Iraq declares “emergency” as ISIS, an al Qaeda breakaway faction, captures key city of Mosul. What is ISIS and why is it important?

 

Al-Qaeda breakaway group -- ISIS -- captures key Iraqi city of Mosul. (graphic: NYT

Al-Qaeda breakaway group — ISIS — captures key Iraqi city of Mosul. (graphic: NYT

(Washington, D.C.) — The Iraqi government has declared a “state of emergency” after losing control of one of its major cities — Mosul (ancient Ninevah) — to a Sunni insurgent group that is a breakaway faction of al Qaeda.

The group is commonly referred to as “ISIS” (pronounced “EYE-sis”), which stands for the “Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham.” Al Sham refers to the “Levant,” or the region of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan.

ISIS wants to wage violent jihad in order to establish an Islamic caliphate or kingdom in the entire region.

It is currently recruiting foreign jihadist fighters to wage jihad in Syria to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime. ISIS is also fighting to bring down the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. Ideally, its leaders would like to topple Jordan’s King Abdullah II and capture the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as part of its caliphate. Then it wants to annihilate the Jews, destroy Israel, and capture Jerusalem, as well.

In February, the main al Qaeda leadership broke ties with ISIS, as reported by the New York Times.

At the moment, I’m writing a new international political thriller about ISIS, to be released next spring.

Here’s a snapshot of the latest developments:

“Iraqi army soldiers abandoned their weapons and fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, as Sunni militants freed hundreds of prisoners and seized military bases, police stations, banks and the provincial governor’s headquarters,” reports the New York Times. “The insurgent attacks were among the most audacious assaults on the Iraqi government since the American military withdrawal more than two years ago.”

Excerpts from the story:

  • The rout in Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city after Baghdad and an important center of the country’s petroleum industry, was breathtaking in its speed, and appeared to take government officials by surprise, not to mention residents of the city itself.
  • A major humiliation for the government forces in Iraq’s Sunni-dominated areas, the defeat also reflected the stamina of a broader Sunni insurgency that has been growing with the war in neighboring Syria.
  • Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered a state of emergency for the entire country. His Shiite-led government has been increasingly struggling to deal with the resurrection of Sunni militancy in Iraq since the American military departure at the end of 2011 following eight years of war and occupation.
  • By midday on Tuesday, militants believed to belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, one of the strongest extremist groups, were in control of much of central and southern Mosul, according to witnesses.
  • Local officials claimed that many of the fighters were jihadists who had swept in from the porous border with Syria, who have increasingly operated with impunity in that region even as President Bashar al-Assad has reclaimed ground lost to the insurgents elsewhere in Syria….
  • The Mosul assault came in a week when Mr. Maliki’s government has been trying to beat back a surging militant offensive concentrated in central and northern Iraq and carried out by hundreds of well-armed fighters roaming the country in pickup trucks, seemingly able to strike at will.
  • In Mosul, along with the cities of Samarra and Ramadi, the militants have stormed police stations, government offices and even a university. On Saturday, car bombs killed scores of people across the capital, Baghdad, in one of the deadliest coordinated attacks in weeks….

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