The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution
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The essential “on the ground” report on the fastest-growing new threat in the Middle East, from the winner of the 2014 Foreign Affairs Journalist of the Year Award
Born of the Iraqi and Syrian civil wars, the Islamic State astonished the world in 2014 by creating a powerful new force in the Middle East. By combining religious fanaticism and military prowess, the new self-declared caliphate poses a threat to the political status quo of the whole region.
In The Rise of Islamic State, Patrick Cockburn describes the conflicts behind a dramatic unraveling of US foreign policy. He shows how the West created the conditions for ISIS’s explosive success by stoking the war in Syria. The West—the US and NATO in particular—underestimated the militants’ potential until it was too late and failed to act against jihadi sponsors in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.
what had happened: CCTV footage taken from the street showed a falling mortar bomb outlined for an instant against the white shirt of a passerby. He was killed instantly and wrongly identified as the bomber. Syrian TV later apologized for its mistake. In each of these cases, political bias and simple error combined to produce a misleading version of events, but it had little to do with the “fog of war.” All it really establishes is that there is no alternative to first-hand reporting.
soldiers had withdrawn, was largely ignored by the media at the time. When Mosul fell a second time in June 2014, few commentators even mentioned that the city had been take over by insurgents ten years earlier, or took on board the implication of this, which was that Baghdad’s control of its second city and the main stronghold of the urban Sunni had always been shaky. The most sinister change in the way war is perceived through the media springs from what just a few years ago seemed to be a
Baghdad, a city famously besieged and stormed by US Marines ten years earlier. Within a few months they had also captured Mosul and Tikrit. The battle lines may continue to change, but the overall expansion of their power will be difficult to reverse. With their swift and multipronged assault across central and northern Iraq in June 2014, the ISIS militants had superseded al-Qaeda as the most powerful and effective jihadi group in the world. These developments came as a shock to many in the
Syrian armed opposition; at the same time there was mounting evidence that ISIS, formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq, was rapidly increasing in strength. My newspaper, the Independent, asked me to nominate a “man of the year” for the Middle East and I chose Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy figure who had become leader of ISIS in 2010. A few days later, on January 3, 2014, ISIS moved into Fallujah and the government proved unable to recapture it. This was not quite as alarming as it might have been because
the Iraqi prime minister was emphasizing the mortal threat posed by Sunni counterrevolution in Anbar province to scare the Shia majority into voting for him in the parliamentary election on April 30 as “Mr. Security” and forgetting about government corruption and the lack of services. I thought that perhaps the failure to recapture the city was a deliberate electoral ploy and the assault on it would come after the poll. But then well-informed Iraqis told me that the failure to retake Fallujah