By Kristen Linsalata
On September 10, President Barack Obama gave a speech addressing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni jihadist terrorist group, and one of the greatest threats to the United States and its allies at this time. Many students have at least heard of this terrorist organization, but are either confused or misinformed due to the issue’s convoluted nature, as it is presented before the world’s eyes in the media.
In April 2013, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria consolidated under its former name the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), from the commonly known terrorist group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to BBC news article entitled, “Syria Iraq: The Islamic State Militant Group” on August 2. Despite the fact that ISIS has been recently disavowed by al-Qaeda after the failure of repeated efforts by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to a heal dispute between ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, it remains one of the most influential foreign jihadist terrorist groups, according to a Washington Post article written by Liz Sly on February 3 entitled, “Al Qaeda disavows any ties with radical Islamist ISIS group in Syria, Iraq.”
Since its establishment, the jihadist group has experienced considerable military success and has seized large spans of territory in Iraq, in its effort to take control of the region. ISIS has up to 6,000 fighters in Iraq and 3,000-5,000 in Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners, according to a International Business Times article entitled, “ISIS in Iraq and Syria: The Nationalities of the Islamic Jihad’s Foreign Legion” written by Gianluca Mezzofiore on June 17. According to Professor Peter Neumann of King’s College London, 80% of foreign fighters from the West in Syria have joined the group. Even jihadists from France, Britain, and Russia have joined ISIS.
In March 2013, ISIS took over the Syrian city of Raqqa, the first provincial capital to fall under rebel control, as well as the Shia-led governed city of Fallujah, in January of 2014. However, the concern regarding ISIS reached its peak when they captured Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul in on June 10, because not only did it pose a threat to the entire region but it also may have catapulted ISIS to become the wealthiest militant terrorist group in the world. At first, ISIS relied on donations from wealthy individuals in Gulf Arab states but now ISIS is said to earn a sustainable amount of cash-flow from the oil fields that it controls in eastern Syria and from selling looted antiquities from historical sites, according to a BBC news article entitled, “Syria Iraq.”
Currently, there are no Assyrian/Christians remaining in Mosul. All Christian institutions have been destroyed in Mosul, all non-Sunni Muslim groups in Mosul including Shabaks, Yazidis and Turkmen have been targeted by ISIS and most have fled, water and electricity to the Nineveh Plain, a region in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq to the north and east of the city Mosul, have been cut off, and Mosul is now governed under Sharia law, according to an Assyrian International News Agency article entitled, “Timeline of ISIS in Iraq.”
Perhaps, more grisly than ISIS’ conquests are the methods they use to accomplish their ultimate goal of becoming an emirate. Perhaps even more disturbing to Americans is that now Americans seem to be falling under attack. On August 19, a video entitled, “A Message to America” was produced by ISIS militants and uploaded to YouTube of American journalist James Foley being beheaded by an unidentified ISIS insurgent. In the video, the murderer of Foley threatens to kill yet another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, who had been abducted in Syria. On September 2, ISIS fulfilled their threat and uploaded a video of Sotloff dressed in an orange smock, bound and in front of a masked figure until eventually he was beheaded, according to a BBC news article entitled, “Steven Sotloff: US Journalist murdered by IS” released on September 3.
Most recently, on September 13, the Islamic State (IS) released a video of beheading its British captive David Haines and threatened to execute yet another British citizen, Alan Henning. The video entitled, “A Message to the Allies of America,” was released by the IS’ al-Furqan Media Foundation, and was posted on Twitter, according to Insite Blog on Terrorism & Extremism’s article entitled, “IS Beheads Briton David Haines, Threatens to Execute Another Briton, Alan Henning.” The release of this most recent video asserts that ISIS has no intentions to slow their attempts to commit heinous crimes against not only Americans, but also their allies.
Following the beheading, President Obama made an announcement stating, “[ISIS] failed because like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism – we will not be intimidated – their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists,” and ordered an increase of about 350 troops in Baghdad to protect the U.S. Embassy in the Iraqi capital. President Obama is also sending top officials to the Middle East in order to “build a stronger regional partnership” against Islamic State militants, according to Anthony Bond’s article in The Daily Mirror’s article “Steven Sotloff beheading: Recap Updates,” on September 5.
On September 10, President Obama addressed the U.S. response to ISIS and stated that, “Our objective is clear – to degrade and destroy ISIL (the term that the government uses when referring to ISIS) that it’s no longer a threat, not just to Iraq but also the region and the United States.” However, Obama did not announce a specific plan of action during his address. Despite Obama’s address, a lot of Americans feel as though the future is uncertain .
“After Obama’s address, I still feel very uncertain about what’s going to happen and what these attacks are going to mean for the United States,” said Melanie Spina, a junior Sociology major and Journalism minor. “The attacks on American journalists bring this all very close to home. If journalists are under attack, then who is next? Being from Venezuela, I’ve always admired the United States’ ability to defend [itself]. I’m hoping that this will be true [regarding the dispute with ISIS].