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ISIS Declares Caliphate across Iraq and Syria

Posted on in Iraq title_rule

On 30 June, the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, a.k.a ISIL) declared a caliphate which spans from Aleppo in northwestern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq. The group has also modified its name to “Islamic State” and has declared their leader, Abu Bakar al Baghdadi as its caliph. Baghdadi is now referred to as “khalīfah Ibrahim.”

Islamic State released a ten page announcement in Arabic, English, German, French, and Russian which defends the formation of a caliphate. The announcement declares that “the Islamic State has no [legal] constraint or excuse that can justify delaying or neglecting the establishment of the khilāfah (caliphate) such that it would not be sinful.” The statement explains that Baghdadi was chosen as caliph because he claims that he is a descendant of the prophet Muhammed (pbuh). Islamic State adds, “Thus, he is the imam and khalīfah for the Muslims everywhere” and have called on Muslims around the globe to pledge allegiance to him. Muslims around the world have expressed outrage as the declaration occurs during the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.

ISIS also released two videos upon the announcement. Of note, the second video, “The End of Sykes-Picot,” shows a Chilean member of the Islamic State discussing the destruction of the border between Iraq and Syria. He speaks in English, and raises the flag of the Islamic State over the outpost.

Islamic State gained traction in June by taking control of large regions in northern Iraq and creating corridors into ISIS controlled parts of Syria. They were spurred on by the support of Sunni tribes in Iraq who were angry at their marginalization by the government, led by highly sectarian Shi’a leader, Nouri al Maliki. ISIS captured equipment and money in their blitzkrieg across the region, and even if the Iraqi government recaptures territory, it will be difficult to dislodge the spoils ISIS has gained, including its new fundraising networks and reputation, which now surpasses Al Qaeda in infamy. In fact, some analysts believe that AQ will experience a growing number of defections as militants move their allegiance to ISIS. Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), for example, has made supportive and congratulatory statements on social media. ISIS has also recently released a new map showing a five-year-plan to grow their caliphate. The map shows plans to expand across north and central Africa to the west, and beyond India and Indonesia in the East.

Despite the group’s arrogance and ambition, analysts do not believe that the Islamic state is likely to remain in place. The erstwhile coalitions that ISIS had with Sunni Muslims in Iraq has eroded as the militants have killed members of the tribes or made tribal leaders into subordinates rather than partners. The Islamic State is also battling Iraqi soldiers who are intent on regaining captured territory, with heavy fighting occurring in Tikrit over the weekend. Russia has deployed military jets and experts to Iraq, and on Sunday evening, US President Barack Obama ordered additional deployments to Iraq, bringing the number of US troops in the region to 750, as well as sending “a detachment of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, which will bolster airfield and travel route security,” according to a statement. Iran has also agreed to send weaponry but will not send troops.


In an urgent effort to deal with the political marginalization that was the catalyst for the rapid growth of ISIS, Iraq’s new parliament convened on Tuesday morning, intent on creating a unity government to keep the country from splitting apart. However the first session ended early after 90 Sunni and Kurdish MPs walked out in protest during a 30-minute morning break. The speaker of the parliament declared, “We are going to postpone because of an urgent matter,” but he did reveal what the urgent matter was.

Iraqi president al-Maliki and his Shi’a-dominated government have been under pressure to be more inclusive of Iraq’s Sunni minority. US diplomats have stated that the US is unlikely to take military action against the Islamic State until a new unity government is created.

Meanwhile, fighting continues at an alarming rate. Violence in Iraq resulted in 2,417 deaths in June, according to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. In May, the number reached 799. Islamic State also appears to be targeting Shi’a shrines. On Monday, the group fired mortars at the Askari Shrine in Samarra as worshipers gathered to celebrate the first day of Ramadan. Six people were killed and minor damage was caused to the dome. Iraqi forces have been reinforced in the region to protect the site. The attack is likely to cause waves of retaliation, creating the sectarian war that ISIS had openly sought to create.

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