Black Flags Book Summary - Black Flags Book explained in key points
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Black Flags summary

Joby Warrick

The Rise of ISIS

4.3 (47 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

"Black Flags" by Joby Warrick traces the rise of ISIS and how the group gained strength amid political chaos, sectarian violence and Western interventions.

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    Black Flags
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    ISIS can be traced back to the release of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from a Jordanian prison in 1999.

    Have you heard the name Zarqawi? This al-Qaeda leader shaped the course of recent history.

    He was born in 1966 in the city of Zarqa, Jordan, earning him the name “al-Zarqawi,” or “the one from Zarqa.” The vicious terrorist network that he went on to lead would eventually form the basis of ISIS, after a complicated journey that begins in the mid-1990s. Here’s the story:

    Earlier in that decade, Zarqawi went to Afghanistan to join the “holy war” against the pro-Moscow government installed by the Soviet Union. Following his return to Jordan, he was arrested on March 29, 1994 and locked up in al-Jafr prison with 12 other men, all of whom had been found in possession of illegal weapons that they intended to use in a terrorist attack on an Israeli outpost. They had planned to avenge the killing of 20 Muslims by a Jewish extremist on February 25 that year.

    However, prison did little to weaken Zarqawi’s resolve or that of his fellow Islamist inmates. Rather than spending their time in jail with the common criminals, the group pored over the Koran, hardening their hatred for those they saw as enemies of Allah – namely the United States and Israel.

    Then, in 1999, King Abdullah II of Jordan released Zarqawi – at that time the most dangerous inmate in al-Jafr – along with many of his associates. King Hussein had passed away and his son, Abdullah, was hellbent on repairing the damaged relations between the kingdom and various political factions.

    It was high time to pacify the Islamists, and he offered a gift: the release of 16 Muslim Brotherhood members from prison. Little did the king know that, while in prison, Zarqawi had become a father figure to those around him. Upon his release, this leadership paid dividends as Zarqawi found himself surrounded by a group of loyal followers who would unquestioningly obey his every word.

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    What is Black Flags about?

    Black Flags (2015) tells the origin story of the infamous terror organization known as the Islamic State or ISIS. These blinks detail a history that begins with a fledgling insurgency in Iraq following the US invasion in 2003 and ends with one of the most powerful and frightening terrorist groups of all time.

    Black Flags Review

    Black Flags (2015) is a riveting account of the rise of ISIS and the efforts to stop it. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With meticulous research and access to insider information, it provides an in-depth understanding of the factors that led to the creation and expansion of ISIS.
    • The book explores the complexity of the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East, shedding light on the various players and their motivations.
    • Through vivid storytelling and intimate character portraits, it offers a human perspective on the people involved, making their actions and choices more relatable.

    Who should read Black Flags?

    • Anyone wondering how ISIS came into existence
    • Students of geography, politics and history
    • People interested in the Middle East

    About the Author

    Joby Warrick is a long-time reporter for the Washington Post and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. His other titles include The Triple Agent.

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    Black Flags FAQs 

    What is the main message of Black Flags?

    The main message of Black Flags is the rise and fall of the Islamic State, exploring its origins, operations, and impact on global terrorism.

    How long does it take to read Black Flags?

    The reading time for Black Flags varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Black Flags a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Black Flags is a compelling and insightful read, providing a detailed analysis of the Islamic State's rise and the complexities of modern terrorism.

    Who is the author of Black Flags?

    The author of Black Flags is Joby Warrick.

    What to read after Black Flags?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Black Flags, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil
    • Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
    • The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    • On Saudi Arabia by Karen Elliott House
    • All-in On AI by Tom Davenport & Nitin Mittal
    • Call Sign Chaos by Jim Mattis
    • Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
    • The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon