The Islamic State (2014- ) was a self-declared caliphate that ruled over large portions of eastern Syria and western and northern Iraq, with pockets of territory in Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen. IS was said to have 200,000 soldiers in 2014, and it was well-equipped due to their capture of United States-made weaponry from defecting Free Syrian Army rebels or retreating Iraqi Army troops. Their forces took over almost half of Syria during the Syrian Civil War and nearly overran northern Iraq in the Iraqi Civil War, and they even established a base in Libya after taking over Derna, Benghazi, and Sirte. In response to the group's advances against the countries that they fought, the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Jordan, and a coalition of other NATO and Arab League countries bombed IS positions to coordinate attacks with their allied forces on the ground. Despite being held back militarily, the Islamic State succeeded in carrying out several lone wolf terrorist attacks across the globe, with local cells of Syria veterans or individuals radicalized online carrying out deadly attacks in the name of the Islamic State. As a result, the Islamic State was able to survive through its ideology and not just its military strength. As of 2019 the Islamic State is still defeated,but on August 2019 they made a comeback.



ISIS troops

ISIS troops in a recruiting video

In June 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria launched an offensive in northern Iraq that overran much of the country; the movement gained support from most Sunnis in the country due to the primarily-Shia government. The ISIS organization was led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who alienated even the Al-Qaeda terrorist network with his viciousness against Shiites and non-Muslims.

On 29 June, having reached within 100 miles of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, al-Baghdadi declared himself the Caliph of the "Islamic State", and called on Al-Qaeda and other Islamic militias to pledge allegiance to him. His self-declaration as Caliph was controversial, as the last caliph died in 1923, having ruled the old Ottoman Empire. In addition, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other groups seeking to establish an Islamic state were angered by the Islamic State's decision to declare itself the new caliphate, as it drew their supporters away; their goal would have been to establish a caliphate together, not supplant each other.


Caliph Ibrahim

Caliph Ibrahim

The Islamic State is an Islamic caliphate with its capital at Mosul in northern Iraq, and the official language is Arabic. The nation is headed by Caliph Ibrahim (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi revealed that his name was Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai), and its armed forces are made up of ISIS, Ba'ath Party loyalists, and other Islamist militias.

Soon, the United States took action against ISIS/ISIL/IS. They began a bombing campaign against the IS as their troops closed in on their embassy at Erbil, and they destroyed several ISIS military convoys. The US also attempted to stop the Islamic State from their persecution of Yazidis by supplying them with food while holding off ISIS with airstrikes.

In August 2014, they began battles with the Peshmerga Kurdish military, who initially made a truce with them in Mosul. The IS forces took over Tabqa Air Base in late August, taking over one of the largest provinces of eastern Syria. They executed all Syrian government prisoners, invoking fear into their enemies. The Islamic State also executed an American journalist James Foley, which was in retaliation for the US airstrikes. In September they executed another journalist, Steven Sotloff, because the USAF stepped up their airstrikes against the ISIS militants near the Haditha Dam and in northern Iraq. President Barack Obama declared that the United States would assist Iraq and Peshmerga with materials and sending 745 more advisors, and the Americans declared that they would assemble a coalition against the ISIS group. 

In September, the United States, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Australia, and France began bombing campaigns against the Islamic State in Iraq to slow their advance, while a few of those nations also expanded their operations to Islamic State bases in Syria. On 3 October 2014, they executed their fourth hostage, Alan Henning, a British aid worker. In total, five hostages were killed as of then, as the Jund al-Khilafa of Algeria killed French tour guide Herve Gourdel while pledging allegiance to the state.

The Islamic State therefore spread not only to Iraq and Syria, but also to Algeria, and on 6 October 2014 the Ansar al-Sharia of Libya pledged allegiance to them and emerged in the Libyan city of Derna amidst the post-Libyan Civil War Islamist unrest.


In October 2014, ISIS began to launch a series of terrorist attacks against countries that opposed them in Operation Inherent Resolve. Canadians Michael Abdul Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau launched terrorist attacks that each killed a single person, both of them members of the Canadian Army, before they were killed. Alton P. Noles, a Muslim convert in the United States, beheaded a woman in a Vaughn Foods supermarket in Oklahoma before he was shot and wounded by a police officer and arrested for the murder. In Australia, Man Haron Monis held several hostages in a Lindt's Chocolate Factory in Sydney, so Australian police stormed the store and killed Monis, but not before a few hostages were killed. ISIS also carried out terrorist attacks in January 2015 against a tourist district in Istanbul, Turkey and several Iraqi Army outposts in Iraq, while also expanding their operations in Syria to besiege the Rojava Kurdish stronghold of Kobani and attacking enemies in the south. They continued their systematic destruction of Christian Churches in Chaldean minority towns and the massacre of Yazidis, and one girl was interviewed by international press, saying that she was sold to an old ISIS fighter and used as a sex slave like many other girls. On 7 January 2015, French brothers Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people in the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France in response to the magazine's caricatures of Muhammad. On the same day, Malian-French ISIS member Amedy Coulibaly took many hostages in Porte de Vincennes, and two were killed before French police killed Coulibaly. The Kouachi brothers were also killed after a hostage crisis, and the terrorist attacks in Paris ended. On 14 January 2015, American Christopher Lee Cornell was arrested in Ohio for planning to launch a terrorist attack against the United States Congress, which was in session again. Several other Americans would later be arrested for planning to launch attacks for ISIS or to join them in the Middle East, and an attack on the Curtis Culwell Center in 2015 was foiled, ending in the deaths of the two perpetrators at the hands of security officers.

The Islamic State's fortunes changed in late January when the siege of Kobani was broken, and their advance against the Kurds was pushed back. ISIS captured Palmyra from the Syrian government after an offensive in May 2015, but their lands in northern Syria were lost to the Syrians and Kurds. By July 2015, Kobani Canton and Jazira Canton were linked together by the Kurds, who advanced south on al-Raqqa and Hasakah with the assistance of the Syrian government and Operation Inherent Resolve airstrikes. The Islamic State was weakened in the Middle East, but their attacks continued. In late June 2015 they carried out a string of attacks across the world; they killed one man in France, 37 in Tunisia, and 27 in Kuwait in a beheading, a shooting at a beach resort, and a bombing of a mosque, respectively, on the same day. Soon after, IS also attacked several Egyptian Army outposts in the Sinai Peninsula and later claimed responsibility for the sinking of an Egyptian Navy vessel. IS also began to fight in the Yemeni Civil War, and they took over large parts of Hadhramaut

IS gained notoriety again when Metrojet Flight 9268 blew up over the Sinai Peninsula with 224 people on board on 31 October 2015, with the Islamic State claiming that they brought down the plane, probably with a bomb. On 13 November, "Jihadi John" was killed in a US airstrike as the Kurds recaptured Sinjar from the Islamic State in an offensive in Iraq, but a series of terrorist acts occurred in Paris on that evening. In the following months, the Islamic State continued to be pushed back militarily, but they carried out several terrorist attacks in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Belgium and the United States

Beginning of the end

Manbij youths

Manbij youths volunteering to fight against the Kurds after Friday prayers on 3 June 2016

In 2016, the Islamic State suffered several reverses due to the intervention of the Russian Air Force in the civil war as an ally of the Syrian government, and the Syrian Arab Army recaptured Palmyra and Qaryatayn from the Islamic State. On 31 May 2016, the Kurds launched an offensive to capture Manbij from the Islamic State, and the Syrian Arab Army and Kurds launched offensives into Raqqa Governorate on 2 June 2016 with the goal of liberating Raqqa from ISIS. The Islamic State was forced out of several cities at the same time in Iraq, with Hit being captured in February and the city of Fallujah being besieged by the Iraqi Army and allied Shia militias. The Islamic State would abandon ar-Rutbah after losing 100 dead, and the beginning of the end of the two wars was in sight as IS was forced back. In July 2017, the Iraqi government recaptured Mosul from IS after a year of struggle, and Kurdish forces also began to battle with the Islamic State for control of Raqqa. IS found it more difficult to attract foreign fighters as it lost its strongholds, and it turned to propaganda, bearing the goal of encouraging more lone wolf attacks overseas. In the later half of 2017 and 2018 IS has lost it's resources and the cities of Baghouz and Hajin. As of 2019, the Islamic State is still defeated in Syria alongside their caliphate. In April 2019, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appeared in a propaganda video claiming responsibility for the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings and promised more attacks as the Islamic State is still defeated but they came back on August 2019. In October that same year, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. Special Forces operation in rebel-held Idlib province and was reported that he detonated a suicide vest after being chased into a tunnel. His killing was a significant setback to the Islamic State after losing the last of its territorial caliphate.


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The Islamic State was led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who proclaimed himself the Caliph. The caliphate's government ruled by sharia law, which was strictly enforced; consumption or sale of alcohol could lead to whipping, consumption or sale of drugs could lead to death, and stealing could lead to amputation. Within the Islamic State, the civilians were repressed with shock tactics such as immolations, beheadings, amputations, crucifixions, and shootings, and the Islamic State tried to return its denizens to the ancient culture of the Abbasid Caliphate over 1,200 years before. Non-Muslims were forced to pay the jizya tax if they remained in the state, but most non-Muslims fled from their control to avoid being persecuted or discriminated against; it was common knowledge that the Islamic State blew up churches or converted them into their own centers. 


The Islamic State initially made money by robbing banks or by collecting funds from foreign donors, especially in the Gulf States, and the Islamic State later decided to make its own currency with a gold standard. To hamper the Islamic State's abilities, the United States-led coalition bombed ISIS money centers, with some airstrikes leaving millions of dollars flying in the air in the aftermath of the bombing. The Islamic State's currency project was not as successful as it had hoped to be, with the group still accepting outside money to be put into use in their country.

Health care

ISIS vaccination

An ISIS member delivering a polo vaccination to an Iraqi child

The Islamic State enacted health care policies upon taking power, opening up hospitals. Their fighters gave out food to the starving people within their caliphate, and it was later revealed that they distributed polio vaccinations to babies to prevent them from becoming sick. In Syria, some Islamic State fighters from Turkey were allowed to cross the border to Turkey to use their rights as Turkish citizens to get medical attention to their wounds, and the group was able to receive medical aid from many other outside sources.

Social services

ISIS playground Raqqa

ISIS people building a playground in Raqqa

The Islamic State gained the support of its population with public works, such as building playgrounds for children, watering plants in public, and providing food to starving children. On March 2, it showed propaganda photos of its social service in Raqqa, displaying some workers making room for some swings for the children, making a blue fence around the playground, and using a hose to water some new plants along the roadside. The Islamic State also built new homes, constructing barracks and guest houses for its foreign fighters. Their program of social service helped to win the hearts and souls of their civilian population, making it stronger and more like a country.
Kirkuk jewelry

A man browsing jewelry in Hawija, Kirkuk

Under the Islamic State, life was regulated, but they made propaganda videos showing their people going about their daily lives under the Islamic State. Pictures were released of people walking peacefully in public, a food market, and a man browsing jewelry from a store. The Islamic State's videos attracted foreign fighters to head to their caliphate, and their videos made it appear as if their caliphate was still functioning despite being bombed. 


ISIS propaganda Sirte

A propaganda rally in Sirte, Libya

The Islamic State was very good at propaganda, using quotes from the Quran and hadiths to motivate its denizens to fight against the West and the non-Muslim world. They held large rallies in areas ranging from Iraq to Libya, where their speakers would motivate the crowd to fight the West with poetic songs and strong speeches. ISIS used videos on the internet to also spread propaganda, such as beheading videos of Western captives, videos showing the execution of prisoners-of-war, or videos showing their attacks, such as IED explosions in the Sinai (posting two in March by March 6) or rocket launches. With an effective propaganda machine, the Islamic State was able to militarize many people in the country and gather foreign volunteers.
Aleppo child radicalization

ISIS' child radicalization program in Aleppo

The Islamic State also held child radicalization rallies, with their fighters giving speeches to children in order to radicalize them and introduce them to their radical thoughts. These rallies occurred from Libya to Iraq, and they would teach the children about their radical beliefs in schools run by the group. These children included both native Arabs as well as the children of foreign fighters brought with them to their caliphate.


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