June 7, 2014 by Darius
There is a new state that has formed recently and with little attention. It is not a state anyone recognizes nor wishes to exist, yet it has its own flag, officials, and, most importantly, territory and army. It is the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Arabic for Greater Syria), better known as ISIS*.
There is no denying it: ISIS controls a large swath of contiguous territory stretching from eastern Syria into western Iraq. They are holding their own against the armed forces of both Iraq and Syria, as well as sporadic fighting with other Syrian rebel groups. Although ISIS gets the most attention in Syria, just this week, ISIS forces launched a well-organized attack on the Iraqi city of Samarra, blowing up a police station, briefly seizing control of the city center, and raising their flag before being pushed back by the Iraqi military. Earlier today, ISIS took control of Anbar University in the Iraqi city of Ramadi and held hundreds of students hostage before retreating. ISIS has also been pushing into Kurdish-held territory in both Syria and Iraq.
What is ISIS’s objective? An Islamic state. Or, more specifically, a Sunni Islamic state (Shia need not apply) that would be the kernel of a caliphate re-unifying the Muslim world.
Unfortunately, both Iraq and Syria lack either the ability or the desire to set aside other priorities to take on ISIS. So far, actual governance from ISIS has been sporadic, but, as it consolidates its position, Afghanistan in the deserts of Iraq and Syria may become a reality.
*ISIS is referred to in some media as ISIL, for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.