Tag Archives | Syria

Upcoming Teach In – The Islamic State and the Implosion of Syria and Iraq: Whither the Middle East?

Teach-In — The Islamic State and the Implosion of Syria and Iraq: Whither the Middle East?

Thursday, October 2

4:00 – 5:15 PM

Bevier 180

UPDATE: The video for the Teach-In is now available!

Sponsored by: Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security (ACDIS), Center for Global Studies, and Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Panelists will include:

  • Jamsheed Choksy, Indiana University
  • Carol Choksy, Indiana University
  • Paul Diehl, University of Illinois
  • Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Syrian American Medical Society

Moderator:

  • Edward Kolodziej, University of Illinois

In preparation for this event, this blog post will summarize some important information about the terrorist group known as the Islamic State.

Origins of ISIS

The terrorist group known as ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) traces its origins from the early 2000s, when Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant, founded the Sunni Muslim extremist group Tawhid wa al-Jihad (Unity and Jihad).  This group later became a splinter group of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and became well-known for its ruthlessness.  After Al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006, a new leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, took control of the terrorist group and changed its name to ISI (Islamic State in Iraq).  At this point ISI was still affiliated with al-Qaeda.  During the period of U.S. troop surges in Iraq in 2006-2007, ISIS was considerably weakened but not completely wiped out.  In 2010 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took control of the group.

Expansion

The anti-government uprising in Syria during 2011-2013 presented itself as an opportunity for ISI to expand, and the group moved into Syria by taking over the Syrian group al-Nusra, renaming itself ISIS.  Al-Qaeda leadership opposed this expansion, which led to ISIS’s break from al-Qaeda in 2013.  As U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in 2013, ISIS increased its violent endeavors in the country.  In January of 2014, ISIS fighters overtook the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.  In June the group made further advances in Iraq, capturing the second-largest city of Iraq, Mosul, as well as Tikrit.  At this point ISIS declared itself “the Caliphate.”  During the summer of 2014, ISIS shocked the world with graphic videos of mass executions of captured soldiers.  ISIS has continued to use social media outlets as mediums for displaying their brutality, releasing execution videos of two American journalists and one British humanitarian worker in August and September.

Crisis of the Yazidi People

In the late summer of 2014, ISIS fighters began targeting Iraqi Yazidis, a Kurdish ethno-religious community in Northern Iraq, in efforts to rid the country of non-Islamic peoples.  In early August, ISIS advanced on the town of Sinjar which held tens of thousands of Yazidi people, some of which had already fled from other towns.  The Yazidis, along with some Shiite Muslims, were forced to flee the city into the neighboring mountains.  As many as 40,000 people became stranded in the mountains, besieged by ISIS forces and faced with extremely high temperatures and dehydration in the rough mountain terrain.  At this point President Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIS to help these stranded people flee to safety in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The airstrikes as well as aid from Syrian Kurdish fighters have allowed for the escape of 20,000 to 30,000 people from the mountains surrounding Sinjar. While a majority of those stranded have escaped, thousands more remain in peril and face imprisonment, slavery, or death at the hands of ISIS forces.  On September 24, the BBC reported that more than 3,000 Yazidi women and children have been captured and are  being trafficked for sex.  Iraqi Yazidi politician, Vian Dakheel, stated, “We’re a minority here and there’s no strong lobby to support us.” She explained that support from foreign governments was essential to rescuing the thousands of individuals still in the hands of the extremist group.

What the Islamic State Wants

The goal of the Islamic State is to establish a caliphate, which according to Islamic Law is a religious state ruled by a single leader who holds absolute political and religious rule.  The current leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims to be this leader, or “caliph,” declaring himself, “leader of Muslims everywhere.” But ISIS subscribes to a brutal extremist version of Sunni Islam, and the group is intolerant of any religious groups which contradict its beliefs.  ISIS seized the profitable oil fields of central Iraq in 2014, and subsequently has an estimated $2 billion in assets, which makes it currently the world’s wealthiest militant group.  ISIS’s sizeable assets, as well as the seizure of weapons and supplies from Iraqi and Syrian forces, make the group extremely well-armed as well.

Foreign Intervention

In August of 2014, President Obama sent a small number of American troops into Iraq to assist Iraqi forces in fighting ISIS.  The U.S. has also undertaken an airstrike campaign against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.  Part of the U.S. campaign against ISIS includes a humanitarian effort to assist the ethnic and religious communities in Iraq and Syria that are in threat of persecution.  The U.S. is joined by France, Saudia Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan in airstrike operations against ISIS.  The United Kingdom has also been involved, primarily in Northern Iraq, in humanitarian efforts.  Germany and Italy have also committed to providing humanitarian support to the region.  Albania, Croatia, and the Czech Republic have assisted by supplying weapons to Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq.  In a speech on September 24th before the United Nations, President Obama called for the world to assist in the military efforts against ISIS. Meanwhile, the UN has declared the crisis in Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency,” calling upon the nations of the world to assist with the growing humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.

Learn more about ISIS by attending the Teach-In, and with the sources below:

News Resources from Around the World

Hindustan Times – The Rise of ISIS terror – a timeline

CNN – ISIS Fast Facts

BBC News –  Iraq crisis: Desperate plight of refugees near Dohuk

The Independent –  Where does Isis get its money from? US steps up the battle to find out

BBC News – Islamic State crisis: Yazidi anger at Iraq’s forgotten people

Al Jazeera – ISIL’s war just went global – Group calls for attacks on US and allies wherever they are – a declaration of war and a defining moment of this conflict

Web Resources

Institute for the Study of War – Timely updates on the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Vox – Things about Isis you need to know

Tracking Terrorism – Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham / Islamic State (Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS or ISIL, IS)

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Cragin, R. Kim. (2014). A RECENT HISTORY OF AL-QA’IDA. The Historical
Journal, 57, pp 803-824.

Hogger, Henry. (2014). SYRIA: HOPE OR DESPAIR? Asian Affairs,
45:1, 1-8.

Phillips, Andrew. (2014). The Islamic State’s challenge to international order.
Australian Journal of International Affairs, 68:5, 495-498.

Books at UIUC Libraries

Celso, Anthony. (2014). Al-Qaeda’s Post-9/11 Devolution: The Failed Jihadist Struggle Against the Near and Far EnemyLondon : Bloomsbury Publishing.

Feldman, Noah. (2010). The Fall and Rise of the Islamic StatePrinceton : Princeton University Press.

Gottlieb, Stuart. (Eds.) (2014). Debating terrorism and counterterrorism: conflicting perspectives on causes, contexts, and responsesLos Angeles : Sage.

Lappin, Yaakov. (2011). Virtual caliphate: exposing the Islamist state on the internetDulles, Va. : Potomac Books.

Comments { 0 }

World Leaders Talk Disarmament at UN Conference

Photo: U.S. Mission by Eric Bridiers

On January 21st, the UN Conference on Disarmament opened in Geneva.  With members from 65 countries including the world’s leading military powers, the conference is designed to create multilateral agreements on arms control and disarmament.  The conference, which began in 1979, has resulted in some of the most important treaties on non-proliferation, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon opened the conference with a speech urging member states to overcome differences and move past the stalemate that the conference has experienced in recent years.  Speaking of the Syrian chemical weapons incident of 2013, and the unified voice that came from United Nations member states against such weapons, he encouraged the conference to use structured discussions and draw out new non-proliferation treaty frameworks.

While non-proliferation has become a strong point of rhetoric for many nations, the steps taken to reduce nuclear arms have fallen short of many expectations in recent years.  In a 2009 speech, President Obama vowed that the United States would “seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” (as cited in Karp, 2012).  Yet, in early January, the U.S. Defense Secretary announced a plan to upgrade the United States nuclear forces that will total $1 trillion in cost over the next 30 years. These discrepancies between ideology and practice are not limited to the United States.  Russia, China, and India are all taking huge steps to expand their nuclear defense programs as well (Wittner, 2014). The Conference on Disarmament could be an important forum for bringing these discrepancies to light and developing structured and open discussions about their meanings.  Hopefully, member states will heed the words of Secretary General Ki-Moon and overcome their differences to engage in these discussions.

You can learn more about non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament with the sources below!

News Sources

UN chief encourages Conference on Disarmament to live up to world’s expectations – UN News Centre

Interview with Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

The Endless Arms Race: Despite Great Power Promises, New Nuclear Weapons Are On the Way – Huffington Post, Lawrence Wittner

 

Scholarly Articles

Doyle, J., & Streeper, C. (2012). Steps toward increased nuclear transparency. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 68(2), 55-62.

Karp, R. (2012). Nuclear Disarmament: Should America Lead? Political Science Quarterly, 127(1), 47-71.

Lawrence Freedman (2013) Disarmament and Other Nuclear Norms, TheWashington Quarterly, 36:2, 93-108.

Tannenwald, N. (2013). Justice and fairness in the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Ethics & International Affairs, 27(3), 299.

Walker, P. F., & Hunt, J. R. (2011). The legacy of Reykjavik and the future of nuclear disarmament. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 67(6), 63-72.

 

Books at UIUC Libraries

Chalmers, Malcolm. (2012). Less is better: nuclear restraint at low numbers. London : Rusi.

Jasper, Ursula. (2014). The politics of nuclear non-proliferation: a pragmatist framework for analysis. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

Kutchesfahani, Sara Z. (2014). Politics and the bomb: the role of experts in the creation of cooperative nuclear non-proliferation agreements. New York, NY : Routledge.

Warren, Aiden. (2014). The Obama administration’s nuclear weapon strategy: the promises of Prague. Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge.

 

Comments are closed

Global Issues Surrounding the Syrian Civil War

The conflict in Syria has garnered the attention of the world since its inception in 2011, prompting the international community to address issues of terrorism, chemical weapons, and the growing humanitarian and refugee crisis arising from the struggle. In 2012, the United Nations, the League of Arab States, and the Foreign Ministers of the world’s leading powers agreed to the Geneva Plan, which sought to end the violence in Syria and facilitate a Democratic transition in the country. The plan, however, has thus far failed to be implemented and the conflict has only intensified, with tensions rising in the international community. Tensions have come to a high point in August and September of 2013 as UN weapons inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons were used in an attack near Damascus that killed more than 300 people. UN negotiations to craft a resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons are the current focal point of disagreements between the United States and Russia. The framework of a deal to eliminate Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons was agreed upon by United States and Russian representatives in the UN on September 14th. However, negotiations are ongoing concerning the details of the deal and how it should be enforced, with the United States threatening the use of force if the chemical weapons are not given up.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to escalate. The UN refugee agency estimates the number of refugees that have crossed the border since the conflict began in 2011 to be over 2 million, a number that is rising by 5,000 daily. The surge of displaced Syrians into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq creates the immense challenge of providing the refugees with food, housing, and healthcare. Moreover, millions of Syrians remaining in the country are in need of humanitarian aid. UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos stated during an appeal for humanitarian aid in Syria that, “Ordinary women, men and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis” (UNOCA, 2013). Although humanitarian organizations have made an immense effort to help those in need, the escalating violence continues to place the Syrian people in danger.

Check out the video of the recent Teach-in on Syria, from the Center for Global Studies at UIUC.

Latest Books at UIUC Library on Syrian Conflict:
• Martini, Jeffrey; York, Erin; Young, William. (2013) Syria as an arena of strategic competition Santa Monica, CA: Rand Group.
• Pierret, Thomas. (2013). Religion and state in Syria :the Sunni Ulama from coup to revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• Wieland, Carsten., Almquist, Adam., Nassif, Helena.Hinnebusch, Raymond. (2013) The Syrian uprising: dynamics of an insurgency. Fife, Scotland: University of St. Andrews Centre for Syrian Studies.

Major News Outlets on Syria:
The Guardian – Latest news from Syria

Al Jazeera – Syria’s War

CBS News In-depth coverage of Syria Crisis:

BBC News – Syria Conflict

Comments are closed