The Islamic State is one of the most lethal and successful jihadist groups in modern history, surpassing even al-Qaeda. Thousands of its followers have marched across Syria and Iraq, subjugating millions, enslaving women, beheading captives, and daring anyone to stop them. Thousands more have spread terror beyond the Middle East under the Islamic State's black flag. How did the Islamic State attract so many followers and conquer so much land? By being more ruthless, more apocalyptic, and more devoted to state-building than its competitors. The shrewd leaders of the Islamic State combined two of the most powerful yet contradictory ideas in Islam-the return of the Islamic Empire and the end of the world-into a mission and a message that shapes its strategy and inspires its army of zealous fighters. They have defied conventional thinking about how to wage wars and win recruits. Even if the Islamic State is defeated, jihadist terrorism will never be the same. Based almost entirely on primary sources in Arabic-including ancient religious texts and secret al-Qaeda and Islamic State letters that few have seen - William McCants' The ISIS Apocalypse explores how religious fervor, strategic calculation, and doomsday prophecy shaped the Islamic State's past and foreshadow its dark future.
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Looking to the future in confronting the Islamic State The Islamic State (best known in the West as ISIS or ISIL) has been active for less than a decade, but it has already been the subject of numerous histories and academic studies—all focus primarily on the past. The Future of ISIS is the first major study to look ahead: what are the prospects for the Islamic State in the near term, and what can the global community, including the United States, do to counter it? Edited by two distinguished scholars at Indiana University, the book examines how ISIS will affect not only the Middle East but the global order. Specific chapters deal with such questions as whether and how ISIS benefitted from intelligence failures, and what can be done to correct any such failures; how to confront the alarmingly broad appeal of Islamic State ideology; the role of local and regional actors in confronting ISIS; and determining U.S. interests in preventing ISIS from gaining influence and controlling territory. Given the urgency of the topic, The Future of ISIS is of interest to policymakers, analysts, and students of international affairs and public policy.
In The Believer, Will McCants tells the story of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS), a group so brutal and hardline that even al-Qaida deemed them too extreme. Baghdadi, an introverted religious scholar, with a passion for soccer, now controls large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria. McCants shows how Baghdadi became radicalized in the Saddam Hussein era and found his path to power after connecting with other radicals in an American prison during the Iraq War, culminating in his declaration of a reborn Islamic empire bent on world conquest.
In the wake of its "Caliphate" declaration in 2014, the self-described Islamic State has been the focus of countless academic papers, government studies, media commentaries and documentaries. Despite all this attention, persistent myths continue to shape--and misdirect--public understanding and strategic policy decisions. A significant factor in this trend has been a strong disinclination to engage critically with Islamic State's speeches and writings--as if doing so reflects empathy with the movement's goals or, even more absurdly, may itself lead to radicalisation. Going beyond the descriptive and the sensationalist, this volume presents and analyses a series of milestone Islamic State primary source materials. Scholar-practitioners with field experience in confronting the movement explore and contextualise its approach to warfare, propaganda and governance, examining the factors behind its dramatic evolution from failed proto-state in 2010 to standard-bearer of global jihadism in 2014, to besieged insurgency in 2018. The ISIS Reader will help anyone--students and journalists, military personnel, civil servants and inquisitive observers--to better understand not only the evolution of Islamic State and the dynamics of asymmetric warfare, but the importance of primary sources in doing so.
Explores the belief in Muslim countries that the end of the world is at hand, uncovers the role of apocalypse in Islam, and examines the widespread fear of Christian Zionist domination as an impetus to jihad.
"When he succeeded his father in 1999, King Abdullah of Jordan released a batch of political prisoners in the hopes of smoothing his transition to power. Little did he know that among those released was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man who would go on to become a terrorist mastermind too dangerous even for al-Qaeda and give rise to an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East. Zarqawi began by directing hotel bombings and assassinations in Jordan from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion of that country in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency. By identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, the CIA inadvertently created a monster. Like-minded radicals saw him as a hero resisting the infidel occupiers and rallied to his cause. Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings continued for years until Jordanian intelligence provided the Americans with the crucial intelligence needed to eliminate Zarqawi in a 2006 airstrike. But his movement endured, first called al-Qaeda in Iraq, then renamed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seeking refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq-Syria border. And as the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi's dream of a sweeping, ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate. Drawing on unique access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Joby Warrick weaves together heart-pounding, moment-by-moment operational details with overarching historical perspectives to reveal the long trajectory of today's most dangerous Islamic extremist threat"--
Focusing on apocalyptic manifestations found in ISIS propaganda, this book situates the group's agenda in the broader framework of contemporary Muslim thought and explains key topics in millennial thinking within the spiritual context of modern Islamic apocalypticism.Based on the group's primary sources as well as medieval Muslim apocalyptic literature and its modern interpretations, the book analyses the ways ISIS presents its message concerning the Last Days as a meaningful, inventive and frightening expression of collectively shared expectations relating to the supposedly approaching the End Times.
What does ISIS really want? This is the definitive account of the strategy, psychology, and fundamentalism driving the Islamic State. NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY FOREIGN AFFAIRS • “Worthy of Joseph Conrad . . . gripping, sobering and revelatory.”—Tom Holland, New Statesman The Islamic State inspired a wave of true believers to travel to Syria from Europe, America, and the Middle East, in numbers not seen since the Crusades. What compelled tens of thousands of men and women to leave comfortable, privileged lives to join a death cult in the desert? Steven Pinker called Graeme Wood’s analysis of this phenomenon in The Atlantic “fascinating, terrifying, occasionally blackly humorous.” In The Way of the Strangers, Wood uses character study, analysis, and original reporting to take us further into the Islamic State’s apocalyptic vision. Though the Islamic State has lost territory, it threatens to rise again, and its followers are plotting on every continent. From the streets of Cairo to the mosques of London, Wood meets with supporters, recruiters, and scholars and asks them why they believe that killing and dying for this cause is the only path to Paradise. With a new afterword, The Way of the Strangers uncovers the theology and emotional appeal of this resilient group and explores its idiosyncratic, coherent approach to Islam. Just as Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower explained the rise of Al Qaida, this book will shape our understanding of a new and deadlier generation of terrorists. Praise for The Way of the Strangers “The Way of the Strangers represents journalism at its best: vivid writing, indefatigable legwork, and fearless analysis.”—Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Return of Marco Polo’s World “Wood is a brilliant analyst and storyteller, and his firsthand reporting and language abilities make him the most reliable commentator on the Islamic State that I have read. His wit matches his intelligence (’Well-behaved Salafis seldom make history’)—you don't get through any two pages in his book without a good laugh.”—Peter Theroux, author of Sandstorms: Days and Nights in Arabia “Excruciatingly well observed and devastatingly honest . . . This is the first and only book about the Islamic State to expose, explain, and ultimately undermine its ideology with the relentless irony that comes from blending deep knowledge with hands-on experience. Wood makes it impossible not to laugh, despite the horrors.”—Elisabeth Kendall, senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic studies, University of Oxford
This book offers a comprehensive overview and analysis of the Islamic State's use of propaganda. Combining a range of different theoretical perspectives from across the social sciences, and using rigorous methods, the authors trace the origins of the Islamic State's message, laying bare the strategic logic guiding its evolution, examining each of its multi-media components, and showing how these elements work together to radicalize audiences' worldviews. This volume highlights the challenges that this sort of "full-spectrum propaganda" raises for counter terrorism forces. It is not only a one-stop resource for any analyst of IS and Salafi-jihadism, but also a rich contribution to the study of text and visual propaganda, radicalization and political violence, and international security.