ISIS | Michael Weiss

Summary of: ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror
By: Michael Weiss


Delve into the world of ISIS through the book ‘ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror’ by Michael Weiss. Gain a deeper understanding of this notorious militant group, unraveling their intelligence-gathering prowess, ruthless tactics, and role in reshaping the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East. Explore key themes such as the inception and growth of ISIS, their rules and infrastructure, the use of highly effective propaganda, and the impact of foreign intervention on both Iraq and Syria. This summary will illuminate the driving forces behind this highly organized and disciplined group and reveal their ultimate goals for an Islamic caliphate.

Understanding ISIS

What ISIS is, how it operates, and its reputation as one of the most rigorous militant groups in the world.

ISIS, short for the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, is an active militant group in the Middle East. They have gained notoriety through their ruthless tactics and outright terror, conquering a territory nearly the size of Great Britain. The group renamed itself the Islamic State in 2014, following the announcement that the land under its occupation was a caliphate.

Much of the group’s power can be attributed to its intelligence-gathering prowess and infiltration of competing groups. Its top brass consists of many former advisors from the toppled Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

ISIS portrays itself as a defender of Sunni minorities in the Middle East, whom it feels need protection from enemies such as the United States and Arab states of the Persian Gulf. With its reputation as one of the most rigorous, well-disciplined, and organized militant groups in the world, it attracts fanatical and committed people who are more than willing to fight for its ideals.

One such fighter was Abdelaziz, born in Bahrain in 1995, who became interested in jihadism in late 2011. After becoming disillusioned with several moderate rebel groups, he found his way to joining ISIS. Abdelaziz quickly moved up the ranks, proving himself a dedicated fighter and participating in filmed beheadings, even earning the right to own a sex slave. He found the martyrdom he sought when he was shot and killed in 2014 by a Syrian sniper.

ISIS only recruits fanatics and is a constant threat to the resident populations in Iraq, Syria, and the surrounding areas. Its notoriety has cemented its reputation as one of the most rigorous, well-disciplined, and organized militant groups in the world.

ISIS: A Reign of Terror

ISIS, a radical militant organization, seeks to abolish nation-states and create a caliphate based on strict sharia law. The group considers all non-believers, including Jews, Christians, and those from the United States or its allies, as infidels who should be destroyed. Their reign of terror includes enforcing laws such as closing schools, punishing those who do not follow strict sharia-based rules, disciplining individuals through torture, dismemberment, and even beheadings. ISIS’s origins must be examined to understand the group’s actions.

The Radicalization of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of ISIS, had a troubled childhood and lacked education, leading him to embrace Salafism and the call of jihad. After relocating to Afghanistan, he took part in combat training camps and became a leading personality among other jihadists while in prison. Upon his release and meeting with Osama bin Laden, the groundwork was laid for the creation of ISIS.

The Deadly Partnership

The partnership between al-Zarqawi and bin Laden, though ideologically different, was united by convenience. This partnership gave rise to various terrorist groups and training camps, including ISIS. Al-Zarqawi’s hatred was directed not only at America but also Shia Muslims and Sunnis who didn’t follow Salafist thought which made bin Laden not particularly fond of him. Despite this, bin Laden believed al-Zarqawi’s experience and regional contacts would be useful and gave him authority over an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Al-Zarqawi’s relationship with al-Qaeda marked the early beginnings of ISIS with his lieutenants establishing training camps in northern Iraq and Iran. The US government believed these camps proved al-Qaeda’s ties to Saddam Hussein and knowledge of Iraq’s chemical weapons leading to the Iraq War in 2003. Bin Laden sent an open letter urging jihadists to join forces with Saddam’s Baathist party followers to fight against their common enemy-the US.

From Baathism to Salafism: The Journey of Iraq’s Former Ruling Party

The US invasion of Iraq led to many former Baathist party members shifting to Salafism, a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam. Before the war, Saddam Hussein feared tensions between the Shia majority and Sunni minority could ignite a civil war. To prevent this, he began a campaign to educate state workers about Islam and infiltrated mosques with political allies. However, these actions inadvertently pushed many Baathists towards Salafism as they worked with Islamic scholars and found inspiration in Salafist teachings. When the war ended, many former Baathists and Sunni Muslims joined terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, who took advantage of their new recruits. Al-Qaeda leader al-Zarqawi sought to incite civil war by targeting the Shia majority. His group’s tactic of rallying Sunni Muslims to the cause has been effectively used by ISIS to capture major Iraqi cities like Mosul. Al-Zarqawi also established the infamous technique of videotaped beheadings, featuring victims dressed in orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Despite only representing 14% of known terrorists at the time, al-Zarqawi’s followers were responsible for 42% of attacks and received widespread media coverage.

The Sunnis’ Struggle in Iraq

The book discusses Al-Zarqawi’s tactics in gaining power by uniting Sunni Muslims under his banner of Jihad in Iraq. However, his strategies backfired when local tribal leaders withdrew their support due to perpetual violence and realized the lack of Sunni representation in Iraq’s federal government. As a result, some tribes welcomed American troops to help remove al-Qaeda from their towns and cities. Nonetheless, more Sunnis joined terrorist cells due to further mistreatment under the new Shia-led administration. Al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006, but his “martyrdom” fueled recruitment, leading to the establishment of ISIS, which aimed for a broader and more encompassing goal of creating an Islamic state through any means possible.

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