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Vocapedia > Terrorism > Militant groups


Middle East


Islamic State, also called ISIS, ISIL or Daesh


Iraq > Mosul





Battle For Mosul

Video        The Guardian        1 February 2017


As Iraqi forces attempt to retake Mosul from Isis,

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

joins their elite Golden Division on the frontline,

speaking with civilians, soldiers and Isis suspects.


At constant risk

from Isis snipers and suicide bombers,

can commander Munthadar and his men

ever bring peace to Mosul?


And if they do,

will the exhausted civilian population trust them?




















Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 19


Volunteers collecting unclaimed bodies,

most thought to be of Islamic State fighters

killed in the battle that forced the group from the city.


Photograph: Ivor Prickett

for The New York Times


The Year in Pictures 2018


December 2018























































Iraq > Mosul    UK / USA








































100000005286791/iraqs-hardball-tactics-isis-mosul.html - July 21, 2017












100000004978256/major-sajjad-the-battle-for-mosul.html - 2017


watch?v=5woZG9fQtqo - G - 1 February 2017













Des premiers jours

de la guerre Iran-Irak, en 1980,

à la défaite de l’État islamique, en 2017,

cette série documentaire de Jean-Pierre Canet,


raconte quarante ans de conflits

qui ont conduit l’Irak au chaos


Une histoire irakienne

autant qu’américaine et française

où se mêlent intérêts diplomatiques,

économiques et militaires,

racontée par ceux qui l’ont vécue,

à Washington, Paris ou en Irak.


Une plongée sur 40 ans

qui ont changé le monde.

irak-destruction-d-une-nation-la-serie-documentaire-evenement - 29 January 2021



irak-destruction-d-une-nation-la-serie-documentaire-evenement - 29 January 2021













Corpus of news articles


Middle East > Militant groups >


Islamic State / ISIS / ISIL / Daesh >


Iraq > Mosul




The Making of a Disaster


AUG. 25, 2014

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages

Op-Ed Columnist

Roger Cohen


LONDON — Almost 13 years after 9/11, a jihadi organization with a murderous anti-Western ideology controls territory in Iraq and Syria, which are closer to Europe and the United States than Afghanistan is. It commands resources and camps and even a Syrian military base. It spreads its propaganda through social media. It has set the West on edge through the recorded beheading of the American journalist James Foley — with the promise of more to come.

What went wrong? The United States and its allies did not go to war to eradicate Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan only to face — after the expenditure of so much blood and treasure — a more proximate terrorist threat with a Qaeda-like ideology. The “war on terror,” it seems, produced only a metastasized variety of terror.

More than 500, and perhaps as many as 800, British Muslims have headed for Syria and Iraq to enlist in the jihadi ranks. In France, that number stands at about 900. Two adolescent girls, 15 and 17, were detained last week in Paris and face charges of conspiring with a terrorist organization. The ideological appeal of the likes of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is intact. It may be increasing, despite efforts to build an interfaith dialogue, reach out to moderate Islam, and pre-empt radicalization.

“One minute you are trying to pay bills, the next you’re running around Syria with a machine gun,” said Ghaffar Hussain, the managing director of the Quilliam Foundation, a British research group that seeks to tackle religious extremism. “Many young British Muslims are confused about their identity, and they buy into a narrow framework that can explain events. Jihadists hand them a simplistic narrative of good versus evil. They give them camaraderie and certainty. ISIS makes them feel part of a grand struggle.”

A large part of Western failure has been the inability to counter the attraction of such extremism. Perhaps racked with historical guilt, European nations with populations from former colonies often seem unable to celebrate their values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Meanwhile, in the Arab world the central hope of the Arab Spring has been dashed: that more open and representative societies would reduce the frustration that leads to extremism.

President Obama shunned the phrase “war on terror” to distance himself from the policies of President George W. Bush. But in reality he chose to pursue the struggle by other military means. He stepped up drone attacks on several fronts. His most conspicuous success was the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

The curtain, it seemed, had fallen on America’s post-9/11 trauma. Then, a little over three years after Bin Laden’s death, ISIS overran the Iraqi city of Mosul and the world woke up to the radicalization through the festering Syrian war of another generation of Muslims; youths drawn to the slaughter of infidels (as well as Shiite Muslims) and the far-fetched notion of recreating an Islamic caliphate under Shariah law. When a hooded ISIS henchman with a British accent beheaded Foley last week, the new threat acquired urgency at last.

The list of American errors is long: Bush’s ill-conceived and bungled war in Iraq; a failure to deal with the fact that two allies, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, have been major sources and funders of violent Sunni extremism; an inability to seize opportunity in Egypt, home to nearly a quarter of the world’s Arabs, and so demonstrate that Arab societies can evolve out of the radicalizing confrontation of dictatorship and Islamism; a prolonged spate of dithering over the Syrian war during which Obama declared three years ago that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside” without having any plan to achieve that; a lack of resolve in Syria that saw Obama set a red line on the use of chemical weapons only to back away from military force when chemical weapons were used; an inability to see that no one loves an Arab vacuum like jihadi extremists, and a bloody vacuum was precisely what Obama allowed Syria to become; and inattention, until it was too late, to festering sectarian conflict in a broken Iraqi society left to its fate by a complete American withdrawal.

The chicken that came home to roost from the Syrian debacle is called ISIS. It is not Al Qaeda. But, as the journalist Patrick Cockburn has noted, Al Qaeda “is an idea rather than an organization, and this has long been the case.”

ISIS grew through American weakness — the setting of objectives and red lines in Syria that proved vacuous. But the deepest American and Western defeat has been ideological. As Hussain said, “If you don’t have a concerted strategy to undermine their narrative, their values, their worldview, you are not going to succeed. Everyone in society has to take on the challenge.”

A version of this op-ed appears in print

on August 26, 2014, on page A23

of the New York edition with the headline:

The Making of a Disaster.

The Making of a Disaster,






U.S. Actions in Iraq

Fueled Rise of a Rebel

Baghdadi of ISIS

Pushes an Islamist Crusade


AUG. 10, 2014

The New York Times




BAGHDAD — When American forces raided a home near Falluja during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about.

The Americans duly registered his name as they processed him and the others at the Camp Bucca detention center: Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry.

That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.

“He was a street thug when we picked him up in 2004,” said a Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “It’s hard to imagine we could have had a crystal ball then that would tell us he’d become head of ISIS.”

At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after ISIS’ military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq.

Mr. Baghdadi has seemed to revel in the fight, promising that ISIS would soon be in “direct confrontation” with the United States.

Still, when he first latched on to Al Qaeda, in the early years of the American occupation, it was not as a fighter, but rather as a religious figure. He has since declared himself caliph of the Islamic world, and pressed a violent campaign to root out religious minorities, like Shiites and Yazidis, that has brought condemnation even from Qaeda leaders.

Despite his reach for global stature, Mr. Baghdadi, in his early 40s, in many ways has remained more mysterious than any of the major jihadi figures who preceded him.

American and Iraqi officials have teams of intelligence analysts and operatives dedicated to stalking him, but have had little success in piecing together the arc of his life. And his recent appearance at a mosque in Mosul to deliver a sermon, a video of which was distributed online, was the first time many of his followers had ever seen him.

Mr. Baghdadi is said to have a doctorate in Islamic studies from a university in Baghdad, and was a mosque preacher in his hometown, Samarra. He also has an attractive pedigree, claiming to trace his ancestry to the Quraysh Tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.

Beyond that, almost every biographical point about Mr. Baghdadi is occluded by some confusion or another.

The Pentagon says that Mr. Baghdadi, after being arrested in Falluja in early 2004, was released that December with a large group of other prisoners deemed low level. But Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi scholar who has researched Mr. Baghdadi’s life, sometimes on behalf of Iraqi intelligence, said that Mr. Baghdadi had spent five years in an American detention facility where, like many ISIS fighters now on the battlefield, he became more radicalized.

Mr. Hashimi said that Mr. Baghdadi had grown up in a poor family in a farming village near Samarra, and that his family was Sufi — a strain of Islam known for its tolerance. He said Mr. Baghdadi had come to Baghdad in the early 1990s, and over time became more radical.

Early in the insurgency, he gravitated toward a new jihadi group led by the flamboyant Jordanian militant operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Though Mr. Zarqawi’s group, Al Qaeda in Iraq, began as a mostly Iraqi insurgent organization, it claimed allegiance to the global Qaeda leadership, and over the years brought in more and more foreign leadership figures.

It is unclear how much prominence Mr. Baghdadi enjoyed under Mr. Zarqawi. Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer now at the Brookings Institution, recently wrote that Mr. Baghdadi had spent several years in Afghanistan, working alongside Mr. Zarqawi. But some officials say the American intelligence community does not believe Mr. Baghdadi has ever set foot outside the conflict zones of Iraq and Syria, and that he was never particularly close to Mr. Zarqawi.

The American operation that killed Mr. Zarqawi in 2006 was a huge blow to the organization’s leadership. But it was years later that Mr. Baghdadi got his chance to take the reins.

As the Americans were winding down their war in Iraq, they focused on trying to wipe out Al Qaeda in Iraq’s remaining leadership. In April 2010, a joint operation by Iraqi and American forces made the biggest strike against the group in years, killing its top two figures near Tikrit.

A month later, the group issued a statement announcing new leadership, and Mr. Baghdadi was at the top of the list. The Western intelligence community scrambled for information.

“Any idea who these guys are?” an analyst at Stratfor, a private intelligence company that then worked for the American government in Iraq, wrote in an email that has since been released by WikiLeaks. “These are likely nom de guerres, but are they associated with anyone we know?”

In June 2010, Stratfor published a report on the group that considered its prospects in the wake of the killings of the top leadership. The report stated, “the militant organization’s future for success looks bleak.”

Still, the report said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq, then an alternative name for Al Qaeda in Iraq, “I.S.I.’s intent to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq has not diminished.”

The Sunni tribes of eastern Syria and Iraq’s Anbar and Nineveh Provinces have long had ties that run deeper than national boundaries, and ISIS was built on those relationships. Accordingly, as the group’s fortunes waned in Iraq, it found a new opportunity in the fight against Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

As more moderate Syrian rebel groups were beaten down by the Syrian security forces and their allies, ISIS increasingly took control of the fight, in part on the strength of weapons and funding from its operations in Iraq and from jihadist supporters in the Arab world.

That fact has led American lawmakers and political figures, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to accuse President Obama of aiding ISIS’ rise in two ways: first by completely withdrawing American troops from Iraq in 2011, then by hesitating to arm more moderate Syrian opposition groups early in that conflict.

“I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if we had committed to empowering the moderate Syrian opposition last year,” Representative Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a recent hearing on the crisis in Iraq. “Would ISIS have grown as it did?”

But well before then, American actions were critical to Mr. Baghdadi’s rise in more direct ways. He is Iraqi to the core, and his extremist ideology was sharpened and refined in the crucible of the American occupation.

The American invasion presented Mr. Baghdadi and his allies with a ready-made enemy and recruiting draw. And the American ouster of Saddam Hussein, whose brutal dictatorship had kept a lid on extremist Islamist movements, gave Mr. Baghdadi the freedom for his radical views to flourish.

In contrast to Mr. Zarqawi, who increasingly looked outside Iraq for leadership help, Mr. Baghdadi has surrounded himself by a tight clique of former Baath Party military and intelligence officers from the Hussein regime who know how to fight.

Analysts and Iraqi intelligence officers believe that after Mr. Baghdadi took over the organization he appointed a Hussein-era officer, a man known as Hajji Bakr, as his military commander, overseeing operations and a military council that included three other officers of the former regime’s security forces.

Hajji Bakr was believed to have been killed last year in Syria. Analysts believe that he and at least two of the three other men on the military council were held at various times by the Americans at Camp Bucca.

“He has credibility because he runs half of Iraq and half of Syria,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New American Foundation.

Syria may have been a temporary refuge and proving ground, but Iraq has always been his stronghold and his most important source of financing. Now, it has become the main venue for Mr. Baghdadi’s state-building exercise, as well.

Although the group’s capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, appeared to catch the American intelligence community and the Iraqi government by surprise, Mr. Baghdadi’s mafia-like operations in the city had long been crucial to his strategy of establishing the Islamic caliphate.

His group earned an estimated $12 million a month, according to American officials, from extortion schemes in Mosul, which it used to finance operations in Syria. Before June, ISIS controlled neighborhoods of the city by night, collecting money and slipping in to the countryside by day.

The United Nations Security Council is considering new measures aimed at crippling the group’s finances, according to Reuters, by threatening sanctions on supporters. Such action is likely to have little effect because, by now, the group is almost entirely self-financing, through its seizing oil fields, extortion and tax collection in the territories it controls. As it gains territory in Iraq, it has found new ways to generate revenue. For instance, recently in Hawija, a village near Kirkuk, the group demanded that all former soldiers or police officers pay an $850 “repentance fine.”

Though he has captured territory through brutal means, Mr. Baghdadi has also taken practical steps at state-building, and even shown a lighter side. In Mosul, ISIS has held a “fun day” for kids, distributed gifts and food during Eid al-Fitr, held Quran recitation competitions, started bus services and opened schools.

Mr. Baghdadi appears to be drawing on a famous jihadi text that has long inspired Al Qaeda: “The Management of Savagery,” written by a Saudi named Abu Bakr Naji.

Mr. Fishman called the text, “Che Guevara warmed over for jihadis.” William McCants, an analyst at the Brookings Institution who in 2005, as a fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, translated the book in to English, once described it as “the seven highly effective habits of jihadi leaders.”

American officials say Mr. Baghdadi runs a more efficient organization than Mr. Zarqawi did, and has unchallenged control over the organization, with authority delegated to his lieutenants. “He doesn’t have to sign off on every detail,” said one senior United States counterterrorism official. “He gives them more discretion and flexibility.”

A senior Pentagon official said of Mr. Baghdadi, with grudging admiration: “He’s done a good job of rallying and organizing a beaten-down organization. But he may now be overreaching.”

But even before the civil war in Syria presented him with a growth opportunity, Mr. Baghdadi had been taking steps in Iraq — something akin to a corporate restructuring — that laid the foundation for the group’s resurgence, just as the Americans were leaving. He picked off rivals through assassinations, orchestrated prison breaks to replenish his ranks of fighters and diversified his sources of funding through extortion, to wean the group off outside funding from Al Qaeda’s central authorities.

“He was preparing to split from Al Qaeda,” Mr. Hashimi said.

Now Mr. Baghdadi commands not just a terrorist organization, but, according to Brett McGurk, the top State Department official on Iraq policy, “a full blown army.”

Speaking at a recent congressional hearing, Mr. McGurk said, “it is worse than Al Qaeda.”

Tim Arango reported from Baghdad,

and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

Omar al-Jawoshy contributed reporting from Baghdad; Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon;

and Karam Shoumali from Istanbul.

A version of this article

appears in print on August 11, 2014,

on page A1 of the New York edition

with the headline:

U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel.

U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel,






How has Isis grown so powerful

and who will stop it? – Q&A

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,
too hardline even for al-Qaida,
is believed to control about $2bn
and 10,000 men


Monday 16 June 2014

12.59 BST


Mark Tran


What is Isis?

Led by an Iraqi, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Isis (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – al-Sham in Arabic) is a militant group so hardline that it was disavowed by al-Qaida's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The group's reputation for brutality was reinforced when it released photos and videos over the weekend showing some of the prisoners it had captured being killed apparently in the desert near Tikrit. Claims that 1,700 prisoners were killed could not be verified.

Isis has already shown its ruthlessness in the areas of Syria under its control, namely eastern Aleppo and the city of Raqqa. It was blamed for the February killing of a founding member of the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham and the group's leader in Aleppo, Muhammad Bahaiah, who had close connections to senior al-Qaida leaders. It was also blamed for the assassination of Jabhat al-Nusra's leader in the Idlib governorate, Abu Muahmmad al-Ansari, along with his wife, children and relatives. It ordered the crucifixion of a man accused of murder. Other forms of punishment include beheadings and amputations.



How did the group start?

Isis has its roots in the al-Qaida group in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). ISI's involvement in the Syrian conflict was indirect at first. Abu Muhammad al-Joulani, an ISI member, established Jabhat al-Nusra in mid-2011, which became the main jihadi group in the Syrian war. Joulani received support and funding from ISI and Baghdadi.

Baghdadi sought to gain influence over the increasingly powerful Jabhat al-Nusra by directly expanding ISI's operations into Syria, forming Isis in April last year, but differences over ideology and strategy soon led to bitter infighting. Isis turned out to be too extreme not just for Jabhat al-Nusra but for al-Qaida itself, leading to a public repudiation by Zawahiri, who last month called on Isis to leave Syria and return to Iraq.


How has it grown so powerful?

Isis has secured huge cashflows from oilfields in eastern Syria, which it commandeered in late 2012. It also reaped windfalls from the smuggling of raw materials plundered from the crumbling state and priceless antiquities from archeological digs. Computer sticks captured just before the fall of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul have shown the full extent of the group's finances. Before Mosul, total cash and assets of Isis came to $875m (£515m). After Mosul, the group's financial assets are estimated to be about $2bn, with money taken from banks and military supplies captured. Isis now controls territory that stretches from the eastern edge of Aleppo, in Syria, to Falluja, Mosul and now Tal Afar in Iraq.


Who will stop Isis?

The US is reported to be preparing to open a direct dialogue with Iran about how to deal with Isis. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Washington was set to open talks with Tehran on ways to push back the militants. Whether this will extend to military coordination – US air strikes, or drone intelligence in support of Iranian Revolutionary Guards or Iraqi units – is up in the air.

Isis also poses a threat to the Kurdish regional government, as it and radical Sunnis may be even more difficult for Kurds to deal with than the Shia-led government of Nouri al-Maliki. In any case, stopping Isis will fall mainly on Maliki's shoulders. The Iraqi prime minister has vowed to retake every inch seized by the militants.


What do we know about its members?

The information from the computer sticks shows the group's leaders to have been carefully chosen. Many of those who reported to the top tier are battle-hardened veterans of the insurgency against the US a decade ago. Isis has bolstered its numbers by recruiting thousands of foreign volunteers in Syria, some from Europe and the US, and is estimated to have more than 10,000 men under its control. The computer sticks included names and noms de guerre of all foreign fighters, senior leaders and their code words, and initials of sources inside ministries.


What are its aims?

Baghdadi believes that the world's Muslims should live under one Islamic state ruled by sharia law, the first step towards which is establishing a caliphate spanning Syria and Iraq. Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Doha, wrote in a paper last month: "Isis now presents itself as an ideologically superior alternative to al-Qaida within the jihadi community and it has publicly challenged the legitimacy of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. As such it has increasingly become a transnational movement with immediate objectives far beyond Iraq and Syria."

How has Isis grown so powerful and who will stop it? – Q&A,










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