactics for other global jihadis to follow by using both extreme brutality in achieving its objective and ability to publicize its perceived successes;
- Its appeal to the "new generation" of jihadists has never been accomplished to this level;
- A reach in almost all part of the world, be it via electronic media, pledges of allegiance, recruitment cells or sympathisers;
- Economic independence by relying on financial income streams beyond international sponsorship; and
- Military sustainability and tactical battlefield flexibility that allows an ever expanding presence in Syria and Iraq.
Videos: Explaining the ISIS
The ISIS was preceded by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), that was established during October 2006, and comprised of various insurgent groups, most significantly the original Al Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers (AQI) organization, al-Qaeda in Mesopotami - led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Mujahedeen Shura Council in Iraq, and Jund al-Sahhaba (Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions), which was integrated into the ISI. ISIS members' allegiance was given to the ISI commander and not al-Qaeda central command. The organisation known as the ISIS was formed during April 2013 and has evolved in one of the main jihadist groups fighting government forces in Syria and Iraq. ISIS regards Baquba, Iraq, as its headquarters with its allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as the group’s emir. Baghdadi’s real name is Hamed Dawood Mohammed Khalil al-Zawi. On June 29, 2014, the ISIS spokesperson, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani announced the reinstatement of the Islamic Caliphate, with the leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as as Caliph Ibrahim.
The following documentaries provide insight on the history, the ideology and the tactics and strategies of the ISIS.
Video Notes: 17 November 2014: The Origins of the IS: Bruce Riedel details the origins and history of ISIS (Islamic State), and how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came to power.
Video Notes: 12 August 2014: VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings.
Video Notes: 7 November 2014: This year, the jihadi group knows as the Islamic State swept into significant portions of Iraq and Syria, determined to reestablish the caliphate. Their expansion is only accelerating and the group is now considered the wealthiest militant organization in the world. In this week’s episode of VICE Meets, journalist Graeme Wood breaks down the groups religious ideologies and visions for the future.
The ISIS has evolved from a traditional terrorist organisation into a complex and well organised governance organisation. Important dates in the evolutionary process are:
- October 2004: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pledged allegiance to al Qaeda: Jama‘at al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad (JTWJ) becomes known as Tanzim Qa‘idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn – al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)
- 15 January 2006: AQI announced its merger with five other groups (Jaysh al-Ta’ifa al-Mansura, Saraya ‘Ansar al-Tawhid, Saraya al-Jihad al-Islami, Saraya al-Ghuraba, and Kataib al-Ahwal) with the formation of Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen (MSM)
- June 2006: Death of Zarqawi/AQI announced new leader, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (Abu Ayyub al-Masri)
- October 2006: Formation of the al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq, or the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI)
- 10 November 2006: al-Masri pledged allegiance to ISI leader Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi (Abu Omar al-Baghdadi)
- 18 April 2010: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi killed and replaced by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
- 23 January 2012: Jabhat al Nusrah gains public acknowledgement in Syria
- 9 April 2013, Baghdadi stated in an audio statement that Jabhat al-Nusra was an offshoot of ISI would be integrated into the ISIS. Jowlani (leader of Jabhat al-Nusrah) rejected the statement and therewith introduced the contest between the two groups, with Jabhat al-Nusra willing to share power and governance with groups opposed to the Syrian government whereas ISIS demanded complete control in areas.
- 10 June 2014: ISIS seized control of Mosul (Iraq)
- 29 June 2014: The Islamic Caliphate is announced
- June 2014: ISIS change its name to the Islamic State
- The ISIS transformation into Governance by Terror
Photo Notes: Leader of the IS: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
In interviews conducted by Newsweek with several people that were close to al Baghdadi, the following background information was shared:
- Al-Baghdadi real name is Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri and is also known as Abu Awad or Abu Dua (Dua is the name of his eldest daughter).
- A former neighbour from his hometown Samarra, Tareeq Hameed said:
“He always had religious or other books attached on the back of his bike, and I never saw him in trousers and shirt, like most of the other guys in Samarra. He had a light beard, and he never hung out in cafés. He had his small circle from his mosque.”
- Hameed added that al-Baghdadi liked sports, mainly soccer:
“He would rarely get upset during a match, even if you crashed into him or misbehaved with him,” recalls Hameed. “He was a good defender. It was hard to pass him and score a goal against his team.”
- Al-Baghdadi was born in 1971 in Samarra, and was raised in a lower-middle-class neighbourhood dominated by the Albu Badri and Albu Baz tribes. Two of Al-Baghdadi’s uncles worked for Saddam Hussein’s security forces. Hashem, who knew the family, said:
“He was from a poor but well-mannered family,” says Hashem, a translator from the area who knew the family. “He was someone very introverted…go the mosque, study, read books, that’s it.”
- According to a neighbour al-Baghdadi was supervised by two prominent clerics (now deceased), namely Sheikh Subhi al-Saarai and Sheikh Adnan al-Ameen.
- Around the age of 18, al-Baghdadi first went to Baghdad to study, settling in the Adhamiya district. The depth of his education is also disputed. Some, such as Hameed, say he acquired a Ph.D. in religious studies. No family members are left to contact to confirm that:
“Most of his family members have left Samarra in fear of being associated with him.”
- Al-Baghdadi reportedly assisted in the formation of Jamaat Jaish Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jamaa. In either 2004 or 2005 he was captured in Fallujah by US forces. He was detained in Camp Bucca (southern Iraq, near Umm Qasr), where his status was “civilian internee,” which meant he was linked to a terrorist group but had not been caught actively engaging in terrorist activities”. His time at Camp Bucca is unclear. Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a Syrian activist, told Newsweek al-Baghdadi was held between January 2004 and December 2006. Middle East Forum researcher Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi says that al-Baghdadi’s activities in 2005 indicate he must have been released in late 2004.
- It was during his time at Camp Bucca that Al-Baghdadi radicalisation was influenced by his interaction with inmates. The inmates were inspired by the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the success of al-Zarqawi and the discontent among Sunnis. Historian Jeremi Suri said that Camp Bucca was like a “virtual terrorist university”.
- One ISIS defector, who spoke to Newsweek using only the name “Hussein” said that:
“Al-Baghdadi relied heavily on the advice of the late Haji Bakr, a senior ISIS leader and former Iraqi army officer, who was killed in January 2014. According to Hussein, his death was a major blow to al-Baghdadi. “Haji Bakr polished the image of al-Baghdadi—he was grooming him to be the prince of the Islamic State. But to be honest, Haji Bakr was the real prince of the shadows.” Al-Baghdadi still relies on a loyal inner circle of military experts and operational security experts. Many of them are people he met in Camp Bucca.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Abu Ahmed (pseudonym), a senior leader in ISIS, made the following observations on al-Baghdadi referring back to personal interactions with the ISIS leader at Camp Bucca (US incarceration facility in Iraq):
“Baghdadi was a quiet person. He had a charisma. You could feel that he was someone important. But there were others who were more important. I honestly did not think he would get this far.”
“(He) managed to create a rapport with the US Army. He was often seen as a go-between to settle disputes between rival factions in the prison camp. But as time went on, every time there was a problem in the camp, he was at the center of it. He wanted to be the head of the prison – and when I look back now, he was using a policy of conquer and divide to get what he wanted, which was status. And it worked.”
“He was respected very much by the US army. If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”
Map: Created by Janes on July 28, 2015 map of Islamic State territory held and lost since the beginning of 2015. http://www.janes.com/article/53239/islamic-state-territory-shrinks-by-9-4-in-first-six-months-of-2015
The ISIS Leadership
Table of LEADERS & POSITIONS
ROLE / TITLE
|Head|| ||Abu Arkan al-Ameri|
|Head of Sharia Council & Caliph||Awad Ibrahim al-Badri al- Samarra’i||Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi|
|Shariat / Troika||Abu Hafs||Abu Bakr / Omar al-Qahtani|
|Shariat / Troika||Shaykh Turki bin Mubarak (bin Abdullah) al-Benali||Abu Hummam al-Athari aka Abu Sufyan as-Sulami|
|Shariat / Troika||Osman al-Nazeh al-Asiri|
|Members (2 others unknown)|
BAGHDADI'S DEPUTY TO IRAQ
|Possible personal security chief||Abu Muslim al-Turkmani|
BAGHDADI'S DEPUTY TO SYRIA
|Military Council Member|
(former Major General)
|Abu Ali al-Anbari|
|Foreign fighters & hostage transport||Abdullah Ahmed al- Meshedani||Abu Kassem|
|General Management||Shawkat Hazem al-Farhat |
Shawkat Hazm al-Farhat
|Abu Abdul Kadr / Abd al-Kadir|
|Prinsons||Bashar Ismail al-Hamdani||Abu Mohammed|
|General Security||Abdul Wahid Khutnayer Ahmad|
Abd al-Wahid Khadir Ahmad
|Abu Louay / Abu Ali|
|Finance||Muafaq Mustafa Mohammed al-Karmoush||Abu Salah|
|Communications & Province Coordination||Mohammed Hamid al-Duleimi||Abu Hajar al-Assafi|
|Head of Military Council||Walid Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani |
Waleed Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani
|Abu Ahmad al-Alawani|
|Co-head & likely rep to Cabinet|| Walid Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani |
Waleed Jassem Mohammed al-Alwani
|Abu Ahmad al-Alawani|
|Co-head|| Abu Ayman al-Iraqi|
Adnan Latif Hamid al-Sweidawi
|Abu Muhammad al-Suweidaw|
|Chief of Staff||Tarkhan Batirashvili||Omar al-Shishani|
|Member (former Major General)||Abu Ali al-Anbari|
Nasser al-Din Allah Abu Suleiman
|Members (3-8 others unknown)|
|War Office: Weapons cashes & Warehouses||Fares Reif al-Naima / Faris Riyadh al-Nuaimi||Abu Shema / Sima|
|War Office: Social affairs, martyrs and women||Abdul Rahman al-Afari from Tal Afar|
Aouf Abd al-Rahman al-Arf
|Abu Suja / Saji|
|War Office: Bomb maker & IEDs||Khairy Abed Mahmoud al-Taey|
Khairy Abd al-Hamoud al-Taiy
|Abu Kifa /Kifah|
(answer to governors)
|Iraq Commander in Anbar||Shakir Wahiyib al-Fahdawi |
Shaker Wahib al-Fahdawi
|Abu Waheeb / Wahib|
|Iraq Commander in Nineveh||Fawaz Haty Najm al-Luhaybi|
|Iraq Commander in (Unknown)||Ghareeb||@ kmkmmmsmsm|
|Syria Commander in Aleppo, |
maybe also Kobani.
|Abu Khattab al-Kurdi|
|Syria & Iraq Commander||Lavdrim Muhaxheri||Abu Abdullah al-Kosofi|
|Head||Abu Ali al- Anbari|
|Iraq Wali in Baghdad||Ahmed Abdul Kader al-Jazza||Abu Maysara|
|Iraq Wali in South & mid-Euphrates||Ahmed Mohsin Khalal al-Jihaishi||Abu Fatma|
|Iraq Wali in Kirkuk||Nema Abed Naif al-Juburi|
Nehma Abed Naif Jabouri
Naima Abd al-Naif al-Jouburi
|Abu Fatma / Fatima|
|Iraq Wali in Salahedden||Wissam Abed Zaid al-Zubeidi|
Wissam Abdu Zaid al-Zubaidi
|Abu Nabil al-Anbari (sent to Derna)|
|Iraq Wali in borderlands||Ridwan Taleb al-Hamduni |
Rathwan Talib Hussein Ismail al- Hamduni
|Abu Jamas / Jurnas|
|Iraq Wali in Nineveh||Abdallah Yousef Abu Bakr al-Khatouni|
|Iraq Wali in Diyala||Unknown, maybe Abu Sammi al-Wayili @abusami1980|
|Iraq Wali in Anbar||Abu Ayman al-Iraqi|
Adnan Latif Hamid al-Sweidawi
|Abu Abdul Salem / Abd al-Salem|
Abu Mohammed al-Sweidawi
|Iraq Wali in (Unknown)||Abu Sammi al-Wayili||@ abusami1980|
|Syria Wali in Aleppo / North Syria||Tarkhan Batirashvili||Omar al-Shishani|
|Syria Wali in ar-Raqqa / al-Raqqa||Ali Moussa al-Hawikh||Abu Luqman|
|Syria Wali in Deir el-Zor||Saddam al-Jamal from Albukamal,|
maybe replaced by one "Haji Abd al-Nasser"
|Haji Abd al-Nasser|
|Syria Wali in al-Baraka (Hasaka)||Abu Usamah al-Iraqi|
|Syria Wali in Homs||Abu Shuayb al-Masri - rumors|
"Younger brother of Firas al-Absi
(aka Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Absi)"
|Abu Shuayb al-Masri |
MAYBE replaced by
Abu Atheer al-Absi
|Syria Wali in Hama|
|Syria Wali in al-Badiah|
|Syria Wali in Damascus|
|Syria Wali in (Unknown)||Abu Dhar al-Jazrawi|
|Head||Abu Mohammed al-Aani|
(answer to governors)
|Iraq Commander in Nineveh||Ammar Saed al- Juburi|
|Syria Commander in Raqqa||Abul Layth al-Thayqami|
|Syria Commander in Deir el-Zor||Abu Musab Al Tunisi|
|Spokesman||Taha Sobhi Falaha||Abu Mohammed al-Adnani|
|Chief of Media Operation||Ahmad Abousamra|
LOCAL LEADERS & FIGHTERS
|Syria Fighter||Abdel Monaïm Lachiri||Abu Sara|
|Syria Fighter||Abu Souleyman|
|Syria Fighter||Nur ad Din Aboualla|
(Hostages?) Unit Leader
|Abou/Abu Shaheed (deceased)|
|Hostage-holder?||Abdelhamid Abaaoud||Abu Omar al-Soussi|
|Hostage-holder?||Abu Yahya Beljiki|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Tax & Fees||Sair Mohammad al- Khalidi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Khalidi's dept.||Abdeljabbar al- Rawi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Operations||Zeyad Salim Mohammad|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Security||Mohammad Hazem al- Ogeydi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Ogeydi's dept.||Ahmad Sadun Ahmad al-Hamadani|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Admin||Ali Muhamad al- Akrawi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Treasury||Salim Awad Halef al- Juburi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: W Mosul Forces||Hamed Zahi al-Shummari|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: E Mosul Forces||Khaled Jassim Noah al-Juburi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: Info & Intel||Firas Ali al-Sabawi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: W Mosul Intel||Ahmad Ragan al- Juhayshi|
|Iraq Leader in Nineveh: E Mosul Intel||Redwan Ali al- Juburi|
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
ISIS and Governance
Photo Notes: December 2014: ISIS Governance at the Aisha Hospital in Wilayat Al-Furat (referring to the areas of al-Qa'im in Anbar province on the border with Syria and Albukamal in Deir az-Zor province on the border with Iraq)
Map Notes: Institute for the Study of War: November 2014: This map, covering both Iraq and Syria, shows the extent of ISIS zones of control, attack, and support throughout both countries.
The IS strategy of conquer and control, which includes both military and governance tactics, is one of the most effective in the history of modern terrorism. This strategy has one objective: to establish, expand and consolidate the Islamic Caliphate. Once the IS has secured its presence by military force, it immediately begins to take control of civilian life, which include service delivery, law and order as well of religious control. Military success followed by immediate control tactics enables the expansion and consolidation of governance. Accountability to senior IS leadership is key to the successful implementation of control once the military units have moved on to conquer additional territory. The IS strategy in gaining control over residents in towns is more than just relying on brutality such as public executions. The IS not only seeks to discredit those governing towns and cities, but to implement an alternative system of governance by means of visible presence, controlling resources such as food distributions, providing services such as health care and education and creating a system of law and order. This strategy, as informed by the IS’s extremist ideology, is implemented and maintained by local military commanders supported by alliances with local communities and tribal groups.
The following flow chart illustrates the IS hierarchy:
The IS Governance strategy relies on three tiers of leadership and execution structures:
- First Tier of IS Governance
Top Leadership which not only provides an extremist vision, but also controls decisions implementing the IS vision within all tiers:
- Second Tier of Governance
The Second Tier of Governance includes four “Wings”:
The Political Wing’s responsibility is the formulation of policies and communicating instructions, as well as ensuring that instructions are executed. The Political Wing communicates directly to the Military Wing and is supported by the Leadership Council.
Photo Notes: December 2014: Twitter: New M16's used by Caliphate mujahideen
The Military Wing is responsible for both defensive and offensive military planning, deployments and execution. The Military Wing is supported by a Military and Security Council that implements policy and decisions. The Military Wing's long term objective is defined as:
“Undertaking the greatest military enterprise the region has known to strip Iran of all its power and the secret of its international control by establishing an alternate channel from the Straits of Hormuz, traversing the lands of the UAE like the Panama Canal under American custody, and establishing the biggest military base in the Gulf for the forces to protect the island on both sides of the channel, whatever the cost of the project to the Gulf and regional states.”
The Intelligence Wing monitors the activities of the Political and Military Wings and when concerns are identified, such as suspicious behaviours or deviation from top leadership decisions and plans, the Wing reports this to the top leadership.
The Ideological Wing is comprised of religious leaders and is central to all IS activities. The Wing, also referred to as the Shura Council, promotes and protects the extremist ideology of the IS at all levels of governance, and secures the ideology as the determining factor in the relationship between the IS and people within the Caliphate. The Ideological Wing is also supported by a Media Counsel that is responsible for disseminating propaganda publications on various media networks such as Twitter, You Tube and through official statements. The Media Counsel propaganda is significant in attracting foreign fighters and supporters to the IS. The composition of the Ideological Wing and its objectives are stated as:
“The ideological leadership comprises of men with knowledge of the surroundings, and they are actually the pillars of the enterprise and the spirit of the movement. They are turned to in order to be consulted on matters, for corrections, for observations on events, giving advice and guiding the General Leadership. In reality, they are at the apex of the chain of leaders, and they formulate plans. They are not entitled, in any instance, to appear in the media or participate in private conferences about political work or public conferences except with the agreement of the General Leadership, after asking them, and after consulting with the intelligence apparatuses. These elite must adopt for themselves a headquarters in Jordan, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, for their families, guarding against arousing controversy. The people taking part in the project are responsible for everything that they require in their lives. [The ideological leadership] is the location of communication campaigns with governments of friendly states, apparatuses linked to them and their politicians.”
Photo Notes: Ahmad Abousamra is suspected to be a leading figure at the IS’s Al Hayat Media Center (HMC). Accusations by the FBI and US prosecutors are mainly derived from his degree in computer science, his association with Tarek Mehanna, who is currently serving a prison sentence on terror related incidents, producing videos in response to 9/11 and his suspected presence in Syria. He has outstanding warrants for his arrest in the US relating to conspiring to support terrorists, conspiring to murder American soldiers and for making false statements to police.
Read More on Ahmad Abousamra
- Third Tier of Governance
Photo Notes: Pro-ISIS Twitter Account: December 2014: Photos Show a market at Wilayat Fallujah. These postings depict IS controlled areas as well governed allowing "a normal life"
The IS governance vision concludes with a third tier of governance that reinforces IS control in areas where military control has been secured (refer to Governance section). Shura Counsels provide the implementation arms for the second tier of governance and is structured in the following manner:
The following Illustration shows a relationship of continuous monitoring of the activities of each "WIng" indicated by dashed lines , with reporting and accountabilty always referred back to the Executive Leadership of the IS:
Photo Notes: Business Insider: Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along a street in northern Raqqa province on June 30, 2014.
The conquer and control strategy is dependent on a three pronged approach, namely:
Gain physical control in an area. This is achieved by various means of which the two most pronounced are gaining an IS presence prior to major assaults to create a security vacuum with kidnappings, assassinations of opposition leaders, blending in with the local communities and impeding effective local governance. This serves as a precursor for major assaults. Examples where the IS has accomplished these pre-assault goals include Baghdad, Kirkuk, Diyala and Kobani;
- Govern the area by controlling the local communities (schools, mosques, social services); and
- Defend the area as part of the Islamic Caliphate, usually announced by rising the IS flag.
In determining IS presence in both Syria and Iraq, conquer and control strategy requires a three tier framework to reflect such expansionism:
- IS presence to create a security vacuum;
- IS presence engaged in major assaults;
- IS presence by means of control and defence.
Illustration Notes: The two senior military commanders within the IS are Omar Shishani and Abu Wahib.
Video Notes: June 2014: Who is Shakir Wahib?
Photo Notes: December 2014: Twitter: IS fighter targeting PKK members at the Mursitpinar Border Gate with a 23mm Sniper "Rifle"
The IS military strategy includes terrorism, guerrilla, and conventional warfare tactics. These tactics are executed by a decentralised military command structure, where IS fighting units are under the command of autonomous commanders and execute their assaults independent from one another. Herein lies another core aspect of the command strategy: the independent authority afforded to these commanders does not exclude overall accountability to IS’s war cabinet as well as the Military and Intelligence Shura councils. Decisions on the battlefront are swift and immediate and deployment of retreat and attacks are immediate, but these are all informed and fixed within an overall IS strategy determined at senior levels of command and control. The IS use of officials from the former Saddam area adds to the success, as these commanders are not only familiar with the geographical areas, but also the communities and their leaders.
Photo Notes: 13 December 2014: First photo of ISIS tank suicide attack against SAA site in Deir Ezzor (Syria)
Photo Notes: October 2014: Wahib on the battlefront, most probably in Syria
The military sucesses of the IS are seen in the following maps, which shows IS expanded authority in Syria from March to December 2014:
ISIS Religious Authority
Screenshot Notes: Dabiq Publication: The ISIS presents itself as the true leaders of the Ummah
The IS consolidation of its religious authority within the Islamic Caliphate is dependent on gaining increased support by means of Hijrah (emigration of Muslims to the Islamic Caliphate) or where it is not possible to organise pledges of allegiance – bay’ah. The importance of bay'ah to the IS is seen in the detailed attention in its online magazine, Dabiq. Such pledges not only gives religious credibility to the IS over al Qaeda, but also is pivotal in the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate beyond the borders of Syria and Iraq, referred to as "Tamkin" (Political and Religious Authority Expansion and Consolidation). In the second edition of the IS magazine, Dabiq, request its followers to make known such pledges:
“as much as possible. Gather people in the masajid [mosques], Islamic centers, and Islamic organizations, for example, and make public announcements of bayah . Try to record these bayat and then distribute them through all forms of media including the Internet.”
The IS then explains that publications of pledges of allegiance will encourage others to follow:
“(bay ah should become) “so common to the average Muslim that he considers those holding back as grossly abnormal. This effort ... will encourage Islamic groups to abandon their partisanship and also announce their bayah.”
The fifth edition of Dabiq, titled Remaining and Expanding, articles are focussed on groups in for example Yemen, Algeria, Libya and Egypt where pledges of allegiances were made. The IS gives official recognition to these pledges by announcing wilayat (provinces of the Islamic State status) to these areas:
"Then on the 20th of Muharram 1436, the Khalīfah Ibrāhīm (hafidhahullāh) officially announced the acceptance of their bay’āt, the establishment of wilāyāt, and the nullification of all parties and groups therein. In one of the most powerful addresses given since the establishment of the Islamic State, he said, “Glad tidings, O Muslims, for we give you good news by announcing the expansion of the Islamic State to new lands, to the lands of al-Haramayn and Yemen… to Egypt, Libya, and Algeria. We announce the acceptance of the bay’ah of those who gave us bay’ah in those lands, the nullification of the groups therein, the announcement of new wilāyāt for the Islamic State, and the appointment of wulāt for them.”
The ISIS fighting capacity is estimated at between 150 000 to 200 000 fighters, with self sufficient financial resources to sustain and even expand the group's capacity. In addition to oil revenue, ransom payments and the takeover of Mosul's banking system, in 2015 we are seeing diverse fraud, including substantial fraud online, abuse of the benefits system, abuse of student loans, in order to fund Islamic State.
An estimated 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 states are fighting in Syria and Iraq, of which a large segment is in support of the ISIS (ISCR and The Soufan Group).
Illustration Notes: Washington Post: 11 October 2014: Indicates the flow of foreign fighters to Syria
Illustration Notes: ISCR Estimates of Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq
ISIS Use of Foreign Fighters
The ISIS’s use of male foreign fighters is extensive as seen in the following illustration:
The ISIS’s active recruitment of western females has been previously equated with women willing to assume a domestic role in support of Islamic extremist fighters in Syria and Iraq. However, the ISIS’s all-female al Khansaa Brigade has introduced a new gender to the jihadist face whereby, though still limited, women are playing a far more active front line role than what was assumed. In almost all cases, females become part of the jihad in Syria/Iraq by getting married to Islamic Extremist fighters already in Syria, joining husbands in Syria and Iraq and also becoming part of operational brigades, though such participation is preceded by wedlock. The use of female foreign fighters is as extensive as those of male foreign fighters:
Video: What are you Waiting for?
November 2014 Propaganda video from the militant group Islamic State shows three French fighters calling on Muslims in France to carry out attacks there or join the group’s fight in Iraq and Syria.
The ISIS financial resources are categorised into foreign sponsors from individuals within states like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar and local sources from Syria and Iraq.
Illustration Notes: 28 August 2014: WSJ: Financial Sources of the ISIS
It is estimated that the ISIS has received approximately $40 million (USD) during the last two years from foreign fundings in states like Kuwait, Saudi Arabai and Qatar. According to a Newsweek report on ISIS foreign funding, the following individuals are involved:
- Kuwait: Shafi al-Ajmi, that admitted to the collection of funds and delivered them in person to the ISIS-linked Al-Nusra Front. Al-Ajmi also acknowledged buying and smuggling arms on behalf of Al-Nusra.
Photo Notes: NewsWeek: November 2014: Kuwaiti islamist Shafi al-Ajmi - Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty
- Kuwait: Hajjaj al-Ajmi, a powerful Kuwaiti Sunni cleric;
- Qatar: Tariq bin al-Tahar al-Harzi (32) identified by the US Treasury as an ISIS fundraiser who collected about $2 million from Qatari funders that was channelled to the ISIS.
- Qatar: Salim al-Kuwaru, who is suspected of acting as the financier;
- Qatar: Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi, who, according to a US Treasury report, “oversaw the transfer of over $2 million per month to [Al-Qaeda] in Iraq for a period of time.”
Photo Notes: NewsWeek: November 2014: Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi
The ISIS sustainability and expansion do indicate a high level of financial independence generated from local sources rather than foreign sponsorship, of which oil revenue is a prominent contributor. Howard Shatz (Senior Economist and Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School) summarised the ISIS sources of finance as follows:
Most important, ISIS raises much of its money just as a well-organized criminal gang would do. It smuggles, it extorts, it skims, it fences, it kidnaps and it shakes down. Although supposedly religiously inspired, its actions are more like those of an organized criminal cult. To borrow from mobster Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano, members in ISIS don't get ahead just by being thugs — “at some point you have to learn to be a racketeer as well." ISIS' most important revenue source right now is the smuggling of oil from the oil fields it controls in Syria and Iraq. It has been reported to control about a dozen oil fields along with several refineries. Estimates of revenue vary, but a range of $1 million to more than $2 million a day is reasonable.
The ISIS financial independence is achieved by various sources of income, which is estimated to give the IS an income of about $2 million per day:
The ISIS controls seven oil fields and two refineries in northern Iraq, and six out of 10 oil fields in eastern Syria, allowing the ISIS to sell crude oil at between $25 and $60 a barrel. ISIS control over oil fields since taking control on Mosul include: seven oilfields and several small refineries in northern Iraq, Iraq’s largest refinery at Baiji, the Najma and Qayara oilfields near Mosul, the Himreen and Ajil fields near Tikrit. According to John Dally (Eurasian foreign affairs and defense policy expert for The Jamestown Foundation) “most of the ISIS-held oil wells (one Kurdish official estimates there are roughly 80 of them) are sealed and not producing, but according to Iraqi officials, those that are pumping are having their output sent to be processed by mobile refineries in Syria in areas controlled by the Islamic State. The fuel is being turned into low quality gasoil and gasoline, which are then brought back to Mosul for sale”.
Map Notes: July 2014: The Week: Oil Infrastructure in Syria and Iraq
- Bank Thefts
During the ISIS seizure of Mosul, it was reported that the group gained control of $429 million at the Mosul central bank. Newsweek also reported that in addition to cash kept in bank vaults in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, an estimated total of $1.5 billion has been seized from banks by ISIS. Newsweek interviews with witnesses revealed that:
“ISIS was inside the banks,” says an Iraq-based American refugee worker in Erbil, whose circle of associates in Mosul includes a Christian teacher who “went to the bank to take out money and was not allowed to.… No other employees were there, just ISIS militants.… People in Mosul believe ISIS has stolen the money.”
- Wheat Crops
The UN estimates that ISIS controlled areas in Iraq accounts for about 40 percent of Iraq’s annual production of wheat, one of the country’s most important food staples alongside barley and rice. During July and August 2014 the ISIS took control of between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of crops in Tal Afar and Sinjar in Nineveh province from government silos, at the border with Syria. The ISIS mills the grain stored in the silos and sells the flour on local markets. According to Iraq's trade ministry, 1.1 million tonnes of wheat is stored in silos in those areas which amounts to 20% of annual Iraqi consumption (6.5 tonnes, half of which is imported). However, the selling of wheat does not yield significant revenue for the IS. The Soufan group correctly argues that:
“Controlling stockpiles of wheat, along with compensating farmers for a portion of what they seize gives the ISIS additional leverage over vulnerable populations, and the longer IS can act like a state the harder it will be to dislodge it”.
Map Notes: August 2014: Reuters: Showing five provinces under IS control, where almost 40 percent of Iraq wheat crop is produced
According to business owners in Mosul, the ISIS has a formalised system of taxation. In return for allowing business to operate, tax money is received from small merchants, petrol station owners, generator owners, small factories, big companies, pharmacists and doctors. A system referred to as Jizya (jizyah and pronounced “jiz-yuh”) is also implemented whereby non-Muslims must pay tax that should allow them protection in the Islamic Caliphate. According to al-Monitor, ISIS members in Mosul collect 50,000 dinars [$41.60] from each family as service and protection fees. The amount doubles for families whose sons did not join IS.
- Kidnapping for ransom;
According to US officials, the ISIS has raised $10 million or more in recent years from ransom payments.
- Black market antique selling.
The ISIS controls more than a third of Iraq’s 12,000 important archaeological sites and reports indicate that the group is selling artifacts dating from 9,000 B.C. to A.D. 1,000 through intermediaries to dealers. Unverified reports estimate that artifacts dealings could be the ISIS second largest source of funding. The two primary black markets for artifacts are in Turkey and Jordan.
Weapons and Ammunition
The ISIS’s access to and current arsenal of weapons are well established, with the UN arguing that the group could maintain itself for six months to three years. Access is gained with weapons seized in both Iraq and Syria and black market purchases. States like Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Croatia are suspect of exploitation by the ISIS to access and transport weapons to Syria and Iraq. Reports refer to frequent flights with weapons destined for the ISIS, from the Gulf region and states like Croatia to Turkey, from where weapons are moved over land to Syria. The ISIS also ascertained weapons produced in Russia, China and Iran.A report by the Conflict Armament Research showed that the ISIS is using weapons and ammunition from about 21 countries. Though most of these weapons were seized during armed battles in Syria and Iraq, the ISIS sustained income also indicates sufficient resources to purchase new weapons. Conflict Armament Research found that the three biggest “suppliers” of weapons are Russia, China and the US.
The Financial Times reported in November 2015 on routes being used by ISIS to enable continued access to arms and weapons. The article listed the following weapons as being in high demand: rounds for Kalashnikov assault rifles, medium-calibre machine guns and 14.5mm and 12.5mm anti-aircraft guns. Isis also buys rocket-propelled grenades and sniper bullets, but in smaller quantities. The financial cost in acquiring arms is estimated at $1m, using assaults at the eastern city of Deir Ezzor as example.
Map Notes: Financial Times: November 2015: Routes used for weapons smuggled to the Caliphate.
Video Notes: October 2014: Islamic State appears to have picked up a U.S. air-dropped munitions pack in Kobani but the Pentagon says the vast majority have reached Kurdish fighters. WSJ’s Mark Kelly reports.
The Daily Sabah newspaper provided a detailed list of weapons seized by the ISIS:
- New Russian T55 tanks: 30 which the ISIS used in Syria, Deir ez-Zor, rural Humus and some in Mosul and Tikrit.
- Russian T72 tanks: 5 to 10
- US M1 Abrams tanks: 8
- Military vehicles like the US made Hammers, Jeeps and trucks: More than 200
- Cobra four by four tactical armoured vehicles
- US made Black Hawk UH60 and Bell-IA-407 helicopters: unverified
- Kalashnikovs, M16 and M16A4 rifles
- RPG7 rocket-propelled grenades
- US made low attitude air defense system FIM92 Stringer MANPAD
- Russian model, as well as Polish and Bulgarian made ZU23-2 and ZU23-4 anti-aircraft guns
- BM21 Grad multiple barreled bombardier rockets,
- 155mm M198 howitzers
- Type 59 130 mm cannons
Weapons used by the ISIS include:
Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: T-55 Tanks: Estimated that the ISIS has 30 of these tanks
Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: T-72 Tanks: Estimated that the ISIS has 5 -10 of these tanks
Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: Humvees
Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: M79 Osa Rocket Launcher
Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: RPG-7s
Photo Notes: Business Insider: July 2014: M198 howitzer
Photo Notes: Mashable: September 2014: M79 90 mm anti-tank rockets, manufactured in 1983 in Yugoslavia (now Serbia.) The rockets were captured in Tal Khinzir, west of Ras al-Ayn, Syria in mid-June 2014.
Photo Notes: Mashable: September 2014: M16 A4 5.56 x 45 mm Assault Rifles
Photo Notes: Mashable: September 2014: Elmech EM-992 7.62 x 51 mm Sniper Rifle
Photo Notes :Bellingcat: August 2014: Warplane Missiles
Photo Notes: 12 December 2014: Twitter: ISIS claimed to have seized a SCUD missile in Anbar.
During an ISIS military parade in Raqqa on 20 June 2014, the following weapons were displayed (photos by Reuters):
Following the ISIS seizure of the Tabqa airbase in Syria, the group released the following video showing weapons captured that include German missiles:
ISIS Propaganda Campaign
Image Notes: The simplicity of the ISIS narrative of "us (ISIS) against them (all those that oppose the ISIS)" is centrifugal to the success of thee propaganda campaign.
The Islamic State (IS) is using social networks in an unparalleled way that is so extensive and sophisticated, referred to as hash tag (#) jihad. The #Jihad content consists of several aspects, namely:
- Day-to-Day updates on progress in Syria and Iraq, whereby IS successes during battles are seen in photos and videos posted on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Live Leak;
- “Missionary work” presenting the ISIS extremist ideology as the only rightful interpretation of Islam;
- Marketing the IS as the legitimate representative of the Sunni Ummah
- Effective use of technology. According to JM Berger, “one of ISIS's more successful ventures is an Arabic-language Twitter app called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, or just Dawn. The app, an official ISIS product promoted by its top users, is advertised as a way to keep up on the latest news about the jihadi group. Hundreds of users have signed up for the app on the web or on their Android phones through the Google Play store.”
Why the Success?
Screenshot Notes: From the ISIS propaganda campaign titled "The Establishment of the Islamic State".
The ISIS successful campaign is attributed to the following:
- Simplicity in communicating a message of religious purpose
- Sustainability irrespective attempts to close Twitter and Facebook accounts
- ISIS projection of strength and victorious, with photos and videos of battle successes
- ISIS projection as a government that cares, with photos and videos of community support projects and residents in controlled areas welcoming the ISIS
- Immediacy, with followers and viewers immediately informed on successes, progress and leadership statements
- Universal, the ISIS talks to anyone irrespective locations in the world and language barriers, by using images, translations, videos and music and English language as medium
- Glamour, with high level of sophistication in format in videos, photos and images.
The ISIS propaganda campaign rests on two pillars, namely:
A structured campaign whereby social media accounts are used to publish official ISIS videos, statements and photos. An example is the Ghuraba Media Foundation founded in 2013. Ghuraba mostly uses Twitter to distribute ISIS supportive PDF documents, essays and books. According to Jihadica, prominent contributors to the Media Foundation are two Mauritanians (Abu ‘Ubayda al-Shinqiti and Abu Salama al-Shinqiti), an Iraqi (Abu Khabab al-‘Iraqi), a Moroccan (Zakariya’ Bu Gharara), a Sudanese (Musa‘id ibn Bashir, recently arrested), and several others of unidentifiable origin (Abu Mus‘ab al-Athari, ‘Ubayda al-Athbaji, Abu Bara’a al-Sayf, and “Ahlam al-Nasr,” described as “the Islamic State’s poetess”). Examples of strucutred media accounts in support of the ISIS are:
Screenshot Notes: ISIS online propaganda magazine, Dabiq, Issue 1
An individual initiated pillar (also referred to as ISIS Fanboys) in which ISIS supporters primarily use Twitter and Facebook to publish and distribute propaganda material as well as engaging a worldwide audience with the intent to create awareness and recruit. According to an analysis by the Recorded Future for Sky News there were approximately 60 000 pro-ISIS authors on social media accounts between May 2014 and August 2014. Since the 20 August 2014, following the release of the James Foley beheading video), Recorded Future estimated that approximately 27 000 Twitter accounts remained active.
Screenshot Notes: ISIS Facebook Page
Screenshot Notes: Shami Witness, one of the most popular ISIS supporting Twitter Accounts
Screenshot Notes: Omar Albaghdadi 1 Sound Cloud Account
Differences with al Qaeda
Though the ISIS and al Qaeda has similar ideologies with a shared objective, namely the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, the to groups battle for the hearts and minds of the jihadist world has evolved into an irreconcilable break. The differences between the two groups ralate to the religious authority, tactics and future strategy. Initially al-Baghdadi took lead in the establishment of Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and expected the JN leader's (Abu Mohammed al-Golani) to view him as senior in position. Al-Golani refusal resulted in the establishment of ISIS, with indications that approximately 65% of JN members declared their allegiance to ISIS. Aaron Y Zelin’s article “The War between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement”, published during June 2014 in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explains the schism between the ISIS and al Qaeda/JN as one of differences over authority and methodology (manhaj).
ISIS rejects Zawahiri’s leadership which they viewed as a deviation from the path bin Laden. The ISIS position in this regard is seen in an Adnani’s statement of April 2014:
“The leaders of al-Qaeda deviated from the right manhaj, we say this as sadness overwhelms us and bitterness fills our hearts...Verily al-Qaeda today has ceased to be the base of jihad, rather its leadership has become an axe supporting the destruction of the project of the Islamic State and the coming khilafa (caliphate)...al-Qaeda now runs after the bandwagon of the majority and calls them as ‘the Umma,’ and softens in their stance at the expense of the religion, and the taghut (tyrants) of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood).
al-Qaeda in turn claims that Baghdadi did, in fact, pledge bay’ah to Zawahiri, though privately and hence has broken a religious oath.
The ISIS strategy is one of territorial control accompanied by residents’ adherence to the ISIS interpretation of religious law. The ISIS also does not allow any opposing views or role players in areas conquered. JN strategy is more accommodative in that it defines its role as “one among many groups (primarily other Islamist allies) that must work together not only to fight against the Assad regime, but also to govern liberated spaces”. JN also rejects the idea of coercive adherence to its ideas and religious ideology. Zelin defines this strategy of JN as a “gradualist approach”, which aims “to socialise and normalise its ideas over time so that eventually the group can legitimately implement its more narrow interpretations of Sharia”.
The ISIS and al Qaeda Central Command differ on the immediate targets of attack, with the ISIS focused on a “near enemy” as first priority that include the Shia as well as Iraq and Syrian governments. Al Qaeda Central Command views the “far enemy” as first priority, referring to US and Western alliance partners. In an article posted in Current History, ISIS and the Third Wave of Jihadism, Fawaz Gerges, explains this difference:
"Although Salafi jihadists are nourished on an anti-Shia propaganda diet, al-Qaeda Central prioritized the fight against the “far enemy”—America and its European allies. In contrast, AQI and its successor, ISIS, have so far consistently focused on the Shia and the “near enemy” (the Iraqi and Syrian regimes, as well as all secular, pro-Western regimes in the Muslim world). Baghdadi, like Zarqawi before him, has a genocidal worldview, according to which Shias are infidels—a fifth column in the heart of Islam that must either convert or be exterminated. The struggle against America and Europe is a distant, secondary goal that must be deferred until liberation at home is achieved. At the height of the Israeli assault on Gaza during the summer of 2014, militants criticized ISIS on social media for killing Muslims while failing to help the Palestinians. ISIS retorted that the struggle against the Shia comes first."
OTHER ISLAMIC STATE PROFILES ON TRAC:
- Primary IS Philippines Islamic State Philippines (ISP) - Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
- Second Faction of IS in Philippines Maute Group / Islamic State of Lanao / Daulat Ul Islamiya / Daulah Islamiyah
- Third Faction of IS In Philippines Spin off of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)
- Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) / Islamic State in the Sahara (ISS) / Islamic State in Burkina Faso & Mali (ISISBM)
- Islamic State in Yemen ( ISY, ISISY) and Islamic State Saudi Arabia (ISKSA, ISIS'S)
- Islamic State in Libya (ISL, ISISL)
- Islamic State Senegalese Foreign Fighter Units (ISSFF, ISISSFF) in Libya and Syria
- Islamic State Maldives (ISM)
- Islamic State Sinai (IS, ISS) -- Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis (‘The Group of Helpers/Supporters of the Islamic State in Bayt al-Maqdis’)
- Islamic State West Africa (IS, ISWA, ISWAP) -- Boko Haram / Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)
- Islamic State Malaysia, Indonesia & Philippines (IS, ISMIP)-- Kuala Lumpur Cell / Katibah Nusantara Lid Daulah Islamiyyah / Malay archipelago unit for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria / Majmu'ah al Arkhabiliy / Katibah Nusantara
- Islamic State Algeria (IS, ISA) -- Jund Al-Khilafa (Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria)
- Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind / Army of Caliph of India (Islamic State India/ ISI / ISISI)
- Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir - (Islamic State / ISJK / ISISJK)
- Islamic State in Somalia - (Islamic State Somalia / ISS / ISISS)
- Jahba East Africa (Islamic State / ISIS Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda)
- Islamic State Khurasan (IS, ISK) -- Pakistan, Afghanistan & Uzbekistan
- Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB, ISISB) -- Abu Jandal al-Bangali
- Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind / Army of Caliph of India (Islamic State India/ ISI / ISISI)
- Khalid bin Walid Army / Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed (Islamic State at Jordan Border)
- Cyber Caliphate (Islamic State - ISIS Cyberspace)
- Al-Khansaa Brigade (Islamic State / IS - Female Unit)
- Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (Leader of the Islamic State - ISIS) INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- Abu Wahib Shakir al-Fahdawi (Islamic State / ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- Mehdi Nemmouche (Islamic State / ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- Musa Cerantonio (Islamic State / ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- Omar al-Shishani aka Tarkhan Batirashvili (Islamic State / ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- Mourad Fares aka Abu al Hassan (Islamic State / ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- Abdelhamid Abaaoud, aka Abou Omar al-Soussi / Abu Omar al-Belgiki (Islamic State, IS, ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- Omar Siddiqui Mateen / Pulse Orlando Nightclub Cell (Islamic State / ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- San Bernardino-Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik- San Bernardino Attackers (Islamic State / ISIS) -- CELL PROFILE
- Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys (Islamic State / ISIS) -- CELL PROFILE
- Beatles Cell, The (Islamic State / ISIS) -- CELL PROFILE
- The Paris 21 Cell (Islamic State, IS, ISIS)
- Düsseldorf Cell, The (Islamic State / ISIS) -- CELL PROFILE
- Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, Nice Attacker (Islamic State / ISIS) — CELL PROFILE
- Hayat Boumeddiene: Wife of Jewish Supermarket Attacker Amedy Coulibaly (Islamic State / ISIS) -- INDIVIDUAL PROFILE
- TRAC Insight: The Hisbah- Islamic State's Religious Police
The Yemeni and Libyan branches (included in this profile) sample of further content:
- TRAC INSIGHT: Arrests of Islamic State Members en route to Libya March 2016
- TRAC Insight: Islamic State in Yemen
- TRAC Insight: AQAP and Islamic State Operations on the Arabian Peninsula
- TRAC INSIGHT : Islamic State Libya (East of Sirte) Bin Jawwad & Nawfaliyah - Wilayat Tarabulus
- TRAC Insight: ISL Expansion in West of Sirte Libya "Operation Abu Ali al-Anbari" -Wilayat Tarabulus
- TRAC Insight: Timeline of ISIS at Harawah (Libya)