Map shows large stretches of territory in Iraq controlled by ISIS – enabling flood of militants from Syria pic.twitter.com/y2lNyf3rIt
— BBC Outside Source (@BBCOS) June 23, 2014
The Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIS) has renamed itself the “Islamic State” and claims to have established a caliphate in parts of what are still recognized as Syria and Iraq under international law. The Islamic State says they expect all Muslims to recognize and respect their authority. The consequence for not accepting said authority is death.
A de facto caliphate now stands in territory that used to be controlled by secular leaders in Iraq and Syria. In other words, the very thing Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda wanted to happen is now occurring thanks in part to the US invasion of Iraq and resulting chaos. Al Qaeda’s strategy of trying to force a US overreaction with the 9/11 attack has proved considerably successful in destabilizing the regional regimes that opposed establishing a caliphate and promulgating fundamentalist Islamic law.
The declaration made official what many observers had expected, a claim that ISIS is itself a nation state that stretches wherever Muslims live and not just an insurgent group battling governments in Iraq and Syria.
The proclamation was freighted with historic significance, coming one day after the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, which ended with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. It was that result that led to the redrawing of borders in the Middle East, including the one between Syria and Iraq that the Islamic State now says no longer exists.
12 million people are estimated to live under the control of ISIS already and if the now declared caliphate continues its expansion it could be considerably more. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been named the Caliph of the new Islamic State.
The lingering question is how other Muslims will react to the declaration. Given that ISIS is a Sunni group there is little doubt Shiite Muslims will reject ISIS’ presumption, but the reaction of the larger Sunni community, particularly those on the more extreme end, will determine the viability of the new so-called Islamic State and its legitimacy.
Apparently using the US military to topple secular leaders did little to thwart the rise of Islamic extremism. In fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect.