The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) assault on the city of Mosul on June 10, 2014 demonstrated its formidable military strength. ISIS’s activities across Iraq and Syria also reveal that the organization is engaged in governance programs, ranging from Shari’a courts to aid distribution and law enforcement. These efforts underscore ISIS’s desire to erect a functional Caliphate within the boundaries of its controlled territory. That effort requires political and religious control in addition to military victory, and ISIS has a vision for how the Caliphate will form. ISIS has begun to explain its grand strategy to achieve this end through extensive public outreach, including a digital magazine series entitled Dabiq. This backgrounder will examine the contents of the first issue of Dabiq in detail, explaining the significance of this strategic messaging approach by ISIS in conjunction with the announcement of a Caliphate.
Middle East Security
ISIS has a "post-war vision to make this Caliphate a reality."
The swift collapse of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq in the face of an al-Qaeda-spearheaded Sunni insurgency is a disastrous setback for U.S. counterterrorism and Middle East policies that will have dangerous regional spillover effects.
The Islamic State’s June 2014 announcement of a “caliphate” is not empty rhetoric. In fact, the idea of the caliphate that rests within a controlled territory is a core part of ISIS’s political vision. The ISIS grand strategy to realize this vision involves first establishing control of terrain through military conquest and then reinforcing this control through governance.
The Islamic “Caliphate” now governing parts of Iraq and Syria is becoming one of the most significant threats to American national security.
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The Institute for the Study of War launched its Middle East Security Project in November 2011. The project seeks: to study the national security challenges and opportunities emerging from the Persian Gulf and wider Arab World; to identify ways the United States and Gulf States can check Iran’s growing influence and contain the threat posed by its nuclear ambitions; to explain the shifting balance of power within the Middle East caused by recent upheaval, and assess the responses of the United States and Arab States to address these changes as they emerge.
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ISIS has sustained its campaign in the countryside of Deir ez-Zour province throughout its escalation in Iraq, indicating its continued prioritization of this military effort inside of Syria despite increased pressure from the regime.
Middle East Security Maps
ISW in the News
ISW's Research Director, Jessica D. Lewis, talks about ISIS and Iraq on MSNBC's 'The Cycle," stating that ISIS has a "post-war vision to make this Caliphate a reality."