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ISIS

Inside the Army of Terror

By Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
19-minute read
Audio available
ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (2015) charts the rapid rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, from its early beginnings to its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Grippingly told, the story of ISIS’s domination over al-Qaeda in Iraq and its slow but ruthless push in Syria also shines light on the failings of the West in dealing with this fanatical yet disciplined jihadi group.

  • People interested in international politics and the rise of terrorism
  • Historians or students of Middle Eastern studies
  • Anyone with an interest in examples of religious extremism

Hassan Hassan is an Middle East analyst with a focus on Syria, Iraq and the Gulf States and a columnist for The National in Abu Dhabi. His work has also appeared in the Guardian, Foreign Policy and the New York Times.

Columnist Michael Weiss has written for publications such as Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast and NOW Lebanon. He is a fellow at the Institute of Modern Russia and serves as editor-in-chief of that organization's online news journal, The Interpreter.

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ISIS

Inside the Army of Terror

By Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
Synopsis

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (2015) charts the rapid rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, from its early beginnings to its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Grippingly told, the story of ISIS’s domination over al-Qaeda in Iraq and its slow but ruthless push in Syria also shines light on the failings of the West in dealing with this fanatical yet disciplined jihadi group.

Key idea 1 of 12

ISIS recruits fanatics to feed its growing militant organization, inspired by terror and jihad.

You can’t turn on the nightly news without hearing about the latest atrocities committed by a group called ISIS. But who exactly is ISIS?

ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, is a militant group currently active in the Middle East. In a short period of time, the group’s soldiers have conquered a territory nearly the size of Great Britain through ruthless tactics or outright terror.

As of 2014, the group renamed itself the Islamic State following the announcement that the land under its occupation was a caliphate.

Much of the group’s power has come from its intelligence-gathering prowess and infiltration of competing groups. ISIS’s top brass consists of many former advisors from the toppled Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

The group has essentially branded itself as a defender of Sunni minorities in the Middle East, whom it feels are in need of protection from enemies such as the United States and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

For many, ISIS is considered one of most rigorous, well-disciplined and organized militant groups in the world. But how did it establish this reputation?  

Although ISIS has only a few thousand members spread across Syria and Iraq, it attracts fanatical and committed people who are more than willing to fight for its ideals.

Abdelaziz is one such fighter. Born in Bahrain in 1995, he became interested in jihadism in late 2011. After joining several moderate rebel groups in the fight against Syria’s Bashar Assad, Abdelaziz became disillusioned, feeling that these groups weren’t sufficiently rigorous.

Eventually, he found his way to ISIS.

Abdelaziz quickly moved up the ranks, proving himself a dedicated fighter and participating in filmed beheadings, and even earning the right to own a sex slave.

He soon found the martyrdom he sought when he was shot and killed in 2014 by a Syrian sniper.

With ISIS, a man like Abdelaziz is the rule, not the exception. ISIS only recruits fanatics and as a result, is a real, constant threat to the resident populations in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding area.

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