We all know ISIS as the jihadist rebel group notorious for its shocking brutality. Be it rape, slavery, organ trafficking, keeping child soldiers, beheadings and mass executions, destruction of cultural and religious heritages, ISIS has been dominantly involved in all sorts of devastating crimes that one can possibly imagine.
The past and present: Old dog with a new bite
ISIS or the ISI (The Islamic State of Iraq) as it was known earlier wasn’t very active initially, but gained prominence in 2008 with numerous car and suicide bomb attacks, and ambushes of the US forces. Later with the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011, they actually started to make their presence felt by conquering significant amount of territories there. After the breakout of the civil war in Syria, al-Baghdadi sent a battle group to Syria to gain a foothold. As his forces advanced in the battlefield, al-Baghdadi renamed ISI as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.
In June 2014, they once again grabbed worldwide headlines by seizing Mosul and Tikrit, two of the most important and heavily defended cities in Western Iraq, in a periods of just two days. Following this, ISIS proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named its caliph. Having accepted several thousands of government officials from the erstwhile regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the incumbent Assad’s regime in Syria, ISIS has successfully established the rule of Sharia in the territories they control with schools, various government institutions including courts and daily social life functioning according to al-Baghdadi’s interpretation of the Sharia law. ISIS maintains a police force to enforce Sharia and arrest whoever disobeys it.
The fangs and claws on it
By taking over more than ten government arsenals, they have now acquired the quantity and quality of military hardware that outnumbers and outmatches all other known terrorist organizations as well as the Iraqi and Syrian government forces. They even have seized a dozen ‘Black Hawk’ helicopters and more than a squadron of MiG-23 fighters from the captured Taqba air base in Syria.
Currently ISIS has its domination in many territories in Iraq and Syria, eastern Libya, Egypt, and other areas of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and is now threatening to expand their aggression outside their current dominion.
The most disturbing part though remains the great appeal ISIS has amongst youngsters, leading to an increasing influx of fighters into the group. Apart from the traditional jihadists from Iraq and Syria and the neighbouring countries, thousands of Chechen militants have also joined their ranks.
Who will slay the beast?
Despite the continued aerial assaults by the US led coalition, ISIS has continued their expansion at a rapid pace. Moreover, with the social uprisings the Middle Eastern and North African countries are grappling with, their support base and numbers are bound to increase. With no ground forces deployed by the US, it remains to be seen if and how the US administration manages to thwart the expansion of ISIS from spilling over to more Arabian countries in the future. The presence of innocent civilians is perhaps the only thing that is currently holding back a head on pre-emptive strike by the coalition. But, once the risk outweighs the cost, our world could undoubtedly be at the brink of the next World War outbreak. And whenever that happens, the world as we know it may cease to exist. Hope that we find a way to defang and declaw this rapidly growing monster before that!
-Bhargav Sarkar, Gaurav Dutta