ISIS Head Makes First Video Appearance

A few days ago we reported that the blitz surge of the “cool”, social network-friendly faction of Al-Qaeda known as ISIS, which over the past week went so far as to declare the formation of its own sovereign state, the Islamic State on the territory of Iraq and Syria, has so irked not only the conventional enemies of extremist fundamentalist Islam but also none other than al-Qaeda itself, which as we explained beforemay be forced to go to war against ISIS in order to preserve its waning relevance, status and credibility.

At the center of this rapid and dramatic ascent by a group virtually nobody had heard of as recently as a month ago is a man called Aby Bakr al-Baghdadi, who unlike the leaders of al-Qaeda, has kept an extremely low profile despite his recent appointment as “caliph” by the jihadists.

Until now.

As BBC reports, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamist militant group Isis, has called on Muslims to obey him, in his first video sermon. The video appears to have been filmed on Friday during a sermon at the al-Nouri Mosque in Mosul, northern Iraq. It surfaced on Saturday amid reports that he had been killed or wounded in an Iraqi air raid.

The release is notable because the reclusive militant leader has never appeared on video before, although there are photographs of him.

From BBC:

In the sermon, at Mosul’s most famous landmark, Baghdadi praised the establishment of the “Islamic state”, which was declared by Isis last Sunday.

 

“Appointing a leader is an obligation on Muslims, and one that has been neglected for decades,” he said.

 

He also said that he did not seek out the position of being the caliph, or leader, calling it a “burden”. “I am your leader, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, support me, and if you see that I am wrong, advise me,” he told worshippers.

In other words, his first video was merely an ideological and emotional appeal to Muslims everywhere to side with him. It remains to be seen if Baghdadi will transform into just another typical Muslim blaming the sorry economic state of his country on Bush, something al Qaeda and others have done before him.

For those curious to see Baghdadi’s complete video appearance, it is shown below in its entirety.

Full TRANSLATION: In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Especially Merciful. Merciful,al-Furqan presents, The Khutbah and group salah in the great masjid in the city of Mosul, the 6thof Rama’dhan, 1435….Baghdadi: May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all. Then the call to prayer goesoff, he uses a siwak (toothbrush)Opening to khutbah, inna alhamdullilahi etc. with associated Qur’an. Opening ends, “O you whohave believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”Allah, the exalted, said “The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, aguidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the newmoon of] the month, let him fast it;”O Muslims! The one who ages to see Rama’dhan has been given a great ni’ma. (Blessing.) And agreat bounty from Allah, the Exalted.It is a month which beginning is mercy. And it’s middle is forgiveness. And it’s end is preservation from the hellfire. A month in which if one fasts with conviction and expectation offorgiveness, he will be forgiven. On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased withhim, the messenger of Allah, may his peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The one who fastsrama’dhan with conviction and expectation of forgiveness, his sins are forgiven. And the onewho withstands rama’dhan with expectation and conviction of forgiveness, his sins will beforgiven.”A month that brings the opening of the doors of eternal paradise and the shutting of the doors ofthe hellfire. And the jailing of the devils. A month therein is a night which is superior to onethousand nights. Whoever has made it impermissible upon himself (not doing it) has made theentirety of khair (good) impermissible upon himself.(Quran) “The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spiritdescend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence ofdawn”A month in it is being divorced. Divorced from the hellfire. And this is true of each of its’ nights.A month that stood in it the chase of jihad. And the messenger of Allah, may peace and blessings be upon him, said: (Prophetic narration about jihad)So take advantage of this noble month, O worshipper of Allah! Fight therein etc. O Muslims!Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, created us to single Him out in monotheism, and to establish Hisall encompassing way of life (deen/Islam). He, the exalted said:(Quran) “I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship me”And Allah likes us to kill his enemies, and make jihad in his sake
 He, the Exalted said:(Quran) “Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you”And He, the Exalted, said(Quran) “And fight them until there is no fitnah and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah .And if they cease – then indeed, Allah is Seeing of what they do.”O people! The religion of Allah, be just in it, stand up for it, and affirm it’s truthfulness, and donot stray from what Allah has given usBe firm with the shari’a of Allah, and the reference to it,and apply and accept of hudud (Islamic punishments).(Quran) “We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with themthe Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice. And We sentdown iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people, and so that Allah maymake evident those who support Him and His messengers unseen. Indeed, Allah is Powerful andExalted in Might.”And this is the application of the religion of Allah. And this is the Book that gives guidance, andthe sword that delivers swift victories (he’s referring to Surat al-Fath)And your brothers the mujahideen, indeed did Allah, blessed and exalted, give them victoriesand conquests which came after many years of hardship and patience. And they were firmagainst the enemies of Allah, and He made them powerful in the land until the declaration of theCaliphate and choice of an imam. And this is a matter obligatory upon all muslims. It is Waajib!(highest level of obligation) And it must be applied upon the earth entirely. Yet most of the people are ignorant.(A bit on those who reestablished caliphate) And they established it, all glory and thanks is toAllah. And if you have forfeited this huge blessing, if you have forfeited this heavy burden, turnaway from that, and you will have forfeited the blessing in you. I’ve been tested by Allah in myelection as caliph. It’s a heavy burden. I’m no better than you. Advise me when I err and followme if I succeed. And assist me against the tawagheet.And I give you an glad tidings from what Allah has promised to the believers who worship Him:(Quran) “Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds thatHe will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] theyworship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that – then thoseare the defiantly disobedient.”And His promise

 

 (Quran) “So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are [true] believers.”(couple more Qur’anic ayat about victories)And He said:(Quran) “And to Allah belongs [all] honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but thehypocrites do not know.”These are the promises of Allah. And if you are pleased with the promises of Allah, fear Him andhave taqwa (righteousness/God-consciousness)Fear Allah in every blessing and in every situation. And spread the truth. And be firm upon it.And spread it upon those you love and those you hate.And if you are pleased with the promise of Allah, then make jihad in his sake! And call the believers to this, and have patience in the times of doubt. If you knew what was in the jihad,from the ajr (reward), karama (generous blessing), raising in rank, the honor in this life and thenext, none of you would stray from the path of jihad!(Quran) “Believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealthand your lives. That is best for you, if you should know. He will forgive for you your sins andadmit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetualresidence. That is the great attainment.”And that which you love, victory from Allah, and an conquest, is close!End of khutbah, I ask Allah to forgive us and you, etc.(continuing)Praise be to Allah in truth.May the peace and blessings be upon the messenger of Allah, hisfriends, companions, family etc. La ilaha il Allah, wahdahu la shareeka lah.I bear witness that none is worthy of worship except Allah, with none in association, who gavevictory to His army.O worshipers of Allah! Apply your religion and act upon it. And fear Allah Who bestows uponyou honor in this life and the hereafter. If you are given hardship, fear Allah. If you are bestowedwith rizq (pre-determined wealth), then fear Allah. And if you are given a life full of blessingsfear Allah, and make jihad in his sake. We ask Allah, the Great, the Lord of the great Throne, tomake your words united. And to repair what is between you, and to give you guidance astowards what He loves and is pleased with
O Allah, give honor to Islam and the Muslims.O Allah, give Islam victory over the disbelief and the disbelievers, and give victory to themujahideen, in the East of this earth and it’s West(Supplications about making them firm and successful.)(Normal supplications about protection from hypocrisy and accepted deeds and forgiveness, etc.)And the last of our call is, all glory and thanks is to the Nourisher of all things. And may peaceand blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad.And stand for salah.END KHUTBAH
**The last few minutes of the video are the sheikh reciting Qur’a

[10][ Iraq Exodus ]

The SECOND ANGEL said Harvest time has come in Israel and all the way to Iran.

Then I saw that the second angel had a sickle in his hand, and he said,"
Harvest time has come in Israel and the countries all the way to Iran." I saw Turkey
and those countries that have refused Me and refused My message of love shall hate
each other and kill one another."
I saw the angel raise the sickle and come down on all the Middle East countries.

Blood and Fire
I saw Iran, Persia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, all of Georgia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan,
Israel, all of Asia Minor full of blood.  I saw blood and fire all over these countries.
Nuclear weapons used in many of those countries. Smoke rising from everywhere.
Sudden destruction, men destroying one another.

"Israel, Oh Israel, the great judgment has come.  The chosen, the church, the remnant,
shall be purified. The Spirit of God shall prepare the children of God." I saw fires rising
to heaven. This is the final judgment. My church shall be purified, protected and ready
for the final day. Men will die from thirst. Water shall be scarce all over the Middle East.
Rivers shall dry up, and men will fight for water in those countries. The angel showed
me that the United Nations shall be broken in pieces because of the crisis in the MidEast.
There shall be no more United Nations. The angel with the sickle shall reap the harvest.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
the Iraqi war form 2003 to 2011 is what lead to the the situation is Iraq where they control 1/3 of the country for more detail on the iraq war at the bottom of the page.
Insurgency in Iraq
(post-U.S. withdrawal)
Part of the Aftermath of the Iraq War and Spillover of the Syrian Civil War (Arab Winter)
Iraq war map.png
A map of the situation in Iraq, as of 16 February 2015. For a map of the current military situation in Iraq, see here.
Date 18 December 2011 – ongoing
(3 years and 2 months)
Location Iraq (mostly central and northern, including Baghdad)
Result Ongoing

Belligerents
 ISIL


Ba’ath Party Loyalists

Military Council of Anbar’s Revolutionaries[5]


Ansar al-Islam,
Mujahideen Army,
Ansar al-Sunnah,

Supported by:

Iraqi government

 Iran

 Syria
(airstrikes)
 Russia


 Iraqi Kurdistan

PKK,
 Syrian Kurdistan,

PJAK,
Flag of the Syriac-Aramaic People.svg MFS,
QPC,
Dwekh Nawsha,
Nineveh Plain Protection Units,
Sinjar Protection Forces,
Sinjar Defense Force,
Malik Al-Tawus Troop/Sinjar Resistance Units
 Iran
International Coalition forces:[29][30]


IRGC-Seal.svg Special Groups

Hezbollah,
Supported by:

Commanders and leaders
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,
Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri,
IAILogo.png Ismail Jubouri,
Abu Hashim al Ibrahim,
Fuad Masum
Haider Al-Abadi
Nouri al-Maliki
(2011–2014)
Babaker Shawkat B. Zebari
Massoud Barzani
Ahmad Abu Risha


Muqtada al-Sadr,
Qais al-Khazali,,
Akram al-Kabi
Shiism arabic blue.svg Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani,
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,
Wathiq al-Battat (POW)

Strength
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant:


Ba’ath Party Loyalists

Iraqi Security Forces
600,000 (300,000 Armyand 300,000 Police)[95]
Awakening Councilmilitias – 30,000[96]
Contractors ~7,000[97][98]
US Forces 1,000[99]
Canadian Forces 600[100]


Peshmerga: 150,000–200,000[101][102][103]


Special Groups: 7,000[104]
Badr Brigade: 10,000[105]

Insurgent losses
6,760 killed, 5,529 arrested
(Government figures, December 2011 – June 2014)
Iraqi security forces losses
1,668 policemen and 1,791 soldiers killed
3,088 policemen and 3,208 soldiers wounded
(Government figures, December 2011 – June 2014)
Civilian casualties
12,068 killed and 18,875 wounded
(Government figures, December 2011 – June 2014)
Total casualties
25,487 killed
(Government figures, December 2011 – June 2014)
28,138 killed
(civilians and executed prisoners only)
(Iraq body count figures, December 2011 – July 2014)

ContentsIn 2014, the Iraqi insurgency escalated with the conquest of Fallujahand Mosul and major areas in northern Iraq by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). This has resulted in the forced resignation of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, airstrikes by the United States, Iran, and possibly Syria and Russia,[112] and the participation of Iranian troops.[113]

Chronology[edit]

January[edit]

  • ISIS militants were in control of more than half of the Iraqi city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi. Tribesmen held parts of the other half, according to an interior ministry official. A witness in the city west of Baghdad said that militants had set up checkpoints each manned by six to seven people in central and south Fallujah. “InRamadi, it is similar — some areas are controlled by ISIS and other areas are controlled by” tribesmen, the interior ministry official said, referring to the Anbar Province capital, which lies farther to the west. A journalist in Ramadi saw dozens of trucks carrying heavily armed men driving in the city’s east, playing songs praising ISIS. Clashes broke out in the Ramadi area as security forces tore down the country’s main Sunni Arab anti-government protest site, and continued for two more days. On Wednesday, militants in the city sporadically clashed with security forces and torched four police stations, but the clashes had subsided by Thursday, the Agence France-Presse journalist said. The violence also spread to Fallujah, where police abandoned most of their positions on Wednesday and militants burned some police stations.
Minister of the Interior Nouri al-Maliki said that Iraqi soldiers would depart restive cities in Anbar Province, but reversed that decision the following day. Army forces on Thursday remained outside Ramadi.[114]
  • ISIS militants advanced into gained ground and took over several police stations in Fallujah. In early morning, ISIS fighters advanced into areas in central Ramadi and deployed snipers on one street. A police colonel said the army had re-entered into areas of Fallujah, between Ramadi and Baghdad, but that around a quarter of it remained under ISIS control. Soldiers and armed tribesmen held the rest and had also surrounded the city, he said.
However, another senior officer, a police lieutenant colonel, said that while soldiers had deployed around the city they had yet to enter Fallujah.[115][116]
  • Iraqi government has lost control of the city of Fallujah, which is now held by ISIS militants, a senior security official in Anbar provincesaid. Fallujah is under the control of ISIS.[117] Earlier on Friday, more than 100 people were killed as Iraqi police and tribesmen battled Al-Qaeda linked militants who took over parts of two cities onAnbar province, declaring one an ISIS.[118]
On the same day, the Iraq army shelled the western city of Fallujah with mortar bombs overnight to try to wrest back control from Sunni Muslim militants and tribesmen, killing at least eight people. Fallujah has been held since by militants linked to al Qaeda and by tribal fighters united in their opposition to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in a serious challenge to the authority of his Shi’ite-led government inAnbar province. Medical sources in Fallujah said another 30 people were wounded in shelling by the army.[119]
  • At least 20 people killing in new wave of bombings which hit on the Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.[120]
  • Iraqi missile strikes on Ramadi killed 25 militants.[121] Also in same day, unidentified gunmen have killed seven police officers, including a captain, in an attack at a security checkpoint north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The deadly incident took place on a highway north of the city of Samarra.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police officials say the main suspects are militants linked to al-Qaeda.[122]
  • Gunmen attacked a military site north of the Iraqi capital, killing 12 soldiers and wounding four. The militants stormed a building at the site in the Al-Adhim area, then bombed it. Militants opposed to theIraqi government frequently target members of the security forces with bombings and shootings.[123]
  • A suicide bomber killed 23 Iraqi army recruits and wounded 36 in Baghdad on Thursday, officials said, in an attack on men volunteering to join the government’s struggle to crush al Qaedalinked militants in Anbar province. Brigadier General Saad Maan, spokesman for the Baghdad Security Operations Centre, said the bomber blew himself up among the recruits at the small Muthenna Airbase, used by the army in the capital. Maan put the death toll at 22 but health ministry officials said morgue records showed 23 had died.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would eradicate the “evil” of al Qaeda and its allies.[124]
  • A car bomb exploded outside a bus station in central Baghdad, killing at least nine people and wounding 16. No group immediately has claimed responsibility for attack on bus terminal Alawi al-Hilla.[125] Also on Sunday, bombing targeting a general in northern Iraq outside his home in eastern Sulaimaniyah, damaged his vehicle but left him unharmed.[126]
  • Four car bombs killed at least 25 people in Shi’ite Muslim districts of Baghdad, in violence that coincided with a visit to the Iraqi capital byU.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Although no group claimed responsibility, the bombings appeared to be part of a relentless campaign by al Qaeda linked Sunni Muslim militants to undermine Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government.[127]
  • Bombings and shootings killed at least eight people in and around the Iraqi capital, including a judge. Gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at the judge, killing him and his driver. Later in the afternoon a sticky bomb attached to a mini-bus exploded in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr city, killing three passengers and wounding eight.[128]
  • Bomb attacks and shootings killed at least 75 people in Iraq, police and hospital sources said, making it one of the bloodiest days in months, but troops reclaimed a town west of Baghdad.[129]
  • The bodies of 14 Sunni Muslim tribesmen were found in date palm groves north of Baghdad, a day after they were kidnapped by uniformed men in security forces vehicles. The victims, all from the Albu Rawdas tribe, had been abducted while they were attending a funeral in the town of Tarmiya, 25 km (16 miles) north of the Iraqi capital.[130]
  • Five bombings in Baghdad, including an attack on a glitzy new shopping mall in the west of the capital, killed 14 people and wounded several others. The blasts struck in the neighbourhoods of Mansur, Nahda, Taubchi, Sarafiyah and Amriyah—all across the capital.[131]
  • Seven bomb explosions killed 26 people and wounded 67 in the Iraqi capital, as security forces battled Sunni Muslim militants around the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.
No group claimed responsibility for the blasts.[132] On same day, a senior Iraqi official claims ISIS fighters hunkered down in a city they seized late last month west of Baghdad have enough heavy weapons to allegedly take the country’s capital.[133]
  • Two soldiers and three would-be suicide bombers were killed and 18 other soldiers wounded in separate violent attacks in eastern and central Iraq. On the same day, security forces thwarted coordinated predawn attacks by ISIS militants in eastern Diyala province when the troops came under arms fire near the provincial capital city ofBaquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, prompting a fierce clash with the attackers, killing three of them and seized three of their explosive vests.[134]
  • Iraqi armed forces in Anbar Province Iraqi armed forces killed scores of ISIS militants as the army continues its fight against terrorists. According to Iraqi Defense Ministry, the air forces carried airstrikes to bases Takfiri militants in western Anbar province and killing scores militants.[135]
  • January 25 – Three mortar shells landed in the village mainly populated by Shia Muslims near the Iraqi city of Baquba has killed six people.[136] On the same day, double bombing has killed a soldier and his entire family in their home in townMuqdadiyah in 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad.[137]
  • At least four people were killed and 14 wounded in the afternoon when almost simultaneously three car bombs detonated in northern Iraq, in city Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad. On the same day, head of a city council and two of councillors were killed by gunmen who attacked their convoy near the town of Wajihiyah in eastern Diyala province also in al-Rashdiyah northern suburb Baghdad, gunmen killed an ex-officer of Saddam Hussein’s army and his wife.[138]
  • Seven members of Iraq’s security forces killed on during an armed attack north of Baghdad, the latest in a surge in violence fuelling fears the country is slipping back into all-out conflict.[139]
  • At least 13 people were killed and 39 others wounded in violent attacks in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. According toUNAMI in Iraq in 2013 were killed a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel.[140]
  • Security officials said militants stormed an office of Ministry of Human Rights (Iraq) in northeast Baghdad and took a number of civil servants hostage. The attack was mounted by eight armed men.[141] Later, security forces kill to all attackers and free hostages.[142]

February[edit]

  • Last month in terrorist attacks and other violence across Iraq, 1,013 people, including 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen, were killed during some form of violence.[143]
  • At least 20 people were killed and 68 others wounded in violent attacks in and around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The deadliest attack occurred in the area of Abu Dusher in southern Baghdad when two car bombs exploded, leaving four people killed and 16 others wounded.[144]
  • At least 16 people were killed in a string of bombings in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.[145] On the same day, Iraqi officials said up to 32 people were also killed during two more attacks in crowded places in Baghdad.[146]
  • Iraqi officials said at least nine people were killed and 22 were wounded in a string of car bombings that hit commercial areas in the Baghdad’s eastern neighborhood of Jamila and northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah.[147]
  • Attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital killed nine people, including a supporter of powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who was standing in parliamentary elections to be held in April.[148] On the same day, another five were also killed and dozens more injured in Tuz Khormato, east of Tikrit in Saladin Province.[149]
  • At least 19 people were killed and 19 wounded in violent attacks across Iraq. Attacks occurred at a marketplace in the Shiite district of Sadr City in the eastern part of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, as well as in the town of Mahmoudiyah, some 30 km south of Baghdad. Violence also claimed lives in the southwestern part of city of Baquba, capital of theDiyala province.[150]
  • At least 22 insurgents, including a suicide bomber were killed and 15 injured when a car bomb mistakenly went off in a militant compound north of Baghdad.[151]
  • 15 soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn assault on an army camp guarding an oil pipeline near Hamam al-Alil in the north of Nineveh Province, one of the most violent parts of Iraq.[152]
  • At least 17 civilians, including soldiers, were killed across Iraq by car bombs and roadside explosives.
No terrorist groups claimed responsibility for these attacks.[153]
  • Talib Hameed Mustafa, mayor of the city Sulaiman Bek, reported that gunmen seized the town, some 90 km east ofTikrit after clashes with security forces.[154]
  • Talib Mohammed mayor of the city Sulaiman Bek said, that Iraqi troops backed by helicopter gunships regained ground in the northern town of Sulaiman Bek, a day after parts of it were overrun by ISIS militants. At least 12 ISIS militants were killed by the army.[155]
  • 17 soldiers and policemen were killed and 12 others wounded in separate attacks targeting the security forces across Iraq.[156]
  • At least 13 people were killed and 65 injured in consequence of the explosion of seven car bombs in central Iraq.[157]
  • 16 people were killed and 32 others wounded in separate violent attacks, mainly targeting Iraqi security forces across the country.[158]
  • At least 20 people were killed and 35 wounded in Iraq when three mortar rounds struck a crowded market in a mainly Shi’ite Muslim town of Mussayab, 60 km south of the Baghdad.[159]
  • 21 people were killed and 26 others wounded in violent attacks across Iraq.[160]
  • February 27 – At least 42 people were killed as a motorcycle rigged with explosives detonated in Baghdad’s Sadr Cityand militants targeted mostly Shi’ite neighbourhoods around the country.[161]

March[edit]

  • March 1 – The UNAMI said a total of 703 people were killed in Iraq in February. The figure excluded deaths from the ongoing fighting between the Iraqi forces and ISIS militants in the western Anbar Province. Some 564 civilians and 139 members of security forces were killed in the violence in the country, while 1,381 people, including 1,179 civilians, were injured.[162]
  • March 5 – Up to 26 people were killed and 87 others wounded in violent attacks across Iraq, including a series of car bombs in Baghdad.[163]
  • March 6 – At least 37 civilians killing in the series of bombings on commercial areas in central Iraq.[164]
  • March 9 – At least 50 people killed and more than 150 wounded of the suicide bombing at a crowded checkpoint south of the city Baghdad.[165]
  • March 18 – At least 18 people were killed and 24 others wounded in separate attacks across Iraq.[166]
  • March 19 – At least 37 people killed and 40 people injured due to outbreaks violence across Iraq, including shelling and clashes in a militant-held city on Baghdad’s doorstep.[167]
  • March 21 – The militants seized a village Sarha in north of Iraq and also 27 people killing including at least 10 policemen and more than 50 injured in consequence of attacks nationwide.[168]
  • March 25 – More than 80 people were killed in a series of attacks in Iraq, with the heaviest death toll in the Baghdad area. At least 41 of the victims were Iraqi Army soldiers, who suffered a major ambush near Taji that killed 22 and injured 15 others. An earlier suicide bombing near the city killed another 5 soldiers and wounded 14 others, while an attack on a base in Tarmiyah killed 8 soldiers and injured 14 others.[169][170]
  • March 27 – Iraqi authorities say that 19 people killed and 52 wounding in bombings targeting a commercial street and a market have in the same neighborhood northern Baghdad.[171]

April[edit]

  • 2 April, at least 25 people were killed and 23 wounded in separate attacks mainly targeting soldiers the Iraqi security forces across Iraq.[172]
  • 3 April, the Interior Ministry’s spokesman Saad Maan Ibrahim said that more than 40 ISIS militants and one officer of Iraqi security forces died in clashes near Baghdad.[173] Later more five people dead and seventeen injured elsewhere in the country in consequence the attacks.[174]
  • 5 April, at least 18 soldiers killed in an explosion and ensuing gunfight at booby-trapped house near the city of Fallujah.[175]
  • 8 April, at least 15 people dead in attacks in Iraq while security forces said they killed 25 militants near Baghdad amid worries insurgents are encroaching on the capital weeks ahead of elections.[176]
  • 9 April, at least 24 people killing and 48 wounded in a series of car bombs has hit several mostly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad.[177]
  • 10 April, at least 25 people were killed and 31 others wounded in separate violent attacks across Iraq.[178]
  • 12 April, at least 21 people were killed and 45 others wounded in separate violent attacks across Iraq.[179]
  • 13 April, at least 36 people were killed and 28 others wounded in separate violent attacks across Iraq.[180]
  • 16 April, at least 36 people were killed and 53 others wounded in separate attacks across Iraq.[181]
  • 17 April, at least 30 people, including Iraqi soldiers, have been killed and dozens more injured in consequence separate terrorist attacks across Iraq.[182]
  • 19 April, at least 69 people were killed about half of them were militants and 73 civilians and security personnel were wounded in during ongoing violence across Iraq.[183]
  • 20 April, at least 79 people were killed and 112 more were wounded in during ongoing violence across Iraq.[184]
  • 21 April, 33 people were killed and some 50 others wounded in separate attacks, including two suicide bombings across Iraq.[185]
  • 23 April, Militants wearing military uniforms carried out an overnight attack against a balloting centre in a remote area of the country’s north and killed 10 guards.[186]
  • 26 April, at least 31 people were killed and 56 others wounded in two car bomb attacks at a parliamentary election rally in Baghdad.[187]
  • 28 April, Nearly 60 people including 27 members of the Iraqi security forces have been killed and 50 others injured in a series of bomb attacks across Iraq while as the country prepares for parliamentary elections.[188]
  • 29 April, a total of 35 people were killed and 69 others wounded in separate attacks across Iraq.[189]

May[edit]

  • 4 May, Officials said that more than 30 people killed within 24 hours in consequence violence in Iraq, including shelling in a militant-held city and an attack targeting Shiite pilgrims.[190]
  • 6 May, a total of 24 people were killed and 29 wounded in separate violent incidents across of Iraq.[191]
  • 11 May, a total of 41 people were killed including 20 soldiers the Iraqi army and 30 people injured across Iraq in separate insurgent attacks that mainly targeted security forces.[192][193]
  • 16 May, at least 29 people killed and dozens wounded during bombings and shootings around Iraq’s capital, including an attack involving militants using a fake checkpoint to kill army officers.[194]
  • 28 May, over 60 people have been killed and scores of others injured the across Iraq.[195]
  • 29 May, At least 74 people have been killed and 52 injuring in a series of attacks across Iraq, including the capital,Baghdad.[196]

June[edit]

Current (16 February 2015) military situation:

  Controlled by Syrian opposition
  Controlled by Syrian government
  Controlled by Iraqi government
  Controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
  Controlled by Syrian Kurds
  Controlled by Iraqi Kurds
  • In early June, following its large-scale offensives in Iraq, ISIS was reported to have seized control of most of Mosul, the second most populous city in Iraq, a large part of the surrounding Nineveh province, and the city of Fallujah.[197] ISIS also took control of Tikrit, the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate,[198] with the ultimate goal of capturingBaghdad, the Iraqi capital.[199] ISIS was believed to have only 2,000–3,000 fighters up until the Mosul campaign, but during that campaign, it became evident that this number was a gross underestimate.[200]
  • Also in June, there were reports that a number of Sunni groups in Iraq that were opposed to the predominantly Shia government had joined ISIS, thus bolstering the group’s numbers.[201][not in citation given][202] However, theKurds—who are mostly Sunnis—in the northeast of Iraq, were unwilling to be drawn into the conflict, and there were clashes in the area between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga.[203][204]
  • 5 June: ISIS militants stormed the city of Samarra, Iraq, before being ousted from the city by airstrikes mounted by the Iraqi military.[205]
  • 6 June: ISIS militants carried out multiple attacks in the city of Mosul, Iraq.[206][207]
  • 7 June: ISIS militants took over the University of Anbar in Ramadi, Iraq and held 1,300 students hostage, before being ousted by the Iraqi military.[208][209]
  • 9 June: Mosul fell to ISIS control. The militants seized control of government offices, the airport, and police stations.[210]Militants also looted the Central Bank in Mosul, reportedly absconding with US$429 million.[211] More than 500,000 people fled Mosul to escape ISIS.[212] Mosul is a strategic city as it is at a crossroad between Syria and Iraq, and poses the threat of ISIS seizing control of oil production.[200]
  • 11 June: ISIS seized the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and kidnapped the head of the diplomatic mission and several staff members. ISIS seized the Iraqi city of Tikrit.[213]
  • 12 June: Human Rights Watch, an international human rights advocacy organization, issued a statement about the growing threat to civilians in Iraq.[214]
  • 13 June: Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed alarm at reports that ISIS fighters “have been actively seeking out—and in some cases killing—soldiers, police and others, including civilians, whom they perceive as being associated with the government.”[215]

US Secretary of State John Kerryand Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikiin Baghdad on 23 June 2014

  • 15 June: ISIS militants captured the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, in the province of Nineveh.[216] ISIS claimed that 1,700 Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered in the fighting had been killed, and released many images of mass executions via its Twitter feed and various websites.[217]
  • 22 June: ISIS militants captured two key crossings in Anbar, a day after seizing the border crossing at Al-Qaim, a town in a province which borders Syria. According to analysts, capturing these crossings could aid ISIS in transporting weapons and equipment to different battlefields.[218]
  • 24 June: The Syrian Air Force bombed ISIS positions in Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated: “There was no coordination involved, but we welcome this action. We welcome any Syrian strike against Isis because this group targets both Iraq and Syria.”[219]
  • 25 June: The al-Nusra Front‘s branch in the Syrian town of al-Bukamal pledged loyalty to ISIS, thus bringing months of fighting between the two groups to a close.[220][221]
  • 25 June: In an interview with the BBC Arabic service, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that Iraq had purchased usedSukhoi fighter jets from Russia and Belarus to battle ISIS militants, after delays in the delivery of F-16 fighterspurchased from the US.[222] “[If] we had air cover, we would have averted what happened”, he said.[223][224]
  • 26 June: Iraq launched its first counterattack against ISIS’s advance with an airborne assault designed to seize back control of Tikrit University.[225]
  • 28 June: The Jerusalem Post reported that the Obama administration had requested US$500 million from the US Congress to use in the training and arming of “moderate” Syrian rebels fighting against the Syrian government, in order to counter the growing threat posed by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.[226]
  • 29 June: ISIS announced the establishment of a new caliphate. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed its caliph, and the group formally changed its name to the Islamic State.[227]

July[edit]

Prophet Yunus Mosquebefore being destroyed.

  • 2 July: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the new Islamic State, said that Muslims should unite to capture Rome in order to “own the world.”[228][229] He called on Muslims the world over to unite behind him as their leader.[230]
  • 3 July: ISIS captured Syria’s largest oilfield from rival Islamist fighters, al-Nusra Front, who put up no resistance to the attack. Taking control of the al-Omar oilfield gave ISIS access to potentially useful crude oil reserves.[231]
  • 17 July: Syria’s Shaer gas field in the Homs Governorate was seized by the Islamic State. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 90 National Defence Force guards defending the field were killed, as were 21 ISIS fighters.[232] The SOHR later put the death toll from the fighting and executions at 270 soldiers, militiamen and staff, and at least 40 ISIS fighters.[233]
  • 19 July: ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing, which killed 33 people and left more than 50 wounded. The explosion occurred in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, which is the site of a major Shia shrine.[234]
  • 24 July: ISIS blew up the Mosque and tomb of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah) in Mosul,[235] with no reported casualties.[236]Residents in the area said that ISIS had erased a piece of Iraqi heritage.[237] Johah’s tomb was also an important holy site in the Jewish heritage as well.[238]
  • 26 July: ISIS blew up the Nabi Shiyt (Prophet Seth) shrine in Mosul. Sami al-Massoudi, deputy head of the Shiaendowment agency which oversees holy sites, confirmed the destruction and added that ISIS had taken artifacts from the shrine to an unknown location.[239]
  • 28 July: To mark the Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Fitr, which ends the period of Ramadan, ISIS released and circulated a 30-minute video showing graphic scenes of mass executions.[240][241]
  • The UN reported that of the 1,737 fatal casualties of the Iraq conflict during July, 1,186 were civilians.[242]
File:President Obama Makes a Statement on Iraq - 080714.ogg

President Obama delivers an update on the situation and U.S. position on Iraq, authorizing airstrikes against ISIL and humanitarian aid forreligious minorities trapped on a mountain.[243]

August[edit]

File:U.S. FA-18 Super Hornet strikes in Iraq August 8 2014.ogv

U.S. F/A-18 fighters bomb Islamic State artillery targets on August 8

  • 1 August: The Indonesian BNPT (id) declared ISIS a terrorist organization.[244][245][246][247][248][249]
  • 2 August: The Iraqi Army confirmed that 37 loyalist fighters had died during combat with Islamic State militants south of Baghdad, and in Mosul. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) claimed that “hundreds” of IS militiamen had died in the action.[250]
  • 2 August: ISIS and its al-Nusra Front allies invade Lebanon in and around the town of Arsal, sparking a five day battle between them and the Lebanese army, who push ISIS back across the border into Syria. Over a hundred fighters were killed, and scores of civilians were killed or wounded.
  • 3 August: IS fighters occupied the city of Zumar and an oilfield in the north of Iraq, after a battle against Kurdish forces.[251]
  • 5 August: Al Jazeera reported that an IS offensive in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq had forced 30,000–50,000 Yazidis to flee into the mountains, fearing they would be killed by the IS. They had been threatened with death if they refused conversion to Islam. A UN representative said that “a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar.”[252]
  • 6 August: The Islamic State kidnapped 400 Yazidi women in Sinjar to sell them as sex slaves.[253]
  • 7 August: IS fighters took control of the town of Qaraqosh in the province ofNineveh in northern Iraq, which forced its large Christian population to flee.[254] President Obama authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS, along with airdrops of aid.[255] The UK offered the US assistance with surveillance and refuelling, and planned humanitarian airdrops to Iraqi refugees.[256]
  • 8 August: The US asserted that the systematic destruction of the Yazidi people by the Islamic State was genocide.[257]The US military launched indefinite airstrikes targeting Islamic State fighters, equipment and installations, with humanitarian aid support from the UK and France, in order to protect civilians in northern Iraq.[258][259] The Islamic State had advanced to within 30 km of Erbil in northern Iraq.[260][261] The UK is also considering joining the US in airstrikes.[262]
  • 10 August: France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that Iraq’s Kurds must be equipped to fight against ISIS and indicated that France would consider providing arms aid “in liaison with the Europeans”.[263] Islamic State militants buried an unknown number of Yazidi women and children alive, in an attack that killed 500 people, in what has been described as ongoing genocide in northern Iraq.[264][265]
  • 11 August: The Arab League accused the Islamic State of committing crimes against humanity.[266][267] The UK decided not to join the US in airstrikes and instead stepped up its humanitarian aid to refugees.[268]
  • 12 August: The parents of kidnapped American journalist James Foley received an email from his captors. The US announced that it would not extend its airstrikes against the Islamic State to areas outside northern Iraq, emphasizing that the objective of the airstrikes was to protect US diplomats in Erbil.[269] The US and the UK airdropped 60,000 litres of water and 75,000 meals for stranded refugees. The Vatican called on religious leaders of all denominations, particularly Muslim leaders, to unite and condemn the IS for what it described as “heinous crimes” and the use of religion to justify them.[270]
  • 13 August: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Islamic State jihadists had seized control of six villages near the Turkish border in the northern province of Aleppo in Syria.[271]

    More than 10,000 Kurds in Hanoverprotest against the terror of ISIS in Iraq, 16 August 2014

  • 15 August: The United Nations Security Council issued a resolution which “deplores and condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of ISIL (Islamic State) and its violent extremist ideology, and its continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.”[272]
  • 16 August: The Islamic State massacred 80 Yazidis.[273] The EU agreed to supply Kurdish forces with arms,[274] and US military forces continued to attack Islamic State fighters in the area around Iraq’s crucial Mosul Dam.[275]
  • 17 August: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Islamic State had killed 700 members of the Syrian al-Shaitat tribe, mostly civilians, after two weeks of clashes over the control of two oilfields in the region.[276] Peshmerga troops, aided by the US air campaign, began an offensive to take back the strategic Mosul Dam from the Islamic State, amid fears that the destruction of the dam might unleash a 65-foot wave of water that could engulf the northern city of Mosul, and even flood Baghdad.[277][278]
  • 18 August: Pope Francis, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, said that the international community would be justified in stopping Islamist militants in Iraq. He also said that it should not be up to a single nation to decide how to intervene in the conflict.[279] The Dutch send fighter jets to strike ISIS Iraq when needed.[280][281]
  • 19 August: According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the size of the Islamic State’s forces had grown to more than 50,000 fighters in Syria.[82] American journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State on video tape.[282]
  • 20 August: US President Obama denounced the “brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL.”[283]
  • 21 August: The US military admitted that a covert rescue attempt involving dozens of US Special Operations forces had been made to rescue James Foley and other Americans held captive in Syria by Islamic State militants. The air and ground assault, involving the first known US military ground action inside Syria, had the authorization of PresidentBarack Obama. The ensuing gunfight resulted in one US soldier being injured. The rescue was unsuccessful, as Foley and the other captives were not in the location targeted. This was the first known engagement by US ground forces with suspected Islamic State militants. US Defense Secretary warned that the Islamic State are tremendously well-funded, “they have no standard of decency, of responsible human behavior,” and are an imminent threat to the US.[284]
  • 22 August: The US is considering airstrikes on ISIS in Syria, which would draw US military forces directly into the Syrian Civil War, as President Obama develops a long-term strategy to defeat the Islamic State.[285]
  • 23 August: Al Jazeera America reports that Iranian troops had crossed into Iraq and were fighting alongside the Peshmerga and Iraqi troops.[113]
  • 28 August: American drones select new traget data on August 28 [286][287][288]
  • 31 August: the United States, France, United Kingdom and Australia began humanitarian aid drops, like food, water and medical supplies, to help prevent a potential massacre against the Shi’a Turkmen minority in Amirli. The US also carried out air strikes on ISIS positions around and near Amirli. Iraqi officials stated that they had reached Amirli and broken the siege and that the military was currently fighting to clear the areas around the town. This is known to be the first major turning point against the Islamic State in Iraq.[289]

September[edit]

  • 2 September: The United States sends an additional 250 US troops to protect American personnel.[290]
  • 3 September: A video is released by ISIL(S) on social media of a second American reporter being beheaded[291] by a masked man, believed to be “Jihad John”, the same man who beheaded American journalist James Foley; David Hawthorne Cains was also presented in the video and the masked man stated that if America and its allies do not stop and withdraw from Iraq, then the English hostage will be the 3rd person to be beheaded. Australia delivers a load of armaments to Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq, to help fight against ISIL(S).[citation needed]
  • 7 September: The United States launches new airstrikes on ISIL(S) in western Iraq, in an effort to protect the Haditha Dam.[292]
  • 10 September: U.S. President Barack Obama authorises $25 million for “immediate military assistance” to the Iraqigovernment and Kurdistan Regional Government. He also outlines plans to expand US operations against ISIL(S) toSyria in a televised address to the nation.[293][294] RSA Muslims condemn ISIS.[295]
  • 14 September: 400 Australian Air Force personnel, up to eight Super Hornet aircraft, an early warning and control aircraft and an aerial refuelling aircraft were also pleged on the 14th.[296]
  • 19 September: First French airstrikes occur. Belgian participation for one month was authorized by the country’s Chamber of Representatives in the afternoon of September 19, after more than 3½ hours of debate.[297] The Belgian military contingent was said to number 120, including eight pilots and an unknown amount of F-16 multirole fighters, to be based in Jordan, Defense Minister Pieter De Crem said.[297]
  • 22 September: Aussie police call for calm after terrorist inspired ‘Isis’ graffiti attack in the city of Cairns on September 22.[298]
  • 23 September: A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in northern Syria, in the morning of September 23, 2014. Reuters[299] Cruise missiles hit Al Raqqar in Sirya. A refinery, the GPO, power station and army recruit center were hit on September 23.[300]
  • 24 September: As a result of a United Nations General Assembly meeting, various nations have decided that they will provide military support against ISIS.
  • 25 September: U.S. and Arab airstrikes target ISIS-held oil facilities in Syria and Iraq.
  • 26 September: Large numbers staged protests in Europe and the United States in solidarity with the mostly Kurdish people of Kobane in Syria, coinciding with the first US airstrikes on the city’s outskirts on Saturday against Islamic State (IS or ISIS) forces. Sit-ins and protests took place on Friday and Saturday in cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain, Austria and the United States.[301] Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced that Denmark would be deploying 250 pilots and staff, three reserve jets on the 26th.[297] 4 combat jets were added later that day.[302] Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced that Denmark would be deploying 250 pilots and staff, three reserve F-16 fighter jets and four F-16 fighter jet combatant planes on the 27th [299]
  • 28 September: 6 Aussie F/A-18F Super Hornets, a E-7A Wedgetail and a KC-30A were sent in.[303] An Airbus Voyagerin flight refueling aircraft was also in used a second sortie over Northern Iraq on 28 September.[304]
  • 29 September: A mortar shells hit near the Turkey/Sirya border crossing of Mursitpinar, close to a group of journalists and Turkish security forces, and another shell landed near a refugee camp, about one kilometer inside Turkey.[305]Canada’s parliament debates doing airstrikes in Iraq on September 29.[306]
  • 30 September: A British Panavia Tornado jet dropped a Paveway IV bomb on “a heavy weapon position” operated by ISIS in northwest Iraq, thus marking the first engagement of the British military against IS targets.[307] 2 RAF Tornados used a Paveway IV bomb to blow up an ISIS truck in northern Iraq.[308] Australia offers 200 special forces to the Kurds on September 30 [309] 600 Aussie troops land in the UAE on Sept 14th [296][310][311][312][313][314][315][316]

October[edit]

  • 1 October: America sends Apache helicopters and crews to Iraq.[317]
  • 2 October: Some British jihadists threatened an ‘imminent’ terror attack to avenge UK airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq on October 2.[318] It was revealed on October 2 that three deceased ISIS members from Britain were originally from Tower HamletsBangladeshi district. A fourth British casualty, Ibrahim Kamara, was a 19-year-old student from Brighton.[318]Canada joined the anti-ISIS air strikes on October 2.[306][319] The six-month mission was planned to include CF-18 fighter jets and refueling and surveillance aircraft, but not ground troops.[306]
  • 3 October: The “Iraq III No!” anti-war activists rallied in Central London to protest against British airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Iraq on October 3.[320] Australia authorized its special forces troops to go to Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS coalition that day,[321][322] as well as authorizing airstrikes.[323] The White House praised Australia over its decision to join airstrikes in Iraq and to send special forces military trainers to the country on October 3.[324] PM Mr Abbott gives RAAF planned airstrikes the go-ahead. Australia’s cabinet approved Australia’s Super Hornets to start bombing raids against Islamic State extremists in the near future, supported by 400 RAAF personnel.[325] The RAAF will deploy 6 Super Hornets, a Wedgetail surveillance aircraft and a in-flight refueller. About 200 special forces members will train and advise Iraqi forces, but are awaiting final legal approval before deploying. Any airraids are planned to support Iraq’s government against ISIS.[325] The PM of New Zealand and the PM of PNG offered political support to Australia.[325]
  • 4 October: Manchester‘s leading Muslims condemn the murder of British aid convoy volunteer Alan Henning. Naved Siddiqi of the Islamic Society of Britain, said there were “very clear distinctions” between the jihadists and ordinary Muslims on October 4.[326] Islamic State also threatened to kill the American aid worker Peter Kassig that day, after releasing a video of murder of British hostage Alan Henning. The ISIS fighter says in the video: “Obama, you have started your aerial bombardment in [Al-] Sham. So it’s only right we continue to strike the necks of your .”[327]
  • 14 October: ISIS forces capture the city of Hīt, after the 300-strong Iraqi Army garrison has abandoned and set afire its local base and supplies and about 180,000 civilians (including refugees of the preious Anbar offensive) have fled the area.[328][329]
  • 24 October: Operation Ashura is launched by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militas, scoring a major victory and retaking the strategic town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad, and secured the way for millions of Shia pilgrims who are going to Karbala and Najaf in the Day of Ashura. Kurdish forces, meanwhile, recapture Zumar.[330]

November[edit]

December[edit]

  • On 17 December, Peshmerga forces launched the Sinjar offensive from Zumar and managed to break the siege of Mount Sinjar, recapture more than 700 square kilometers of territory,[334] close in on Tal Afar, clear areas north of Mount Sinjar,[335] and push into the city of Sinjar.[336] As of 27 December 2014, the offensive is ongoing.
  • At December 19, 2014, Fox News confirms through Pentagon officials that the top leaders of ISIL was killed in a U.S. airstrikes, including a deputy to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[337]

Iraq War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the war that started in 2003 and ended in 2011. For other wars and conflicts in Iraq, see Iraq War (disambiguation).
Iraq War
Part of the Global War on Terrorism
Iraq War montage.png
Clockwise from top: Delta Force of Task Force 20 alongside troops of 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, at Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein’s hideout; insurgents in northern Iraq; an Iraqi insurgent firing a MANPADS; the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square.
Date 20 March 2003 – 18 December 2011
(8 years, 8 months, 4 weeks and 1 day)
Location Iraq
Result
Belligerents
Invasion phase (2003)
 United States
 United Kingdom
 Australia
 Poland Peshmerga
Invasion phase (2003) Ba’athist Iraq
Post-invasion (2003–11)

 United States(2003–11)
 United Kingdom(2003–11)
New Iraqi government

 Iraqi Kurdistan

Post-invasion (2003–11)
Iraqi Regional Branch


Sunni insurgents


Shia insurgents


For fighting between insurgent groups, see Civil war in Iraq (2006–07).


Commanders and leaders
Ayad Allawi
Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Nouri al-Maliki
Ricardo Sanchez
George W. Casey, Jr.
David Petraeus
Raymond T. Odierno
Lloyd Austin
George W. Bush
Tommy Franks
Barack Obama
Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
David Cameron
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Ba’ath Party
Saddam Hussein (POW) Skull and crossbones.svg
Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri


Sunni insurgency
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi 
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 
Abu Ayyub al-Masri 
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
IAILogo.png Ishmael Jubouri
Abu Abdullah al-Shafi’i (POW)


Shia insurgency

Muqtada al-Sadr
Shiism arabic blue.svg Abu Deraa
Qais al-Khazali
Akram al-Kabi

Strength
Invasion forces (2003–2004)
265,000
 United States: 148,000
 United Kingdom: 45,000
 Australia: 2,000
 Poland: 194
Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga: 70,000


Coalition forces (2004–2009)
176,000 at peak
United States Forces – Iraq (2010–2011)
112,000 at activation
Security contractors6,000–7,000 (estimate)[6]
Iraqi security forces
805,269 (military andparamilitary: 578,269,[7]police: 227,000)
Awakening militias
≈103,000 (2008)[8]
Iraqi Kurdistan
≈400,000 (Kurdish Border Guard: 30,000,[9] Peshmerga375,000)

Coat of arms (emblem) of Iraq 1991-2004.svg Iraqi Armed Forces: 375,000 (disbanded in 2003)
Iraqi Republican Guard Symbol.svgSpecial Iraqi Republican Guard: 12,000
Iraqi Republican Guard Symbol.svgIraqi Republican Guard: 70,000–75,000
Fedayeen Saddam SSI.svgFedayeen Saddam: 30,000


Sunni Insurgents
≈70,000 (2007)[10]
Mahdi Army
≈60,000 (2007)[11]
al-Qaeda
≈1,300 (2006)[12]

Islamic State of Iraq
≈1,000 (2008)
Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order
≈500–1,000 (2007)

Casualties and losses
Iraqi Security Forces(post-Saddam)
Killed: 17,690[13]
Wounded: 40,000+[14]Coalition forces
Killed: 4,809[15][16](4,491 U.S.,[17] 179 UK,[18]139 other)
Missing/captured(U.S.): 17 (8 rescued, 9 died in captivity)[19]
Wounded: 32,753+(32,226 U.S.,[20] 315 UK, 212+ other[21])[22][23][24][25]Injured/diseased/other medical*: 51,139(47,541 U.S.,[26] 3,598 UK)[22][24][25]Contractors
Killed: 1,554[27][28]
Wounded & injured: 43,880[27][28]Awakening Councils
Killed: 1,002+[29]
Wounded: 500+ (2007),[30] 828 (2008)[31]Total dead: 25,286
Total wounded: 117,961
Iraqi combatant dead(invasion period): 7,600–10,800[32][33] Insurgents(post-Saddam)
Killed: 26,544 (2003–2011)[34]
Detainees: 12,000 (Iraqi-held)[35]Total dead: 34,144–37,344
Estimated violent deaths:
Lancet survey (March 2003 – July 2006): 601,027 (95% CI: 426,369–793,663)[36][37]
Iraq Family Health Survey (March 2003 – July 2006):151,000 (95% CI: 104,000–223,000)[38]Documented deaths from violence:
Iraq Body Count (2003 – 14 December 2011): 103,160–113,728 civilian deaths recorded,[39] and 12,438 new deaths added from the Iraq War Logs[40]
Associated Press (March 2003 – April 2009):110,600[41]For more information see: Casualties of the Iraq War
* “injured, diseased, or other medical”: required medical air transport. UK number includes “aeromed evacuations”
** Total deaths include all additional deaths due to increased lawlessness, degraded infrastructure, poorer healthcare, etc.

The Iraq War[nb 1] was a protracted armed conflict that began with the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the United States. The invasion toppled the government of Saddam Hussein. The conflict, however, continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government.[42] The United States officially withdrew from the country in 2011, but the insurgency and various dimensions of the civil armed conflict continue.
The invasion began on 20 March 2003. The U.S., joined by the United Kingdom and several coalition allies, launched a “shock and awe” surprise attack without declaring war. Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed as U.S. forces swept through the country. The invasion led to the collapse of the Ba’athist government; Saddam was captured in December 2003 and executed by a military court three years later. However, the power vacuum following Saddam’s demise and the mismanagement of the occupation led to widespread sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis as well as a lengthy insurgency against U.S. and coalition forces. The United States responded with a troop surge in 2007; the heavy American security presence and deals made between the occupying forces and Sunni militias reduced the level of violence. The U.S. began withdrawing its troops in the winter of 2007–2008. The winding down of U.S. involvement in Iraq accelerated under President Barack Obama. The U.S. formally withdrew all combat troops from Iraq by December 2011.[43]

The Bush Administration based its rationale for war principally on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that Saddam’s government posed an immediate threat to the United States and its coalition allies.[44][45] Select U.S. officials accused Saddam of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda,[46] while others cited the desire to end a repressive dictatorship and bring democracy to the people of Iraq.[47][48] After the invasion, no substantial evidence was found to verify the initial claims about WMDs. The rationale and misrepresentation of pre-war intelligence faced heavy criticism within the U.S. and internationally.

As a result of the war, Iraq held multi-party elections in 2005. Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister in 2006 and remained in office until 2014. The Maliki government enacted policies that were widely seen as having the effect of alienating the country’s Sunni minority, worsening sectarian tensions. In the summer of 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a military offensive in Northern Iraq and declared a worldwide Islamic caliphate, eliciting another military response from the United States and its allies. The Iraq War caused hundreds of thousands of civilian and military casualties (see estimates below). The majority of casualties occurred as a result of the insurgency and civil conflicts between 2004 and 2007.

Background[edit]

Iraq disarmament and pre-war intelligence[edit]

Prior to September 2002, the CIA was the Bush administration’s main provider of intelligence on Iraq. In September, a Pentagonunit called Office of Special Plans (OSP), was created by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, and headed by Feith, as charged by then-United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to supply senior George W. Bush administration officials with raw intelligence pertaining to Iraq.[49] Seymour Hersh writes that, according to a Pentagon adviser, “[OSP] was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, wanted to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal ofchemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons (WMD) that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States. […] ‘The agency [CIA] was out to disprove linkage between Iraq andterrorism,’ the Pentagon adviser told me.”[50]

U.N. weapons inspections resume[edit]

The issue of Iraq’s disarmament reached a turning point in 2002–2003, when President Bush demanded a complete end to allegedIraqi production of weapons of mass destruction and full compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolutions requiring U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access to suspected weapons production facilities. The U.N. had prohibited Iraq from developing or possessing such weapons after the Persian Gulf War and required Iraq to permit inspections confirming compliance. During inspections in 1999, U.S. intelligence agents supplied the United States with a direct feed of conversations between Iraqi security agencies as well as other information. This was confirmed by theNew York Times and the Wall Street Journal.[51]

During 2002, U.S. President George Bush repeatedly warned of military action against Iraq unless inspections were allowed to progress unfettered. In accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 Iraq agreed to new inspections in late 2002. With the cooperation of the Iraqis, a third weapons inspection team in 2003 led by David Kelly viewed and photographed two alleged mobile weapons laboratories, which were actually facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.[52]

Shortly before the invasion, Hans Blix, the lead weapons inspector, advised the U.N. Security Council that Iraq was cooperating with inspections and the confirmation of disarmament through inspections could be achieved quickly if Iraq remained cooperative.[53]

Weapons of mass destruction[edit]

Yellowcake uranium[edit]

A UN weapons inspector examines an Iraqi factory in 2002.

In 1990, before the Persian Gulf War, Iraq had stockpiled 550 short tons (500 t) of yellowcake uranium at the Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of Baghdad.[54] In late February 2002, the CIA sent former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson to investigate reports (later found to be forgeries) that Iraq was attempting to purchase additional yellowcake fromNiger. Wilson returned and informed the CIA that reports of yellowcake sales to Iraq were “unequivocally wrong.” The Bush administration, however, continued to allege Iraq’s attempts to obtain additional yellowcake were a justification for military action, most prominently in the January 2003, State of the Union address, in which President Bush declared that Iraq had sought uranium, citing British intelligence sources.[55]

In response, Wilson wrote a critical New York Times op-ed piece in June 2003 stating that he had personally investigated claims of yellowcake purchases and believed them to be fraudulent.[56] After Wilson’s op-ed, Wilson’s wife Valerie Plamewas publicly identified as an undercover CIA analyst by a columnist. This led to aJustice Department investigation into the source of the leak. The federal investigation led to the conviction of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.[54]

On 1 May 2005, the “Downing Street memo” was published in The Sunday Times. It contained an overview of a secret 23 July 2002, meeting among British government,Ministry of Defence, and British intelligence figures who discussed the build-up to the Iraq war—including direct references to classified US policy of the time. The memo stated that “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”.[57]

In September 2002, the Bush administration, the CIA and the DIA said attempts by Iraq to acquire high-strength aluminum tubes that were prohibited under the UN monitoring program and which they said pointed to a clandestine effort to make centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs.[58] This analysis was opposed by the United States Department of Energy(DOE) and INR, which was significant because of DOE’s expertise in such gas centrifuges and nuclear weapons programs. The DOE and INR argued that the Iraqi tubes were poorly suited for centrifuges and that while it was technically possible with additional modification, conventional military uses were more plausible.[59] A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security in 2002 reported that it was highly unlikely that the tubes could be used to enrich uranium.[60]

An effort by the DOE to correct this detail in comments prepared for United States Secretary of State Colin Powell‘s UN appearance was rebuffed by the administration[60][61] and Powell, in his address to the UN Security Council just before the war, referenced the aluminum tubes, stating that while experts disagreed on whether or not the tubes were destined for a centrifuge program, the specifications of the tubes were unusually tight.[62] Powell later admitted he had presented what turned out to be an inaccurate case to the UN on Iraqi weapons, and the intelligence he was relying on was, in some cases, “deliberately misleading.”[63][64][65] After the 2008 US presidential election, and the election of Democratic party nomineeBarack Obama, President Bush stated that “[my] biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq”.[66]

Poison gas[edit]

The CIA had contacted Iraq’s foreign minister, Naji Sabri, who was being paid by the French as an agent. Sabri informed them that Saddam had hidden poison gas among Sunni tribesmen, had ambitions for a nuclear program but that it was not active, and that no biological weapons were being produced or stockpiled, although research was underway.[67] According to Sidney Blumenthal, George Tenet briefed Bush on 18 September 2002, that Sabri had informed them that Iraq did not have WMD.

On 21 June 2006 the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released key points from a classified report from the National Ground Intelligence Center on the recovery of a small number of degraded chemical munitions in Iraq. The report stated that “Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.” However, all are thought to be pre-Gulf War munitions.[68]

Biological weapons[edit]

Based on reports obtained by the German intelligence service from an Iraqi defector codenamed “Curveball“, Colin Powell presented evidence to the United Nations security council that Iraq had an active biological weapons programs. On 15 February 2011, the defector—a scientist identified as Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janafi—admitted to journalists working for The Guardian newspaper that he lied to the Bundesnachrichtendienst in order to strengthen the case against Saddam Hussein, whom he wished to see removed from power.[69]

Post-invasion views on WMD[edit]

In December 2009, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that he “would still have thought it right to remove [Saddam Hussein]” regardless of whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or not.[70]

Preparations for Iraq war[edit]

President George Bush, surrounded by leaders of the House and Senate, announces the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, 2 October 2002

Excerpt from Donald Rumsfeld memo dated 27 November 2001[71]

In the days immediately following 9/11, the Bush Administration national security team actively debated an invasion of Iraq. A memo written by Sec. Rumsfeld dated 27 November 2001 considers a US-Iraq war. One section of the memo questions “How start?”, listing multiple possible justifications for a US-Iraq War.[71][72]

During 2002 the amount of ordnance used by British and American aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones of Iraq increased compared to the previous years[73] and by August had “become a full air offensive”. Tommy Franks, the allied commander, later stated that the bombing was designed to “degrade” the Iraqi air defense system before an invasion.[74]

In October 2002, a few days before the US Senate voted on the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, about 75 senators were told in closed session that Iraq had the means of attacking the Eastern Seaboard of the US with biological or chemical weapons delivered byunmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs.)[45]On 5 February 2003, Colin Powellpresented further evidence in his Iraqi WMD program presentation to the UN Security Council that UAVs were ready to be launched against the United States. At the time, there was a vigorous dispute within the US military and intelligence communities as to whether CIA conclusions about Iraqi UAVs were accurate[75] and other intelligence agencies suggested that Iraq did not possess any offensive UAV capability, saying the few they had were designed for surveillance and intended for reconnaissance.[76] The Senate voted to approve the Joint Resolution with the support of large bipartisan majorities on 11 October 2002, providing the Bush administration with alegal basis for the US invasion under US law.

The resolution granted the authorization by the Constitution of the United States and the United States Congress for the President to command the military to fight anti-United States violence. Citing the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, the resolution reiterated that it should be the policy of the United States to remove the Saddam regime and promote a democratic replacement. The authorization was signed by President George W. Bush on 16 October 2002.

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix remarked in January 2003 that “Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance—not even today—of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.”[77] Among other things he noted that 1,000 short tons (910 t) of chemical agent were unaccounted for, information on Iraq’s VX nerve agent program was missing, and that “no convincing evidence” was presented for the destruction of 8,500 litres (1,900 imp gal; 2,200 US gal) of anthrax that had been declared.[77]

United States Secretary of StateColin Powell holding a model vial ofanthrax while giving a presentation to the United Nations Security Council

In the 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush said “we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs”. On 5 February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the UN to present evidence that Iraq was hiding unconventional weapons.[78] The French government also believed that Saddam had stockpiles of anthrax and botulism toxin, and the ability to produce VX.[79] In March, Blix said progress had been made in inspections, and no evidence of WMD had been found.[80] Iraqi scientist Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi codenamed “Curveball”, admitted in February 2011, that he lied to the CIA about biological weapons in order to get the US to attack and remove Saddam from power.[81]

From the left: French President Jacques Chirac, US President George W. Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Chirac was against the invasion, the other three leaders were in favor.

In early 2003, the US, British, and Spanish governments proposed the so-called “eighteenth resolution” to give Iraq a deadline for compliance with previous resolutions enforced by the threat of military action. This proposed resolution was subsequently withdrawn due to lack of support on the UN Security Council. In particular, North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) members France, Germany and Canada and non-NATO member Russia were opposed to military intervention in Iraq, due to the high level of risk to the international community’s security, and defended disarmament through diplomacy.[82][83]

A meeting between George W. Bush and Tony Blair took place on 31 January 2003, in the White House. A secret memo of this meetingpurportedly showed that the Bush administration had already decided on the invasion of Iraq at that point. Bush was allegedly floating the idea of painting a U‑2 spyplane in UN colors and letting it fly low over Iraq to provoke Iraqi forces into shooting it down, thereby providing a pretext for the United States and Britain to invade. Bush and Blair made a secret deal to carry out the invasion regardless of whether WMD were discovered by UN weapons inspectors, in direct contradiction with statements Blair made to the British House of Commons afterwards that the Iraqi regime would be given a final chance to disarm. In the memo, Bush is paraphrased as saying, “The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin.”[84] Bush said to Blair that he “thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups” in Iraq after the war.

Opposition to invasion[edit]

In October 2002 former US President Bill Clinton warned about possible dangers of pre-emptive military action against Iraq. Speaking in the UK on a Labour Party conference he said: “As a preemptive action today, however well-justified, may come back with unwelcome consequences in the future….I don’t care how precise your bombs and your weapons are, when you set them off, innocent people will die.”[85][86]

Anti-War protest in London, 2002.

On 20 January 2003, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin declared “we believe that military intervention would be the worst solution”.[87] Meanwhile anti-war groups across the world organised public protests. According to French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against war in Iraq, with demonstrations on 15 February 2003, being the largest and most prolific.[88] Nelson Mandela voiced his opposition in late January, stating “All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil,”.[89]

In February 2003, the US Army’s top general, Eric Shinseki, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take “several hundred thousand soldiers” to secure Iraq.[90] Two days later, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the post-war troop commitment would be less than the number of troops required to win the war, and that “the idea that it would take several hundred thousand US forces is far from the mark.” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Shineski’s estimate was “way off the mark,” because other countries would take part in an occupying force.[91]

In March 2003, Hans Blix reported that “No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found” in Iraq, saying that progress was made in inspections which would continue. He estimated the time remaining for disarmament being verified through inspections to be “months”.[80] But the US government announced that “diplomacy has failed”, and that it would proceed with a coalition of allied countries—named the “coalition of the willing“—to rid Iraq of its alleged WMD. The US government abruptly advised UN weapons inspectors to leave Baghdad immediately.

There were serious legal questions surrounding the launching of the war against Iraq and the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war in general. On 16 September 2004, Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said of the invasion, “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the Charter point of view, it was illegal.”

In November 2008 Lord Bingham, the former British Law Lord, described the war a serious violation of international law, and accused Britain and the United States of acting like a “world vigilante“. He also criticized the post-invasion record of Britain as “an occupying power in Iraq”. Regarding the treatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib, Bingham said: “Particularly disturbing to proponents of the rule of law is the cynical lack of concern for international legality among some top officials in the Bush administration.”[92] In July 2010, Deputy Prime Minister of the UK Nick Clegg, in an official PMQs session in Parliament, condemned the invasion of Iraq as illegal.[93] Theorist Francis Fukuyama has argued that “the Iraq war and the close association it created between military invasion and democracy promotion tarnished the latter”.[94]

The invasion[edit]

Destroyed remains of Iraqi tanks near Al Qadisiyah.

US Marines escort captured enemy prisoners to a holding area in the desert of Iraq on 21 March 2003.

US soldiers at the Hands of Victory monument in Baghdad

The first Central Intelligence Agency team entered Iraq on 10 July 2002.[95] This team was composed of members of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and was later joined by members of the US military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).[96] Together, they prepared for the invasion of conventional forces. These efforts consisted of persuading the commanders of several Iraqimilitary divisions to surrender rather than oppose the invasion, and to identify all of the initial leadership targets during very high risk reconnaissance missions.[96]

Most importantly, their efforts organized the Kurdish Peshmerga to become the northern front of the invasion. Together this force defeated Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan before the invasion and then defeated the Iraqi army in the north.[96][97]The battle against Ansar al-Islam led to the death of a substantial number of militants and the uncovering of a chemical weapons facility at Sargat.[95][98]

At 5:34 a.m. Baghdad time on 20 March 2003 (9:34 p.m., 19 March EST) the surprise[99] military invasion of Iraq began.[100] There was no declaration of war.[101] The 2003 invasion of Iraq, led byUS Army General Tommy Franks, under the codename “Operation Iraqi Freedom”,[102] the UK codename Operation Telic, and the Australian codename Operation Falconer. Coalition forces also cooperated with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north. Approximately forty other governments, the “Coalition of the Willing,” participated by providing troops, equipment, services, security, and special forces, with 248,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from Special Forces unit GROMsent to Kuwait for the invasion.[103] The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 70,000.[104]

Iraqi tank on Highway 27 destroyed in April 2003

According to General Tommy Franks, the objectives of the invasion were, “First, end the regime of Saddam Hussein. Second, to identify, isolate and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Third, to search for, to capture and to drive out terrorists from that country. Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to terrorist networks. Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction. Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens. Seventh, to secure Iraq’s oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people. And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to a representative self-government.”[105]

Map of the invasion routes and major operations/battles of the Iraq War as of 2007.

The invasion was a quick and decisive operation encountering major resistance, though not what the US, British and other forces expected. The Iraqi regime had prepared to fight both a conventional and irregular war at the same time, conceding territory when faced with superior conventional forces, largely armored, but launching smaller scale attacks in the rear using fighters dressed in civilian and paramilitary clothes. Since the initiation of the war in Iraq, numerous programs were created to “enhance psychological resilience and prevent psychological morbidity in troops.” [106]

Coalition troops launched air and amphibious assault on the Al-Faw peninsula to secure the oil fields there and the important ports, supported by warships of the Royal Navy, Polish Navy, and Royal Australian Navy. The United States Marine Corps15th  Marine Expeditionary Unit, attached to 3 Commando Brigade and the PolishSpecial Forces unit GROM attacked the port of Umm Qasr, while theBritish Army‘s 16 Air Assault Brigade secured the oil fields in southern Iraq.

photograph of three Marines entering a partially destroyed stone palace with a mural of Arabic script

US Marines from 1st Battalion 7th Marines enter a palace during the Fall of Baghdad.

The heavy armor of the US 3rd Infantry Division moved westward and then northward through the western desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force moved more easterly along Highway 1 through the center of the country, and 1 (UK) Armoured Division moved northward through the eastern marshland. The US 1st Marine Division fought through Nasiriyah in a battle to seize the major road junction and nearby Talil Airfield. The United States Army 3rd Infantry Division defeated Iraqi forces entrenched in and around the airfield.

With the Nasiriyah and Talil Airfields secured in its rear, the 3rd Infantry Division supported by 101st Airborne Division continued its attack north toward Najaf and Karbala, but a severe sand storm slowed the coalition advance and there was a halt to consolidate and make sure the supply lines were secure. When they started again they secured the Karbala Gap, a key approach to Baghdad, then secured the bridges over the Euphrates River, and US forces poured through the gap on to Baghdad. In the middle of Iraq, the 1st Marine Division fought its way to the eastern side of Baghdad, and prepared for the attack into Baghdad to seize it.[107]

In the north, OIF‑1 used the largest special operations force since the successful attack on the Taliban government ofAfghanistan just over a year earlier.

On 9 April, Baghdad fell, ending Saddam’s 24‑year rule. US forces seized the deserted Ba’ath Party ministries and stage-managed[108] the tearing down of a huge iron statue of Saddam, photos and video of which became symbolic of the event, although later controversial. Not seen in the photos or heard on the videos, shot with a zoom lens, was the chant of the inflamed crowd for Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric.[109] In November 2008, Iraqi protesters staged a similar stomping on and burning of an effigy of George W. Bush.[110] The abrupt fall of Baghdad was accompanied by a widespread outpouring of gratitude toward the invaders, but also massive civil disorder, including the looting of public and government buildings and drastically increased crime.[111][112]

According to the Pentagon, 250,000 short tons (230,000 t) (of 650,000 short tons (590,000 t) total) of ordnance was looted, providing a significant source of ammunition for the Iraqi insurgency. The invasion phase concluded when Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, fell with little resistance to the US Marines of Task Force Tripoli.

In the invasion phase of the war (19 March–30 April), an estimated 9,200 Iraqi combatants were killed by coalition forces along with an estimated 3,750 non-combatants, i.e. civilians who did not take up arms.[113] Coalition forces reported the death in combat of 139 US military personnel[114] and 33 UK military personnel.[115]

Post-invasion phase[edit]

2003: Beginnings of insurgency[edit]

A Marine Corps M1 Abrams tank patrols a Baghdad street after its fall in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

18 May 2004: Staff Sgt. Kevin Jessen checks the underside of two anti-tank mines found in a village outside Ad Dujayl in the Sunni Triangle.

Polish GROM forces in sea operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom

Marines from D Company, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion guard detainees prior to loading them into their vehicle

On 1 May 2003, President Bush visited the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincolnoperating a few miles west of San Diego, California. At sunset Bush held his nationally televised “Mission Accomplished” speech, delivered before the sailors andairmen on the flight deck: Bush declared victory due to the defeat of Iraq’s conventional forces.

Nevertheless, Saddam remained at large and significant pockets of resistance remained. After President Bush’s speech, coalition forces noticed a gradually increasing flurry of attacks on its troops in various regions, especially in the “Sunni Triangle“.[116] The initial Iraqi insurgents were supplied by hundreds of weapons caches created before the invasion by the Iraqi army and Republican Guard.

Initially, Iraqi resistance (described by the coalition as “Anti-Iraqi Forces”) largely stemmed from fedayeen and Saddam/Ba’ath Party loyalists, but soon religious radicals and Iraqis angered by the occupation contributed to the insurgency. The three provinces with the highest number of attacks were Baghdad, Al Anbar, andSalah Ad Din. Those three provinces account for 35% of the population, but as of 5 December 2006, were responsible for 73% of U.S. military deaths and an even higher percentage of recent U.S. military deaths (about 80%.)[117]

Insurgents used guerrilla tactics including: mortars, missiles, suicide attacks,snipers, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, small arms fire (usually with assault rifles), and RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), as well as sabotage against the petroleum, water, and electrical infrastructure.

Post-invasion Iraq coalition efforts commenced after the fall of Saddam’s regime. The coalition nations, together with the United Nations, began to work to establish a stable, compliant democratic state capable of defending itself from non-coalition forces, as well as overcoming internal divisions.[118][119]

Meanwhile, coalition military forces launched several operations around the TigrisRiver peninsula and in the Sunni Triangle. A series of similar operations were launched throughout the summer in the Sunni Triangle. Toward the end of 2003, the intensity and pace of insurgent attacks began to increase. A sharp surge in guerrilla attacks ushered in an insurgent effort that was termed the “Ramadan Offensive“, as it coincided with the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

To counter this offensive, coalition forces begin to use air power and artillery again for the first time since the end of the invasion by striking suspected ambush sites and mortar launching positions. Surveillance of major routes, patrols, and raids on suspected insurgents were stepped up. In addition, two villages, including Saddam’s birthplace of al-Auja and the small town of Abu Hishma were surrounded by barbed wire and carefully monitored.

Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraq Survey Group[edit]

Occupation zones in Iraq as of September 2003.

Shortly after the invasion, the multinational coalition created the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA; Arabic: سلطة الائتلاف الموحدة‎), based in the Green Zone, as a transitional government of Iraq until the establishment of a democratic government. Citing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 (22 May 2003) and the laws of war, the CPA vested itself withexecutive, legislative, and judicial authority over the Iraqi government from the period of the CPA’s inception on 21 April 2003, until its dissolution on 28 June 2004.

The CPA was originally headed by Jay Garner, a former US military officer, but his appointment lasted only until 11 May 2003, when President Bush appointed L. Paul Bremer. Bremer served until the CPA’s dissolution in July 2004.

Another group created by the multinational force in Iraq post-invasion was the 1,400-member international Iraq Survey Group who conducted a fact-finding mission to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes. In 2004 the ISG’s Duelfer Report[120] stated that Iraq did not have a viable WMD program.

Capturing former government leaders[edit]

Saddam Hussein being pulled from his hideaway in Operation Red Dawn, 13 December 2003.

Two insurgents in Iraq with SA-7b and SA-14 MANPADS

In the summer of 2003, the multinational forces focused on capturing the remaining leaders of the former government. On 22 July, a raid by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and soldiers from Task Force 20 killed Saddam’s sons (Uday and Qusay) along with one of his grandsons. In all, over 300 top leaders of the former government were killed or captured, as well as numerous lesser functionaries and military personnel.

Most significantly, Saddam Hussein himself was captured on 13 December 2003, on a farm near Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn.[121] The operation was conducted by theUnited States Army‘s 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121. Intelligence on Saddam’s whereabouts came from his family members and former bodyguards.[122]

With the capture of Saddam and a drop in the number of insurgent attacks, some concluded the multinational forces were prevailing in the fight against the insurgency. The provisional government began training the new Iraqi security forces intended to police the country, and the United States promised over $20 billion in reconstruction money in the form of credit against Iraq’s future oil revenues. Oil revenue was also used for rebuilding schools and for work on the electrical and refining infrastructure.

Shortly after the capture of Saddam, elements left out of the Coalition Provisional Authority began to agitate for elections and the formation of an Iraqi Interim Government. Most prominent among these was the Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Coalition Provisional Authority opposed allowing democratic elections at this time.[123] The insurgents stepped up their activities. The two most turbulent centers were the area around Fallujahand the poor Shia sections of cities from Baghdad (Sadr City) to Basra in the south.

2004: Insurgency expands[edit]

Main article: 2004 in Iraq
See also: Military operations of the Iraq War for a list of all Coalition operations for this period, 2004 in Iraq, Iraqi coalition counter-insurgency operations, Iraqi insurgency (2003–11), United States occupation of Fallujah, Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004
File:Apache-killing-Iraq.avi.ogg

Footage from the gun camera of a U.S. Apache helicopter killing suspected Iraqi insurgents.[124]

Coalition Provisional Authoritydirector L. Paul Bremer signs over sovereignty to the appointed Iraqi Interim Government, 28 June 2004.

The start of 2004 was marked by a relative lull in violence. Insurgent forces reorganised during this time, studying the multinational forces’ tactics and planning a renewed offensive. However, violence did increase during the Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004 with foreign fighters from around the Middle East as well as al-Qaeda in Iraq (an affiliated al-Qaeda group), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi helping to drive the insurgency.[citation needed]

As the insurgency grew there was a distinct change in targeting from the coalition forces towards the new Iraqi Security Forces, as hundreds of Iraqi civilians and police were killed over the next few months in a series of massive bombings. An organized Sunni insurgency, with deep roots and both nationalist and Islamist motivations, was becoming more powerful throughout Iraq. The Shia Mahdi Armyalso began launching attacks on coalition targets in an attempt to seize control from Iraqi security forces. The southern and central portions of Iraq were beginning to erupt in urban guerrilla combat as multinational forces attempted to keep control and prepared for a counteroffensive.

A USMC M-198 artillery piece firing outside Fallujah in October 2004.

The most serious fighting of the war so far began on 31 March 2004, when Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah ambushed aBlackwater USA convoy led by four U.S.private military contractors who were providing security for food caterers Eurest Support Services.[125] The four armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Michael Teague, were killed with grenades and small arms fire. Subsequently, their bodies were dragged from their vehicles by local people, beaten, set ablaze, and their burned corpses hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates.[126] Photos of the event were released to news agencies worldwide, causing a great deal of indignation and moral outrage in the United States, and prompting an unsuccessful “pacification” of the city: the First Battle of Fallujah in April 2004.

The offensive was resumed in November 2004 in the bloodiest battle of the war so far: the Second Battle of Fallujah, described by the U.S. military as “the heaviest urban combat (that they had been involved in) since the battle of Hue City inVietnam.”[127] During the assault, U.S. forces used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against insurgent personnel, attracting controversy. The 46‑day battle resulted in a victory for the coalition, with 95 U.S. soldiers killed along with approximately 1,350 insurgents. Fallujah was totally devastated during the fighting, though civilian casualties were low, as they had mostly fled before the battle.[128]

Another major event of that year was the revelation of widespread prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib which received international media attention in April 2004. First reports of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, as well as graphic pictures showing U.S. military personnel taunting and abusing Iraqi prisoners, came to public attention from a 60 Minutes II news report (28 April) and a Seymour M. Hersh article in The New Yorker (posted online on 30 April.)[129] Military correspondentThomas Ricks claimed that these revelations dealt a blow to the moral justifications for the occupation in the eyes of many people, especially Iraqis, and was a turning point in the war.[130]

2004 also marked the beginning of Military Transition Teams in Iraq, which were teams of U.S. military advisors assigned directly to New Iraqi Army units.

2005: Elections and transitional government[edit]

Further information: 2005 in Iraq and Military transition team

Convention center for Council of Representatives of Iraq

On 31 January, Iraqis elected the Iraqi Transitional Government in order to draft a permanent constitution. Although some violence and a widespread Sunni boycottmarred the event, most of the eligible Kurd and Shia populace participated. On 4 February, Paul Wolfowitz announced that 15,000 U.S. troops whose tours of duty had been extended in order to provide election security would be pulled out of Iraq by the next month.[131] February to April proved to be relatively peaceful months compared to the carnage of November and January, with insurgent attacks averaging 30 a day from the prior average of 70.

The Battle of Abu Ghraib on 2 April 2005 was an attack on United States forces at Abu Ghraib prison, which consisted of heavy mortar and rocket fire, under which armed insurgents attacked with grenades, small arms, and two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). The U.S. force’s munitions ran so low that orders to fix bayonets were given in preparation for hand-to-hand fighting. An estimated 80–120 armed insurgents launched a massive coordinated assault on the U.S. military facility and internment camp at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. It was considered to be the largest coordinated assault on a U.S. base since the Vietnam War.[132]

Hopes for a quick end to the insurgency and a withdrawal of US troops were dashed in May, Iraq’s bloodiest month since the invasion. Suicide bombers, believed to be mainly disheartened Iraqi Sunni Arabs, Syrians and Saudis, tore through Iraq. Their targets were often Shia gatherings or civilian concentrations of Shias. As a result, over 700 Iraqi civilians died in that month, as well as 79 U.S. soldiers.

The summer of 2005 saw fighting around Baghdad and at Tall Afar in northwestern Iraq as U.S. forces tried to seal off the Syrian border. This led to fighting in the autumn in the small towns of the Euphrates valley between the capital and that border.[133]

A referendum was held on 15 October in which the new Iraqi constitution was ratified. An Iraqi national assembly waselected in December, with participation from the Sunnis as well as the Kurds and Shia.[133]

Insurgent attacks increased in 2005 with 34,131 recorded incidents, compared to a total 26,496 for the previous year.[134]

2006: Civil war and permanent Iraqi government[edit]

The beginning of 2006 was marked by government creation talks, growing sectarian violence, and continuous anti-coalition attacks. Sectarian violence expanded to a new level of intensity following the al-Askari Mosque bombing in the Iraqi city of Samarra, on 22 February 2006. The explosion at the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Shi’a Islam, is believed to have been caused by a bomb planted by al-Qaeda.

Although no injuries occurred in the blast, the mosque was severely damaged and the bombing resulted in violence over the following days. Over 100 dead bodies with bullet holes were found on 23 February, and at least 165 people are thought to have been killed. In the aftermath of this attack the U.S. military calculated that the average homicide rate in Baghdad tripled from 11 to 33 deaths per day. In 2006 the UN described the environment in Iraq as a “civil war-like situation”.[135]

On March 12, five United States Army soldiers of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, raped the 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer Qassim Hamza al‑Janabi, and then murdered her, her father, her mother Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and her six-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. The soldiers then set fire to the girl’s body to conceal evidence of the crime.[136]Four of the soldiers were convicted of rape and murder and the fifth was convicted of lesser crimes for the involvement in the war crime, that became known as the Mahmudiyah killings.[137][138]

Nouri al-Maliki meets with George W. Bush, June 2006

On 6 June 2006, the United States was successful in tracking Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a targeted killing, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) north of Baqubah. Having been tracked by a British UAV, radio contact was made between the controller and two United States Air Force F-16C jets which identified the house and at 14:15 GMT, the lead jet dropped two 500‑pound (230 kg) guided bombs, a laser-guided GBU‑12 and GPS-guided GBU‑38 on the building where he was located at. Six others—three male and three female individuals—were also reported killed. Among those killed were one of his wives and their child.

The current government of Iraq took office on 20 May 2006, following approval by themembers of the Iraqi National Assembly. This followed the general election in December 2005. The government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government which had continued in office in a caretaker capacity until the formation of the permanent government.

Iraq Study Group report and Saddam’s execution[edit]

The Iraq Study Group Report was released on 6 December 2006. Iraq Study Group, made up of people from both of the major U.S. parties, was led by co-chairs James Baker, a former Secretary of State (Republican), and Lee H. Hamilton, a former U.S. Representative (Democrat). It concluded that “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating” and “U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end.” The report’s 79 recommendations include increasing diplomatic measures with Iran and Syria and intensifying efforts to train Iraqi troops. On 18 December, a Pentagon report found that insurgent attacks were averaging about 960 attacks per week, the highest since the reports had begun in 2005.[139]

Coalition forces formally transferred control of a province to the Iraqi government, the first since the war. Military prosecutors charged eight U.S. Marines with the murders of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November 2005, 10 of them women and children. Four officers were also charged with dereliction of duty in relation to the event.[140]

Saddam Hussein was hanged on 30 December 2006, after being found guilty of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court after a year-long trial.[141]

2007: U.S. troops surge[edit]

President George W. Bush announces the new strategy on Iraq from the White House Library, 10 January 2007.

In a 10 January 2007, televised address to the US public, Bush proposed 21,500 more troops for Iraq, a job program for Iraqis, more reconstruction proposals, and $1.2 billion for these programs.[142] On 23 January 2007, in the 2007 State of the Union Address, Bush announced “deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq”.

On 10 February 2007, David Petraeus was made commander of Multi-National Force – Iraq(MNF-I), the four-star post that oversees all coalition forces in country, replacing GeneralGeorge Casey. In his new position, Petraeus oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq and employed them in the new “Surge” strategy outlined by the Bush administration.[143][144]2007 also saw a sharp increase in insurgent chlorine bombings.

On 10 May 2007, 144 Iraqi Parliamentary lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal.[145] On 3 June 2007, the Iraqi Parliament voted 85 to 59 to require the Iraqi government to consult with Parliament before requesting additional extensions of the UN Security Council Mandate for Coalition operations in Iraq.[146] Despite this, the mandate was renewed on 18 December 2007, without the approval of the Iraqi parliament.[147]

Pressures on US troops were compounded by the continuing withdrawal of coalition forces.[citation needed] In early 2007,British Prime Minister Blair announced that following Operation Sinbad British troops would begin to withdraw from Basra Governorate, handing security over to the Iraqis.[148] In July Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also announced the withdrawal of 441 Danish troops from Iraq, leaving only a unit of nine soldiers manning four observational helicopters.[149]

Planned troop reduction[edit]

In a speech made to Congress on 10 September 2007, Petraeus “envisioned the withdrawal of roughly 30,000 U.S. troops by next summer, beginning with a Marine contingent [in September].”[150] On 13 September, Bush backed a limited withdrawal of troops from Iraq.[151] Bush said 5,700 personnel would be home by Christmas 2007, and expected thousands more to return by July 2008. The plan would take troop numbers back to their level before the surge at the beginning of 2007.

Effects of the surge on security[edit]

U.S. soldiers take cover during afirefight with insurgents in the Al Dourasection of Baghdad 7 March 2007.

By March 2008, violence in Iraq was reported curtailed by 40–80%, according to a Pentagon report.[152] Independent reports[153][154] raised questions about those assessments. An Iraqi military spokesman claimed that civilian deaths since the start of the troop surge plan were 265 in Baghdad, down from 1,440 in the four previous weeks. The New York Times counted more than 450 Iraqi civilians killed during the same 28‑day period, based on initial daily reports from Iraqi Interior Ministry and hospital officials.

Historically, the daily counts tallied by the New York Times have underestimated the total death toll by 50% or more when compared to studies by the United Nations, which rely upon figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry and morgue figures.[155]

The rate of U.S. combat deaths in Baghdad nearly doubled to 3.14 per day in the first seven weeks of the “surge” in security activity, compared to previous period. Across the rest of Iraq it decreased slightly.[156][157]

On 14 August 2007, the deadliest single attack of the whole war occurred. Nearly 800 civilians were killed by a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks on the northern Iraqi settlement of Kahtaniya. More than 100 homes and shops were destroyed in the blasts. U.S. officials blamed al‑Qaeda. The targeted villagers belonged to the non-Muslim Yazidi ethnic minority. The attack may have represented the latest in a feud that erupted earlier that year when members of the Yazidi community stoned to death a teenage girl called Du’a Khalil Aswad accused of dating a Sunni Arab man and converting to Islam. The killing of the girl was recorded on camera-mobiles and the video was uploaded onto the internet.[158][159][160][161]

On 13 September 2007, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed in a bomb attack in the city of Ramadi.[162] He was an important U.S. ally because he led the “Anbar Awakening“, an alliance of Sunni Arab tribes that opposed al-Qaeda. The latter organisation claimed responsibility for the attack.[163] A statement posted on the Internet by the shadowy Islamic State of Iraq called Abu Risha “one of the dogs of Bush” and described Thursday’s killing as a “heroic operation that took over a month to prepare”.[164]

A graph of U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq March 2003 – July 2010, the orange and blue months are the period of the troop surge and its aftermath.

There was a reported trend of decreasing U.S. troop deaths after May 2007,[165] and violence against coalition troops had fallen to the “lowest levels since the first year of the American invasion”.[166]These, and several other positive developments, were attributed to the surge by many analysts.[167]

Data from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies such as theGovernment Accountability Office (GAO) found that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq remained “about the same” since February. The GAO also stated that there was no discernible trend in sectarian violence.[168] However, this report ran counter to reports to Congress, which showed a general downward trend in civilian deaths and ethno-sectarian violence since December 2006.[169] By late 2007, as the U.S. troop surge began to wind down, violence in Iraq had begun to decrease from its 2006 highs.[170]

Entire neighborhoods in Baghdad were ethnically cleansed by Shia and Sunni militias and sectarian violence has broken out in every Iraqi city where there is a mixed population.[171][172][173] Investigative reporter Bob Woodward cites U.S. government sources according to which the U.S. “surge” was not the primary reason for the drop in violence in 2007–2008. Instead, according to that view, the reduction of violence was due to newer covert techniques by U.S. military and intelligence officials to find, target and kill insurgents, including working closely with former insurgents.[174]

In the Shia region near Basra, British forces turned over security for the region to Iraqi Security Forces. Basra is the ninth province of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be returned to local security forces’ control since the beginning of the occupation.[175]

Political developments[edit]

Official Iraq-benchmark of the Congress, 2007.

More than half of the members of Iraq’s parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country for the first time. 144 of the 275 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition that would require the Iraqi government to seek approval from Parliament before it requests an extension of the UN mandate for foreign forces to be in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2008. It also calls for a timetable for troop withdrawal and a freeze on the size of foreign forces. The UN Security Council mandate for U.S.‑led forces in Iraq will terminate “if requested by the government of Iraq.”[176] Under Iraqi law, the speaker must present a resolution called for by a majority of lawmakers.[177] 59% of those polled in the U.S. support a timetable for withdrawal.[178]

In mid-2007, the Coalition began a controversial program to recruit Iraqi Sunnis (often former insurgents) for the formation of “Guardian” militias. These Guardian militias are intended to support and secure various Sunni neighborhoods against the Islamists.[179]

Tensions with Iran[edit]

In 2007, tensions increased greatly between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan due to the latter’s giving sanctuary to the militant Kurdish secessionist group Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK.) According to reports, Iran had been shelling PEJAK positions in Iraqi Kurdistan since 16 August. These tensions further increased with an alleged border incursion on 23 August by Iranian troops who attacked several Kurdish villages killing an unknown number of civilians and militants.[180]

Coalition forces also began to target alleged Iranian Quds force operatives in Iraq, either arresting or killing suspected members. The Bush administration and coalition leaders began to publicly state that Iran was supplying weapons, particularly EFP devices, to Iraqi insurgents and militias although to date have failed to provide any proof for these allegations. Further sanctions on Iranian organizations were also announced by the Bush administration in the autumn of 2007. On 21 November 2007, Lieutenant General James Dubik, who is in charge of training Iraqi security forces, praised Iran for its “contribution to the reduction of violence” in Iraq by upholding its pledge to stop the flow of weapons, explosives and training of extremists in Iraq.[181]

Tensions with Turkey[edit]

Border incursions by PKK militants based in Northern Iraq have continued to harass Turkish forces, with casualties on both sides. In the fall of 2007, the Turkish military stated their right to cross the Iraqi Kurdistan border in “hot pursuit” of PKK militants and began shelling Kurdish areas in Iraq and attacking PKK bases in the Mount Cudi region with aircraft.[182][183]The Turkish parliament approved a resolution permitting the military to pursue the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan.[184] In November, Turkish gunships attacked parts of northern Iraq in the first such attack by Turkish aircraft since the border tensions escalated.[185] Another series of attacks in mid-December hit PKK targets in the Qandil, Zap, Avashin and Hakurk regions. The latest series of attacks involved at least 50 aircraft and artillery and Kurdish officials reported one civilian killed and two wounded.[186]

Additionally, weapons that were given to Iraqi security forces by the U.S. military are being recovered by authorities in Turkey after being used by PKK in that state.[187]

Blackwater private security controversy[edit]

On 17 September 2007, the Iraqi government announced that it was revoking the license of the U.S. security firmBlackwater USA over the firm’s involvement in the killing of eight civilians, including a woman and an infant,[188] in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade.

2008: Civil war continues[edit]

Further information: 2008 in Iraq

Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 14th Iraqi Army division graduate from basic training.

Throughout 2008, U.S. officials and independent think tanks began to point to improvements in the security situation, as measured by key statistics. According to the U.S. Defense Department, in December 2008 the “overall level of violence” in the country had dropped 80% since before the surge began in January 2007, and the country’s murder rate had dropped to prewar levels. They also pointed out that the casualty figure for U.S. forces in 2008 was 314 against a figure of 904 in 2007.[189]

According to the Brookings Institution, Iraqi civilian fatalities numbered 490 in November 2008 as against 3,500 in January 2007, whereas attacks against the coalition numbered somewhere between 200 and 300 per week in the latter half of 2008, as opposed to a peak of nearly 1,600 in summer 2007. The number of Iraqi security forces killed was under 100 per month in the second half of 2008, from a high of 200 to 300 in summer 2007.[190]

Meanwhile, the proficiency of the Iraqi military increased as it launched a spring offensive against Shia militias which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had previously been criticized for allowing to operate. This began with a March operation against theMehdi Army in Basra, which led to fighting in Shia areas up and down the country, especially in the Sadr City district of Baghdad. By October, the British officer in charge of Basra said that since the operation the town had become “secure” and had a murder rate comparable to Manchester in England.[191] The U.S. military also said there had been a decrease of about a quarter in the quantity of Iranian-made explosives found in Iraq in 2008, possibly indicating a change in Iranian policy.[192]

Progress in Sunni areas continued after members of the Awakening movement were transferred from U.S. military to Iraqi control.[193] In May, the Iraqi army – backed by coalition support – launched an offensive in Mosul, the last major Iraqi stronghold of al-Qaeda. Despite detaining thousands of individuals, the offensive failed to lead to major long-term security improvements in Mosul. At the end of the year, the city remained a major flashpoint.[194][195]

3D Map of southern Turkey and northern Iraq.

In the regional dimension, the ongoing conflict between Turkey and PKK[196][197][198]intensified on 21 February, when Turkey launched a ground attack into the Quandeel Mountains of Northern Iraq. In the nine-day-long operation, around 10,000 Turkish troops advanced up to 25 km into Northern Iraq. This was the first substantial ground incursion by Turkish forces since 1995.[199][200]

Shortly after the incursion began, both the Iraqi cabinet and the Kurdistan regional government condemned Turkey’s actions and called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the region.[201] Turkish troops withdrew on 29 February.[202]The fate of the Kurds and the future of the ethnically diverse city of Kirkuk remained a contentious issue in Iraqi politics.

U.S. military officials met these trends with cautious optimism as they approached what they described as the “transition” embodied in the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement which was negotiated throughout 2008.[189] The commander of the coalition, U.S. General Raymond T. Odierno, noted that “in military terms, transitions are the most dangerous time” in December 2008.[189]

Spring offensives on Shia militias[edit]

An Iraqi soldier and vehicles from the 42nd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division during a firefight with armed militiamen in the Sadr City district of Baghdad 17 April 2008.

At the end of March, the Iraqi Army, with Coalition air support, launched an offensive, dubbed “Charge of the Knights”, in Basra to secure the area from militias. This was the first major operation where the Iraqi Army did not have direct combat support from conventional coalition ground troops. The offensive was opposed by the Mahdi Army, one of the militias, which controlled much of the region.[203][204]Fighting quickly spread to other parts of Iraq: including Sadr City, Al Kut, Al Hillahand others. During the fighting Iraqi forces met stiff resistance from militiamen in Basra to the point that the Iraqi military offensive slowed to a crawl, with the high attrition rates finally forcing the Sadrists to the negotiating table.

Following talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods brigades of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the intercession of the Iranian government, on 31 March 2008, al‑Sadr ordered his followers to ceasefire.[205] The militiamen kept their weapons.

By 12 May 2008, Basra “residents overwhelmingly reported a substantial improvement in their everyday lives” according to the New York Times. “Government forces have now taken over Islamic militants’ headquarters and halted the death squads and ‘vice enforcers’ who attacked women, Christians, musicians, alcohol sellers and anyone suspected of collaborating with Westerners”, according to the report; however, when asked how long it would take for lawlessness to resume if the Iraqi army left, one resident replied, “one day”.[204]

In late April roadside bombings continued to rise from a low in January—from 114 bombings to more than 250, surpassing the May 2007 high.

Congressional testimony[edit]

General David Petraeus in testimony before Congress on 8 April 2008.

Speaking before the Congress on 8 April 2008, General David Petraeus urged delaying troop withdrawals, saying, “I’ve repeatedly noted that we haven’t turned any corners, we haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel,” referencing the comments of then President Bush and former Vietnam-era General William Westmoreland.[206] When asked by the Senate if reasonable people could disagree on the way forward, Petraeus said, “We fight for the right of people to have other opinions.”[207]

Upon questioning by then Senate committee chair Joe Biden, Ambassador Crocker admitted that Al‑Qaeda in Iraq was less important than the Al Qaeda organization led byOsama bin Laden along the Afghan-Pakistani border.[208] Lawmakers from both parties complained that U.S. taxpayers are carrying Iraq’s burden as it earns billions of dollars in oil revenues.

Iraqi security forces rearm[edit]

An Iraqi Army unit prepares to board a Task Force Baghdad UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for a counterinsurgency mission in Baghdadin 2007.

Iraq became one of the top current purchasers of U.S. military equipment with their army trading its AK‑47 assault rifles for the U.S. M‑16 and M‑4 rifles, among other equipment.[209] In 2008 alone, Iraq accounted for more than $12.5 billion of the$34 billion U.S. weapon sales to foreign countries (not including the potential F-16 fighter planes.).[210]

Iraq sought 36 F‑16s, the most sophisticated weapons system Iraq has attempted to purchase. The Pentagon notified Congress that it had approved the sale of 24 American attack helicopters to Iraq, valued at as much as $2.4 billion. Including the helicopters, Iraq announced plans to purchase at least $10 billion in U.S. tanks and armored vehicles, transport planes and other battlefield equipment and services. Over the summer, the Defense Department announced that the Iraqi government wanted to order more than 400 armored vehicles and other equipment worth up to$3 billion, and six C-130J transport planes, worth up to $1.5 billion.[211][212] From 2005 to 2008, the United States had completed approximately $20 billion in arms sales agreements with Iraq.[213]

Status of forces agreement[edit]

The U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was approved by the Iraqi government on 4 December 2008.[214] It establishes that U.S. combat forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by 30 June 2009, and that all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by 31 December 2011. The pact is subject to possible negotiations which could delay withdrawal and a referendum scheduled for mid-2009 in Iraq which may require all U.S. forces to completely leave by the middle of 2010.[215][216] The pact requires criminal charges for holding prisoners over 24 hours, and requires a warrant for searches of homes and buildings that are not related to combat.[217]

U.S. contractors working for U.S. forces will be subject to Iraqi criminal law, while contractors working for the State Department and other U.S. agencies may retain their immunity. If U.S. forces commit still undecided “major premeditated felonies” while off-duty and off-base, they will be subject to the still undecided procedures laid out by a joint U.S.‑Iraq committee if the United States certifies the forces were off-duty.[218][219][220][221]

Some Americans have discussed “loopholes”[222] and some Iraqis have said they believe parts of the pact remain a “mystery”.[223] U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has predicted that after 2011 he would expect to see “perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops” as part of a residual force in Iraq.[224]

Several groups of Iraqis protested the passing of the SOFA accord[225][226][227] as prolonging and legitimizing the occupation. Tens of thousands of Iraqis burned an effigy of George W. Bush in a central Baghdad square where U.S. troops five years previously organized a tearing down of a statue of Saddam Hussein.[108][223][228] Some Iraqis expressed skeptical optimism that the U.S. would completely end its presence by 2011.[229] On 4 December 2008, Iraq’s presidential council approved the security pact.[214]

A representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al‑Sistani’s expressed concern with the ratified version of the pact and noted that the government of Iraq has no authority to control the transfer of occupier forces into and out of Iraq, no control of shipments, and that the pact grants the occupiers immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. He said that Iraqi rule in the country is not complete while the occupiers are present, but that ultimately the Iraqi people would judge the pact in a referendum.[228] Thousands of Iraqi have gathered weekly after Friday prayers and shouted anti‑U.S. and anti-Israeli slogans protesting the security pact between Baghdad and Washington. A protester said that despite the approval of the Interim Security pact, the Iraqi people would break it in a referendum next year.[230]

2009: Coalition redeployment[edit]

Further information: 2009 in Iraq

Transfer of Green Zone[edit]

Aerial view of the Green Zone, Baghdad International Airport, and the contiguous Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.

On 1 January 2009, the United States handed control of the Green Zoneand Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace to the Iraqi government in a ceremonial move described by the country’s prime minister as a restoration of Iraq’s sovereignty. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would propose 1 January be declared national “Sovereignty Day”. “This palace is the symbol of Iraqi sovereignty and by restoring it, a real message is directed to all Iraqi people that Iraqi sovereignty has returned to its natural status”, al‑Maliki said.

The U.S. military attributed a decline in reported civilians deaths to several factors including the U.S.‑led “troop surge”, the growth of U.S.-funded Awakening Councils, and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s call for his militia to abide by a cease fire.[231]

Provincial elections[edit]

Election map. Shows what was the largest list in every governorate.

On 31 January, Iraq held provincial elections.[232] Provincial candidates and those close to them faced some political assassinations and attempted assassinations, and there was also some other violence related to the election.[233][234][235][236]

Iraqi voter turnout failed to meet the original expectations which were set and was the lowest on record in Iraq,[237] but U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker characterized the turnout as “large”.[238] Of those who turned out to vote, some groups complained of disenfranchisement and fraud.[237][239][240] After the post-election curfew was lifted, some groups made threats about what would happen if they were unhappy with the results.[241]

File:President Obama's speech at Camp Lejeune on 2009-02-27.ogv

US President Barack Obama delivering a speech at Camp Lejeune on 27 February 2009.

Exit strategy announcement[edit]

On 27 February, United States President Barack Obama gave a speech at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in the US state of North Carolina announcing that the US combat mission in Iraq would end by 31 August 2010. A “transitional force” of up to 50,000 troops tasked with training the Iraqi Security Forces, conductingcounterterrorism operations, and providing general support may remain until the end of 2011, the president added.[242]

The day before Obama’s speech, Prime Minister of Iraq Nuri al‑Maliki said at a press conference that the government of Iraq had “no worries” over the impending departure of U.S. forces and expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces and police to maintain order without US military support.[243]

Sixth anniversary protests[edit]

On 9 April, the 6th anniversary of Baghdad’s fall to coalition forces, tens of thousands of Iraqis thronged Baghdad to mark the anniversary and demand the immediate departure of coalition forces. The crowds of Iraqis stretched from the Sadr City slum in northeast Baghdad to the square around 5 km (3.1 mi) away, where protesters burned an effigy featuring the face of U.S. President George W. Bush.[244] There were also Sunni Muslims in the crowd. Police said many Sunnis, including prominent leaders such as a founding sheikh from the Sons of Iraq, took part.[245]

Coalition forces withdraw[edit]

On 30 April, the United Kingdom formally ended combat operations. Prime Minister Gordon Brown characterized the operation in Iraq as a “success story” because of UK troops’ efforts. Britain handed control of Basra to the United States Armed Forces.[246]

On 28 July, Australia withdrew its combat forces as the Australian military presence in Iraq ended, per an agreement with the Iraqi government.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces began at the end of June, with 38 bases to be handed over to Iraqi forces. On 29 June 2009, U.S. forces withdrew from Baghdad. On 30 November 2009, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials reported that the civilian death toll in Iraq fell to its lowest level in November since the 2003 invasion.[247]

Iraq awards oil contracts[edit]

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard personnel stand guard aboard the Al Basrah Oil Terminal in July 2009.

On 30 June and again on 11 December, the Iraqi ministry of oil awarded contracts to international oil companies for some of Iraq’s many oil fields. The winning oil companies enter joint ventures with the Iraqi ministry of oil, and the terms of the awarded contracts include extraction of oil for a fixed fee of approximately $1.40 per barrel.[248][249][250] The fees will only be paid once a production threshold set by the Iraqi ministry of oil is reached.

2010: U.S. drawdown and Operation New Dawn [edit]

On 17 February 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that as of 1 September, the name “Operation Iraqi Freedom” would be replaced by “Operation New Dawn”.[251]

On 18 April, US and Iraqi forces killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq in a joint American and Iraqi operation near Tikrit, Iraq.[252] The coalition forces believed al-Masri to be wearing a suicide vest and proceeded cautiously. After the lengthy exchange of fire and bombing of the house, the Iraqi troops stormed inside and found two women still alive, one of whom was al-Masri’s wife, and four dead men, identified as al-Masri, Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi, an assistant to al-Masri, and al-Baghdadi’s son. A suicide vest was indeed found on al-Masri’s corpse, as the Iraqi Army subsequently stated.[253] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference in Baghdad and showed reporters photographs of their bloody corpses. “The attack was carried out by ground forces which surrounded the house, and also through the use of missiles,” Mr Maliki said. “During the operation computers were seized with e-mails and messages to the two biggest terrorists, Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman al-Zawahiri”, Maliki added. U.S. forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno praised the operation. “The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al‑Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency”, he said. “There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden stated that the deaths of the top two al‑Qaeda figures in Iraq are “potentially devastating” blows to the terror network there and proof that Iraqi security forces are gaining ground.[254]

On 20 June, Iraq’s Central Bank was bombed in an attack that left 15 people dead and brought much of downtown Baghdad to a standstill. The attack was claimed to have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq. This attack was followed by another attack on Iraq’s Bank of Trade building that killed 26 and wounded 52 people.[255]

Iraqi commandos training under the supervision of soldiers from the US82nd Airborne in December 2010.

In late August 2010, insurgents conducted a major attack with at least 12 car bombs simultaneously detonating from Mosul to Basra and killing at least 51. These attacks coincided with the U.S. plans for a withdrawal of combat troops.[256]

From the end of August 2010, the United States attempted to dramatically cut its combat role in Iraq, with the withdrawal of all US ground forces designated for active combat operations. The last US combat brigades departed Iraq in the early morning of 19 August. Convoys of US troops had been moving out of Iraq to Kuwait for several days, and NBC News broadcast live from Iraq as the last convoy crossed the border. While all combat brigades left the country, an additional 50,000 personnel (including Advise and Assist Brigades) remained in the country to provide support for the Iraqi military.[257][258] These troops are required to leave Iraq by 31 December 2011 under an agreement between the US and Iraqi governments.[259]

The desire to step back from an active counter-insurgency role did not however mean that the Advise and Assist Brigades and other remaining US forces would not be caught up in combat. A standards memo from the Associated Press reiterated “combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials”.[260]

State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley stated “…we are not ending our work in Iraq, We have a long-term commitment to Iraq.”[261] On 31 August, Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom from the Oval Office. In his address, he covered the role of the United States’ soft power, the effect the war had on the United States economy, and the legacy of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.[262]

On the same day in Iraq, at a ceremony at one of Saddam Hussein‘s former residences at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, a number of US dignitaries spoke in a ceremony for television cameras, avoiding overtones of the triumphalism present in US announcements made earlier in the war. Vice President Joe Biden expressed concerns regarding the ongoing lack of progress in forming a new Iraqi government, saying of the Iraqi people that “they expect a government that reflects the results of the votes they cast”. Gen. Ray Odierno stated that the new era “in no way signals the end of our commitment to the people of Iraq”. Speaking in Ramadi earlier in the day, Gates said that U.S. forces “have accomplished something really quite extraordinary here, [but] how it all weighs in the balance over time I think remains to be seen”. When asked by reporters if the seven-year war was worth doing, Gates commented that “It really requires a historian’s perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run”. He noted the Iraq War “will always be clouded by how it began” in regards Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, which were never confirmed to have existed. Gates continued, “This is one of the reasons that this war remains so controversial at home”.[263] On the same day Gen. Ray Odierno was replaced by Lloyd Austin as Commander of US forces in Iraq.

Alabama Army National Guard MP, MSG Schur, during a joint community policing patrol in Basra, 3 April 2010.

On 7 September, two US troops were killed and nine wounded in an incident at an Iraqi military base. The incident is under investigation by Iraqi and US forces, but it is believed that an Iraqi soldier opened fire on US forces.[264]

On 8 September, the U.S. Army announced the arrival in Iraq of the first specifically-designated Advise and Assist Brigade, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. It was announced that the unit would assume responsibilities in five southern provinces.[265] From 10–13 September, Second Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division fought Iraqi insurgents near Diyala.

According to reports from Iraq, hundreds of members of the Sunni Awakening Councils may have switched allegiance back to the Iraqi insurgency or al Qaeda.[266]

Wikileaks disclosed 391,832 classified U.S. military documents on the Iraq War.[267][268][269] Approximately, 58 people were killed with another 40 wounded in an attack on the Sayidat al‑Nejat church, a Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq organization.[270]

Coordinated attacks in primarily Shia areas struck throughout Baghdad on 2 November, killing approximately 113 and wounding 250 with around 17 bombs.[271]

Iraqi security forces transition towards self-reliance[edit]

Preparing to buy $13 billion worth of American arms, the Iraq Defense Ministry intends to transform the country’s degraded conventional forces into a state-of-the-art military and become among the world’s biggest customers for American military arms and equipment. Part of the planned purchase includes 140 M1 Abrams main battle tanks. Iraqi crews have already begun training on them. In addition to the $13 billion purchase, the Iraqis have requested 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons as part of a $4.2 billion program that also includes aircraft training and maintenance, AIM‑9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs and reconnaissance equipment.[272] If approved by Congress, the first aircraft could arrive in spring 2013. Under the plan, the first 10 pilots would be trained in the United States.[273]

The Iraqi navy also inaugurated U.S.‑built Swift Class patrol boat at Umm Qasr, Iraq’s main port at the northern end of the gulf. Iraq is to take delivery of 14 more of these $20 million, 50‑foot craft before U.S. forces depart. The high-speed vessels’ main mission will be to protect the oil terminals at al‑Basra and Khor al-Amiya through which some 1.7 million barrels a day are loaded into tankers for export. Two U.S.‑built offshore support vessels, each costing $70 million, were expected to be delivered in 2011.[272]

M1 Abrams tanks in Iraqi service, January 2011

The United States Department of Defense had issued notification of an additional $100 million proposed sales of arms from the US to Iraq. General Dynamics is to be the prime contractor on a $36 million deal for the supply of ammunition for Iraq’s Abrams M1 A1 tanks. The sale consists of: 14,010 TP-T M831A1 120mm Cartridges; 16,110 TPCSDS-T M865 120mm Cartridges; and 3,510 HEAT-MP-T M830A1 120mm Cartridges. Raytheon is proposed as the prime contractor for a $68 million package of “Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Systems”.[274]

UN lifts restrictions on Iraq[edit]

In a move to legitimize the existing Iraqi government, the United Nations lifted the Saddam Hussein-era UN restrictions on Iraq. These included allowing Iraq to have a civilian nuclear program, permitting the participation of Iraq in international nuclear and chemical weapons treaties, as well as returning control of Iraq’s oil and gas revenue to the government and ending the Oil-for-Food Programme.[275]

2011: U.S. withdrawal[edit]

Further information: 2011 in Iraq

U.S. troops in Iraq and US casualties by month, 2003-2011.

Muqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq in the holy city of Najaf to lead the Sadrist movement after being in exile since 2007.[276]

On 15 January 2011, three U.S. troops were killed in Iraq. One of the troops was killed on a military operation in central Iraq, while the other two troops were deliberately shot by one or two Iraqi soldiers during a training exercise.[277]

On 6 June, five U.S. troops were killed in an apparent rocket attack on Camp Victory, located near Baghdad International Airport.[278] A sixth soldier, who was wounded in the attack, died 10 days later of his wounds.[279]

On 29 June, three U.S. troops were killed in a rocket attack on a U.S. base located near the border with Iran. It was speculated that the militant group responsible for the attack was the same one which attacked Camp Victory just over three weeks before.[280] With the three deaths, June 2011, became the bloodiest month in Iraq for the U.S. military since June 2009, with 15 U.S. soldiers killed, only one of them outside combat.[281]

In September, Iraq signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes, becoming the 26th nation to operate the F-16. Because of windfall profits from oil, the Iraqi government is planning to double this originally planned 18, to 36 F-16s. Iraq is relying on the U.S. military for air support as it rebuilds its forces and battles a stubborn Islamist insurgency.[282]

With the collapse of the discussions about extending the stay of any U.S. troops beyond 2011, where they would not be granted any immunity from the Iraqi government, on 21 October 2011, President Obama announced at a White House press conference that all remaining U.S. troops and trainers would leave Iraq by the end of the year as previously scheduled, bringing the U.S. mission in Iraq to an end.[283] The last American soldier to die in Iraq before the withdrawal was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on 14 November.[284]

In November 2011, the U.S. Senate voted down a resolution to formally end the war by bringing its authorization by Congress to an end.[285]

U.S. and Kuwaiti troops closing the gate between Kuwait and Iraq on 18 December 2011.

The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on 18 December, although the US embassy and consulates continue to maintain a staff of more than 20,000 including USMarine Embassy Guards and between 4,000 and 5,000 private military contractors.[286][287] The next day, Iraqi officials issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashemi. He has been accused of involvement in assassinations and fled to the Kurdish part of Iraq.[288]

Aftermath – post U.S.-withdrawal[edit]

16 February 2015 military situation:

  Controlled by Iraqi government
  Controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)
  Controlled by Iraqi Kurds
  Controlled by Syrian government
  Controlled by Syrian rebels
  Controlled by Syrian Kurds

Despite the elimination of a repressive single-party cult of personality state, the invasion and occupation led to sectarian violence which caused widespread displacement among Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi Red Crescent organization estimated the total internal displacement was around 2.3 million in 2008, and as many as 2 million Iraqis leaving the country. Poverty led many Iraqi women to turn to prostitution to support themselves and their families, attracting sex tourists from regional lands. The invasion led to a constitution which supported democracy as long as laws did not violate traditional Islamic principles, and a parliamentary election was held in 2005. In addition the invasion preserved the autonomy of the Kurdish region, and stability brought new economic prosperity. Because the Kurdish region is historically the most democratic area of Iraq, many Iraqi refugees from other territories fled into the Kurdish land.[289]

Iraqi insurgency surged in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal. The terror campaigns have since been engaged by Iraqi, primarily radical Sunni, insurgent groups against the central government and the warfare between various factions within Iraq. The events of post U.S. withdrawal violence succeeded the previous insurgency in Iraq (prior to 18 December 2011), but have showed different patterns, raising concerns that the surging violence might slide into another civil war. Some 1,000 people were killed across Iraq within the first two months after U.S. withdrawal.

Sectarian violence continued in the first half of 2013— at least 56 people died in April when a Sunni protest in Hawija was interrupted by a government-supported helicopter raid and a series of violent incidents occurred in May. On 20 May 2013, at least 95 people died in a wave of car bomb attacks that was preceded by a car bombing on 15 May that led to 33 deaths; also, on 18 May, 76 people were killed in the Sunni areas of Baghdad. Some experts have stated that Iraq could return to the brutal sectarian conflict of 2006.[290][291]

On 22 July 2013, at least five hundred convicts, most of whom were senior members of al-Qaida who had received death sentences, broke out of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail when comrades launched a military-style assault to free them. The attack began when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into prison gates.[292] James F. Jeffrey, the United States ambassador in Baghdad when the last American troops exited, said the assault and resulting escape “will provide seasoned leadership and a morale boost to Al Qaeda and its allies in both Iraq and Syria … it is likely to have an electrifying impact on the Sunni population in Iraq, which has been sitting on the fence.”[293]

By mid-2014 the country was in chaos with a new government yet to be formed following national elections, and the insurgency reaching new heights. In early June 2014 the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and said it was ready to march on Baghdad, while Iraqi Kurdish forces took control of key military installations in the major oil city of Kirkuk. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked his parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him increased powers, but the lawmakers refused.[294]

In the summer of 2014 President Obama announced the return of U.S. Forces to Iraq, but only in the form of aerial support, in an effort to halt the advance of ISIS forces, render humanitarian aid to stranded refugees and stabilize the political situation.[295] On 14 August 2014, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki succumbed to pressure at home and abroad to step down. This paved the way for Haidar al-Abadi to take over On 19 August 2014. In what was claimed to be revenge for the aerial bombing ordered by President Obama, ISIS, which by this time had changed their name to the Islamic State, beheaded an American journalist, James Foley, who had been kidnapped two years previously. Despite U.S. bombings and breakthroughs on the political front, Iraq remained in chaos with the Islamic State consolidating its gains, and sectarian violence continuing unabated. On 22 August 2014, suspected Shia militants opened fire on a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers, killing 70 worshippers. Separately, Iraqi forces in helicopters killed 30 Sunni fighters in the town of Dhuluiya.[296] A day later, apparently in retaliation for the attack on the mosque, three bombings across Iraq killed 35 people.[297]

Casualty estimates[edit]

Wounded U.S. personnel flown from Iraq to Ramstein, Germany, for medical treatment (February 2007).

Marines unload a wounded comrade from an Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for medical treatment at Al Qaim.

For coalition death totals see the infobox at the top right. See also Casualties of the Iraq War, which has casualty numbers for coalition nations, contractors, non-Iraqi civilians, journalists, media helpers, aid workers, and the wounded. Casualty figures, especially Iraqi ones, are highly disputed.

There have been several attempts by the media, coalition governments and others to estimate the Iraqi casualties. The table below summarizes some of these estimates and methods.

Source Iraqi casualties March 2003 to …
Iraq Family Health Survey 151,000 violent deaths. June 2006
Lancet survey 601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths. June 2006
Opinion Research Business survey 1,033,000 violent deaths from the conflict. August 2007
Iraqi Health Ministry 87,215 violent deaths per death certificates issued.
Deaths prior to January 2005 unrecorded.
Ministry estimates up to 20% more deaths are undocumented.
January 2005 to
February 2009
Associated Press 110,600 violent deaths.
Health Ministry death certificates plus AP estimate of casualties for 2003–2004.
April 2009
Iraq Body Count 105,052–114,731 violent civilian deaths.
compiled from commercial news media, NGO and official reports.
Over 162,000 civilian and combatant deaths
January 2012
WikiLeaks. Classified Iraq war logs 109,032 violent deaths including 66,081 civilian deaths. January 2004 to
December 2009

Criticism and cost[edit]

A local memorial in North Carolina in December 2007; U.S. casualty count can be seen in the background.[298]

The Bush Administration’s rationale for the Iraq War has faced heavy criticism from an array of popular and official sources both inside and outside the United States, with many U.S. citizens finding many parallels with the Vietnam War.[299] For example, a former CIA officer described the Office of Special Plans as a group ofideologues who were dangerous to U.S. national security and a threat to world peace, and stated that the group lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam.[300] The Center for Public Integrity alleges that theBush administration made a total of 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq’s alleged threat to the United States.[301]

Both proponents and opponents of the invasion have also criticized the prosecution of the war effort along a number of other lines. Most significantly, critics have assailed the United States and its allies for not devoting enough troops to the mission, not adequately planning for post-invasion Iraq, and for permitting and perpetrating human rights abuses. As the war has progressed, critics have also railed against the high human and financial costs.

  States participating in the invasion of Iraq
  States in support of an invasion
  States in opposition to an invasion
  States with an uncertain or no official standpoint

Criticisms include:

After President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, some anti-war groups decided to stop protesting even though the war was still going on. Some of them decided to stop because they felt they should give the new President time to establish his administration, and others stopped because they believed that Obama would end the war.[316]

Financial cost[edit]

The financial cost of the war has been more than £4.55 billion ($9 billion) to the UK,[317] and over $845 billion to the US government. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes it costs the United States $720 million a day to wage the Iraq war. This number takes into account the long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware.[318]

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University.[319] Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the US economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion[320] to $6 trillion,[321] including interest rates, by 2053.

A CNN report noted that the United States-led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8.8 billion in the Development Fund for Iraq. In June 2011, it was reported by CBS News that $6 billion in neatly packaged blocks of $100 bills was air-lifted into Iraq by the George W. Bush administration, which flew it into Baghdad aboard C‑130 military cargo planes. In total, the Times says $12 billion in cash was flown into Iraq in 21 separate flights by May 2004, all of which has disappeared. An inspector general’s report mentioned that “‘Severe inefficiencies and poor management’ by the Coalition Provisional Authority would leave no guarantee that the money was properly used”, said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. “The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure that funds were used in a transparent manner.”[322] Bowen told the Times the missing money may represent “the largest theft of funds in national history.”[323]

Humanitarian crises[edit]

Child killed by a car bomb in Kirkuk, July 2011

The child Malnutrition rate rose to 28%.[324] Some 60–70% of Iraqi children were reported to be suffering from psychological problems in 2007.[325] Most Iraqis had no access to safe drinking water. A cholera outbreak in northern Iraq was thought to be the result of poor water quality.[326] As many as half of Iraqi doctors left the country between 2003 and 2006.[327] The use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by the U.S. military has been blamed for birth defects and cancers in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.[328][329][330] A study entitled “Birth defects in Iraq and the plausibility of environmental exposure: A review” was completed to review the impact of other war-related environmental factors on birth defects in Iraq.[331]

As of 2011, nearly 3 million Iraqis have been displaced, with 1.3 million within the Iraq and 1.6 million in neighboring countries, mainly Jordan and Syria.[332] More than half of Iraqi Christians have fled to neighboring countries since the start of the war.[333][334]

The Foreign Policy Association reported that “Perhaps the most perplexing component of the Iraq refugee crisis…has been the inability for the United States to absorb more Iraqis following the 2003 invasion of the country. To date, the United States has granted around 84,000 Iraqis refugee status, of the more than two million global Iraqi refugees. By contrast, the United States granted asylum to more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War.”[335][336][337]

Human rights abuses[edit]

Throughout the entire Iraq war, there have been human rights abuses on all sides of the conflict.

Iraqi government[edit]

Coalition forces and private contractors[edit]

This photograph released in 2006 shows several naked Iraqis in hoods, of whom one has the words “I’m a rapeist” [sic] written on his hip.

Insurgent groups[edit]

Car bombings are a frequently used tactic by insurgents in Iraq.

  • Killing over 12,000 Iraqis from January 2005 to June 2006, according to Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, giving the first official count for the victims of bombings, ambushes and other deadly attacks.[347] The insurgents have also conducted numerous suicide attacks on the Iraqi civilian population, mostly targeting the majority Shia community.[348][349] An October 2005 report fromHuman Rights Watch examines the range of civilian attacks and their purported justification.[350]
  • Attacks against civilians including children through bombing of market places and other locations reachable by suicide bombers.
  • Attacks against civilians by sectarian death squads primarily during the Iraqi Civil war.
  • Attacks on diplomats and diplomatic facilities including; the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 killing the top UN representative in Iraq and 21 other UN staff members;[351] beheading several diplomats: two Algerian diplomatic envoys Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi,[352] Egyptian diplomatic envoy al-Sherif,[353] and four Russian diplomats.[354]
  • The February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari Mosque, destroying one of the holiest Shiite shrines, killing over 165 worshipers and igniting sectarian strife and reprisal killings.[355]
  • The publicised killing of several contractors; Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley, Kenneth Bigley, Ivaylo Kepov and Georgi Lazov (Bulgarian truck drivers.)[356] Other non-military personnel murdered include: translator Kim Sun-il, Shosei Koda,Fabrizio Quattrocchi (Italian), charity worker Margaret Hassan, reconstruction engineer Nick Berg, photographer Salvatore Santoro (Italian)[357] and supply worker Seif Adnan Kanaan (Iraqi.) Four private armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague, were killed with grenades and small arms fire, their bodies dragged from their vehicles, beaten and set ablaze. Their burned corpses were then dragged through the streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates.[358]
  • Torture or killing of members of the New Iraqi Army,[359] and assassination of civilians associated with the Coalition Provisional Authority, such as Fern Holland, or the Iraqi Governing Council, such as Aqila al-Hashimi and Ezzedine Salim, or other foreign civilians, such as those from Kenya.[360]

Public opinion on the war[edit]

International opinion[edit]

According to a January 2007 BBC World Service poll of more than 26,000 people in 25 countries, 73% of the global population disapproved of U.S. handling of the Iraq War.[361] A September 2007 poll conducted by the BBC found that two-thirds of the world’s population believed the U.S. should withdraw its forces from Iraq.[362]

In 2006 it was found that majorities in the UK and Canada believed that the war in Iraq was “unjustified” and – in the UK – were critical of their government’s support of U.S. policies in Iraq.[363]

According to polls conducted by the Arab American Institute, four years after the invasion of Iraq, 83% of Egyptians had a negative view of the U.S. role in Iraq; 68% of Saudi Arabians had a negative view; 96% of the Jordanian population had a negative view; 70% of the population of the United Arab Emirates and 76% of the Lebanese population also described their view as negative.[364] The Pew Global Attitudes Project reports that in 2006 majorities in the Netherlands, Germany, Jordan,France, Lebanon, Russia, China, Canada, Poland, Pakistan, Spain, Indonesia, Turkey, and Morocco believed the world was safer before the Iraq War and the toppling of Saddam, while pluralities in the United States and India believe the world is safer without Saddam Hussein.[365]

Iraqi opinion[edit]

A woman pleads with an Iraqi armysoldier from 2nd Company, 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division to let a suspected insurgent free during a raid near Tafaria, Iraq

Directly after the invasion, polling suggested that a slight majority supported the US invasion.[366] Polls conducted between 2005 and 2007 showed 31–37% of Iraqi’s wanted US and other Coalition forces to withdraw once security was restored and that 26–35% wanted immediate withdrawal instead.[367][368][369] Despite a majority having previously been opposed to the US presence, 60% of Iraqis opposed American troops leaving directly prior to withdrawal, with 51% saying withdrawal would have a negative effect.[370][371] In 2006, a poll conducted on the Iraqi public revealed that 64% of the ones polled said Iraq was going in the right direction and 77% claimed it was worth ousting Saddam Hussein.[367]

Relation to the Global War on Terrorism[edit]

Former President George W. Bush consistently referred to the Iraq war as “the central front in the War on Terror“, and argued that if the United States pulled out of Iraq, “terrorists will follow us here”.[372][373][374] While other proponents of the war have regularly echoed this assertion, as the conflict has dragged on, members of the US Congress, the US public, and even US troops have questioned the connection between Iraq and the fight against anti-US terrorism. In particular, a consensus has developed among intelligence experts that the Iraq war has increased terrorism. Counterterrorism expertRohan Gunaratna frequently refers to the invasion of Iraq as a “fatal mistake”.[375]

London’s conservative International Institute for Strategic Studies concluded in 2004 that the occupation of Iraq had become “a potent global recruitment pretext” for Mujahideen and that the invasion “galvanised” al-Qaeda and “perversely inspired insurgent violence” there.[376] The US National Intelligence Council concluded in a January 2005 report that the war in Iraq had become a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists; David Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, indicated that the report concluded that the war in Iraq provided terrorists with “a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills … There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries.” The Council’s chairman Robert Hutchings said, “At the moment, Iraq is a magnet for international terrorist activity.”[377] And the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, which outlined the considered judgment of all 16 US intelligence agencies, held that “The Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.”[378]

Foreign involvement[edit]

Role of Saudi Arabia and non-Iraqis[edit]

According to studies, most of the suicide bombers in Iraq are foreigners, especially Saudis.[379][380][381]

Iranian involvement[edit]

Although some military intelligence analysts have concluded there is no concrete evidence, U.S. Major General Rick Lynch has claimed that Iran has provided training, weapons, money, and intelligence to Shiite insurgents in Iraq and that up to 150 Iranian intelligence agents, plus members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are believed to be active in Iraq at any given time.[382][383] Lynch thinks that members of the Iranian Quds Force and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have trained members of the Qazali terror network in explosives technology and also provided the network with arms, munitions, and military advisors. Many explosive devices, including improvised explosives (IEDs) and explosively-formed projectiles (EFPs), used by insurgents are claimed by Lynch to be Iranian-made or designed.

According to two unnamed US officials, the Pentagon is examining the possibility that the Karbala provincial headquarters raid, in which insurgents managed to infiltrate an American base, kill five US soldiers, wound three, and destroy three humvees before fleeing, was supported by Iranians. In a speech on 31 January 2007, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikistated that Iran was supporting attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq[384] and some Iraqis suspect that the raid may have been perpetrated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps‘s Qods Force in retaliation for the detention of five Iranian officials by U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on 11 January.[385][386]

Michael Weiss and Dexter Filkins have described the extensive involvement of Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani in arming and training both Sunni and Shi’ite militias in Iraq. According to Weiss, Iranian strategy was designed to prevent the Iraqi government from functioning so that Iran could exert greater control over the country under the guise of providing stability. Weiss also traced the origins of al Qaeda in Iraq, which entered Iraqi Kurdistan through Iran, to covert Iranian operations to destabilize the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.[387] According to a Western diplomat quoted by Filkins: “Suleimani wanted to bleed the Americans, so he invited in the jihadis, and things got out of control.”[388] In 2011, US ambassador James Jeffrey stated that Iranian proxies were responsible for roughly one-fourth of US casualties in Iraq.[389]

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
أبو بكر البغدادي
File:Baghdadi.png
Emir of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
Incumbent
Assumed office
16 May 2010
(Then known as Islamic State of Iraq)[1]
Preceded by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi
Personal details
Born 1971 (age 42-43)[2]
SamarraIraq[2]
Religion Sunni Islam
Military service
Allegiance al-Qaeda (formerly)[3]
Commands Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
Battles/wars Iraqi Insurgency
Syrian Civil War
2014 Northern Iraq offensive

Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri (Arabicابراهيم عواد ابراهيم علي البدري‎), most commonly known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (أبو بكر البغدادي), and also asIbrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, or Dr. Ibrahim, or Abu Dua (أبو دعاء),[4] is the leader of the militant Islamist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), alternatively translated as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).[5]

The formation of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant was announced on 8 April 2013 in a statement by al-Baghdadi. It is the successor to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) militant group (aka Al-Qaeda in Iraq or AQI), which was theIraqi division of the international Islamist militant organization al-Qaeda.

On 4 October 2011, the US State Department listed al-Baghdadi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and announced a reward of $10 million for information leading to his capture or death. Only Ayman al-Zawahiri, chief of the global al-Qaeda organization, merits a larger reward ($25 million).[8]

Background

Al-Baghdadi is believed to have been born in SamarraIraq in 1971. Reports suggest that he was a cleric in a mosque in the city at around the time of the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He holds a PhD in Islamic studies from a university in Baghdad.[10]

His name is a nom de guerre.

Militant activity

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Baghdadi reportedly led several smaller militant groups before being promoted to a seat on the Majlis al-Shura of the mujahideen and the judicial council of the Islamic State of Iraq.[11]

In 2014, it was reported that Al-Baghdadi was in US custody in 2005, and was held at Camp Bucca, a US-controlled detention facility in Iraq, until he was transferred to Iraqi control in 2009under an agreement signed by PresidentGeorge W. Bush the previous year.[14] However, according to US Department of Defense records, al-Baghdadi was held as a “civilian internee” at Camp Bucca by US Forces-Iraq from early February 2004 until early December 2004 when he was released. A Combined Review and Release Board recommended the “unconditional release” of al-Baghdadi and there is no record of him being detained by the US at any other time.[15]

Al-Baghdadi was announced as the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq on 16 May 2010, following the death of his predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in a raid the month before.[1] He continued to lead the group upon its formal expansion into Syria on 8 April 2013,[6] the organization later adopting the name Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—alternatively translated from the Arabic as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He is in charge of running all ISIS activity in Iraq.

As leader of the ISI, al-Baghdadi was responsible for managing and directing large-scale operations such as the 28 August 2011 attack on the Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad that killed prominent Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi.[7] Between March and April 2011, the ISI claimed 23 attacks south of Baghdad, all of which were alleged to have been carried out under al-Baghdadi’s command.[7]

Following the US commando raid on 2 May 2011 in AbbottabadPakistan that killed al-Qaeda supreme leader Osama bin Laden, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogizing bin Laden and threatened violent retaliation for his death.[7] On 5 May 2011, al-Baghdadi claimed responsibility for an attack in Hilla that killed 24 policemen and wounded 72 others.[7]

On 15 August 2011, a wave of ISI suicide attacks beginning in Mosul resulted in 70 deaths.[7] Shortly thereafter, the ISI pledged on its website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq in retaliation for bin Laden’s death.[7] It stated that this campaign would feature various methods of attack, including raids, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and small arms attacks, in all cities and rural areas across the country.[7]

On 22 December 2011, a series of coordinated car bombings and IED attacks struck over a dozen neighborhoods across Baghdad, killing at least 63 people and wounding 180; the assault came just days after the US completed its troop withdrawal from the country.[16] On 26 December, the ISI released a statement on jihadist internet forums claiming credit for the operation, stating that all targets of the Baghdad attack were “accurately surveyed and explored” and that the “operations were distributed between targeting security headquarters, military patrols and gatherings of the filthy ones of the al-Dajjal Army (Muqtada al-Sadr‘s Mahdi Army)”.[16]

Dispute with al-Qaeda

When the formation of ISIS was announced in April 2013, al-Baghdadi stated that the Syrian Civil War jihadist faction, Jabhat al-Nusra, had been an extension of the ISI in Syria, and was now to be merged with ISIS.[6][17] The leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani, disputed this merging of the two groups and appealed to al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri, who issued a statement that ISIS should be abolished and that al-Baghdadi should confine his group’s activities to Iraq.[18] Al-Baghdadi, however, dismissed al-Zawahiri’s ruling and took control of a reported 80% of Jabhat al-Nusra’s foreign fighters.[19] In January 2014, ISIS expelled Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian city of Raqqa, and in the same month clashes between the two in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor Governorate killed hundreds of fighters and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.[20] In February 2014, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIS.[3]

[7.5][islamic group]Islamic State in Iraq & Al Sham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“ISIL” and “ISIS” redirect here. For other uses, see ISIL (disambiguation) and ISIS (disambiguation).
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام  (Arabic)
ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-‘Irāq wash-Shām


Primary participant in:


Primary target of: The Global War on Terrorism, the Military interventions against ISIL, theInterventions in Iraq, the Interventions in Syria, and the Interventions in Libya.

Black Standard adopted by ISIL
Flag Emblem
Motto: باقية وتتمدد
Bāqiyah wa-Tatamaddad
“Remaining and Expanding”[1]
Anthem: أمتي قد لاح فجر
Ummatī, qad lāha fajrun
“My Nation, Dawn Has Appeared”[2][3]
Military situation as of 16 February 2015, in Iraq and Syria (minus the Golan Heights).

  Controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
  Controlled by al-Nusra
  Controlled by other Syrian rebels
  Controlled by Syrian government
  Controlled by Iraqi government
  Controlled by Syrian Kurds
  Controlled by Iraqi Kurds

Note: Syria and Iraq contain large desert areas with limited population. These areas are mapped as under the control of forces holding roads and towns within them.

Map of the current military situation in Iraq
Map of the current military situation in Syria

Administrative center Ar-Raqqah, Syria
(de facto)[4][5]
35°57′N 39°1′E
Largest city Mosul, Iraq
Ideologies Wahhabism[6]
Salafist Jihadism
Salafism[7][8]
Type Rebel group controlling territory

Military strength & operation areas Inside Iraq and Syria
200,000[12] (Kurdish claim)
20,000–31,000 (CIA estimate)
Outside Iraq and Syria
21,000–35,800 (SeeMilitary of ISIL for more-detailed estimates.)
Leaders
 – Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi[13]
 – Deputy leader in Iraq Abu Muslim al-Turkmani  [14][15]
 – Deputy leader in Syria Abu Ali al-Anbari[15]
 – Head of Military Shura Abu Ayman al-Iraqi[16]
 – Spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani[17][18]
 – Field commander Abu Omar al-Shishani[19]
Establishment
 – Formation (as Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād) 1999[20]
 – Joined al-Qaeda October 2004
 – Declaration of an Islamic statein Iraq 13 October 2006
 – Claim of territory in the Levant 8 April 2013
 – Separated from al-Qaeda[21][22] 3 February 2014[23]
 – Declaration of “Caliphate 29 June 2014
 – Claim of territory in Libya,Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia,Yemen, Afghanistan andPakistan 13 November 2014

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL /ˈsəl/) is a jihadistrebel group that controls territory in Iraq and Syria and also operates in eastern Libya, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, and other areas of the Middle East,[24] North Africa, South Asia,[25] and Southeast Asia.[25][26]The group’s Arabic name is transliterated as ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-‘Irāq wash-Shām leading to the Arabic acronym Da‘ish or DAESH(Arabic pronunciation: da:ʕeʃ).[27] The name is also commonly translated as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS /ˈsɪs/).[27] On 29 June 2014, the group proclaimed itself to be a Worldwide Caliphate and renamed itself to theIslamic State (IS), but the new name has been widely criticized and condemned, with the UN, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups refusing to acknowledge it.[28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37]Many Islamic and non-Islamic communities judge the group to be unrepresentative of Islam.[38] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named its “caliph“.[39] As caliphate it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide and that “the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of the khilāfah’s (caliphates’s) authority and arrival of its troops to their areas”.[40][41]

The United Nations has held ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has reported ethnic cleansing by the group on a “historic scale”. The group has beendesignated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, theEuropean Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, India, and Russia. Over 60 countries are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIL.

The group originated as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which was renamed Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn—commonly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)—when the group pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, AQI took part in the Iraqi insurgency. In 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, which shortly afterwards proclaimed the formation of an Islamic state, naming it the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). The ISI gained a significant presence in Al Anbar,Nineveh, Kirkuk and other areas, but around 2008, its violent methods, including suicide attacks on civilian targets and the widespread killing of prisoners, led to a backlash from Sunni Iraqis and other insurgent groups.[a]

The group grew significantly under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and after entering the Syrian Civil War, it established a large presence in Sunni-majority areas of Syria within the governorates of Ar-Raqqah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo.[42] Having expanded into Syria, the group changed its name in April 2013 to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), when al-Baghdadi announced its merger with the Syrian-based group al-Nusra Front. The group remained closely linked to al-Qaeda until February 2014, when after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIL—citing its failure to consult and “notorious intransigence”.[23][43]

ISIL is known for its well-funded web and social media propaganda, which includes Internet videos of the beheadings of soldiers, civilians, journalists, and aid workers. (See ISIL beheading incidents.)

The group gained notoriety after it drove the Iraqi government forces out of key western cities in Iraq while in Syria it conquered and conducted ground attacks against both the government forces and rebel factions in the Syrian Civil War. It gained those territories after an offensive, initiated in early 2014, which senior U.S. military commanders and members of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs saw as a reemergence of Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda militants. This territorial loss implied a failure of U.S. foreign policy and almost caused a collapse of the Iraqi government that required renewal of U.S. action in Iraq.

History

Outline of history – with links to content below

As Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Organization of Monotheism and Jihad)  (1999–2004)
As Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (al-Qaeda in Iraq)  (2004–2006)
As Mujahideen Shura Council  (2006)
As Islamic State of Iraq  (2006–2013)
As Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant  (2013–2014)
As self-proclaimed “Islamic State  (June 2014–present)

Names

The group has had various names since it was established.[47]

  1. The group was founded in 1999 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawiunder the name Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād, “The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad” (JTJ).[20]
  2. In October 2004, al-Zarqawi swore loyalty to Osama bin Ladenand changed the group’s name to Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn, “The Organization of Jihad’s Base in Mesopotamia“, commonly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.(AQI).[47][48] Although the group has never called itself al-Qaeda in Iraq, this has been its informal name over the years.[49]
  3. In January 2006, AQI merged with several other Iraqi insurgent groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council.[50]Al-Zarqawi was killed in June 2006.
  4. On 12 October 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council merged with several more insurgent factions, and on 13 October the establishment of the Dawlat al-ʻIraq al-Islāmīyah, Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) was announced.[51] The leaders of this group were Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri.[52] After they were killed in a US–Iraqi operation in April 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became the new leader of the group.
  5. On 8 April 2013, having expanded into Syria, the group adopted the name Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which more fully translates as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.[53][54][55]These names are translations of the Arabic name al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām,[56][57] al-Shām being a description of the Levant or Greater Syria.[27] The translated names are commonly abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS, with a debate over which of these acronyms should be used.[57][27] The Washington Post concluded that the distinction between the two “is not so great”.”[27]
  6. The name Daʿish is often used by ISIL’s Arabic-speaking detractors. It is based on the Arabic letters dāl, alif, ʻayn, and shīn, which form the acronym (داعش) of ISIL’s Arabic name al-Dawlah al-Islamīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām.[58][59]There are many spellings of this acronym with DAESH gaining acceptance. ISIL considers the name Da’ish derogatory for it sounds similar to the Arabic words Daes, “one who crushes something underfoot,” and Dahes, “one who sows discord.”[60][61]—and reportedly uses flogging as a punishment for those who use the name in ISIL-controlled areas.[62][63]
  7. On 14 May 2014, the United States Department of State announced its decision to use “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) as the group’s primary name.[58] However, in late 2014 top US officials shifted toward DAESH citing it was the preferred term used by Arab partners.[60]
  8. On 29 June 2014, the group renamed itself the Islamic State (IS) and declared itself to be a worldwide “caliphate“.[39][64][65] “Accordingly, the “Iraq and Shām” in the name of the Islamic State is henceforth removed from all official deliberations and communications, and the official name is the Islamic State from the date of this declaration.” This name and the idea of a caliphate has been widely criticized, with the UN, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups refusing to use it.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][66]

Foundation of the group (1999–2006)

A screenshot from the 2004 hostage video, where Nick Berg was beheadedby al-Zarqawi’s group.

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Jordanian Salafi Jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his militant group Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, founded in 1999, achieved notoriety in the early stages of the Iraq insurgency, by (suicide) attackingShia Islamic mosques and civilians, Iraqi government institutions, and Italiansoldiers partaking in the U.S.-led ‘Multi-National Force‘.

Armed insurgents in Iraq

Al-Zarqawi’s group in October 2004 it officially pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden‘s al-Qaeda network, changing its name to Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين, “Organization of Jihad’s Base inMesopotamia“), also known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).[21][67][68] Attacks by the group on civilians, Iraqi Government and security forces, foreign diplomats and soldiers, American convoys, continued with roughly the same intensity. In a letter to al-Zarqawi in July 2005, al-Qaeda‘s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri outlined a four-stage plan to expand the Iraq War, which included expelling US forces from Iraq, establishing an Islamic authority, as caliphate, spreading the conflict to Iraq’s secular neighbors, and clash with Israel, which the letter says “was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity”.[69]

In January 2006, AQI merged with several smaller Iraqi insurgent groups under an umbrella organization called the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC). This was claimed by Brian Fishman in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science to be little more than a media exercise and an attempt to give the group a more Iraqi flavour and perhaps to distance al-Qaeda from some of al-Zarqawi’s tactical errors, notably the 2005 bombings by AQI of three hotels in Amman.[70] On 7 June, al-Zarqawi was killed in a US airstrike and was succeeded as leader of the group by the Egyptian militant Abu Ayyub al-Masri.[71][72]

On 12 October 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council united with three smaller groups and six Sunni Islamic tribes to form the “Mutayibeen Coalition”, that swore by Allah “…to rid Sunnis from the oppression of the rejectionists (= Shi’ite Muslims) and the crusader occupiers, … to restore rights even at the price of our own lives… to make Allah’s word supreme in the world, and to restore the glory of Islam…”.[73][74]

On 13 October 2006, the Mujahideen Shura Council declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which should comprise Iraq’s six mostly Sunni Arab governorates,[75] with Abu Omar al-Baghdadi being announced as itsEmir.[51][76] Al-Masri was given the title of Minister of War within the ISI’s ten-member cabinet.[77]

A joint US–Iraqi training exercise near Ramadi in November 2009. The Islamic State of Iraq had declared the city to be its capital.

As Islamic State of Iraq (2006–2013)

Main article: Islamic State of Iraq

According to a study compiled by US intelligence agencies in early 2007, the ISI—also known as AQI—planned to seize power in the central and western areas of the country and turn it into a Sunni Islamic state.[78] The group built in strength and at its height enjoyed a significant presence in the Iraqi governorates of Al Anbar,Nineveh,[citation needed] Kirkuk,[citation needed] most of Salah ad Din,[citation needed] parts ofBabil,[citation needed] Diyala and Baghdad, and claimed Baqubah as a capital city.[79][80][81][82]

However, by late 2007, violent and indiscriminate attacks directed by rogue AQI elements against Iraqi civilians had severely damaged the group’s image and caused a loss of support among the population, thus isolating it.[citation needed] In a major blow to AQI, many former Sunni militants who had previously fought alongside the group started to work with the US armed forces.[citation needed] The US troops surge of 2007 supplied the U.S. military with more manpower for operations targeting the group, resulting in dozens of high-level AQI members being captured or killed.[83]

Between July and October 2007, al-Qaeda in Iraq or ISI seemed to have lost their secure military bases in Anbar provinceand the Baghdad area.[84] During 2008, a series of US and Iraqi offensives managed to drive out the AQI-aligned insurgents from their former safe havens, such as the Diyala and Al Anbar governorates, to the area of the northern city ofMosul, the latest major battleground against ISI.[85]
By 2008, the ISI was describing itself as being in a state of “extraordinary crisis”.[86] Its violent attempts to govern its territory led to a backlash[clarification needed] from Sunni Iraqis and other insurgent groups and a temporary decline in the group,[clarification needed] which was attributable to a number of factors,[87] notably the Anbar Awakening.

In late 2009, the commander of the US forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, stated that the ISI “has transformed significantly in the last two years. What once was dominated by foreign individuals has now become more and more dominated by Iraqi citizens”.[88] On 18 April 2010, the ISI’s two top leaders, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, were killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid near Tikrit.[89] In a press conference in June 2010, General Odierno reported that 80% of the ISI’s top 42 leaders, including recruiters and financiers, had been killed or captured, with only eight remaining at large. He said that they had been cut off from al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan.[90][91][92]

On 16 May 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed as the new leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.[93][94] Al-Baghdadi replenished the group’s leadership, many of whom had been killed or captured, by appointing former Ba’athist military and intelligence officers who had served during the Saddam Hussein regime. These men, nearly all of whom had spent time imprisoned by the US military, came to make up about one-third of Baghdadi’s top 25 commanders. One of them was a former Colonel, Samir al-Khlifawi, also known as Haji Bakr, who became the overall military commander in charge of overseeing the group’s operations.[95][96]

In July 2012, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement online announcing that the group was returning to the former strongholds from which US troops and their Sunni allies had driven them in 2007 and 2008.[97] He also declared the start of a new offensive in Iraq called Breaking the Walls, aimed at freeing members of the group held in Iraqi prisons.[97] Violence in Iraq had begun to escalate in June 2012, primarily by AQI’s car bomb attacks, and by July 2013, monthly fatalities had exceeded 1,000 for the first time since April 2008.[98]

Syrian Civil War (2011–present)

In March 2011, protests began in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad. In the following months, violence between demonstrators and security forces led to a gradual militarisation of the conflict.[99] In August 2011, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi began sending Syrian and Iraqi ISI members experienced in guerilla warfare across the border into Syria in order to establish an organization inside the country. Led by a Syrian known as Abu Muhammad al-Julani, this group began to recruit fighters and establish cells throughout the country.[100][101] On 23 January 2012, the group announced its formation as Jabhat al-Nusra li Ahl as-ShamJabhat al-Nusra—more commonly known as the al-Nusra Front. Al-Nusra grew rapidly into a capable fighting force, with popular support among Syrians opposed to the Assad government.[100]

As Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (2013–2014)

Islamic State fighters in 2014, seen here in Anbar province, with Abu Waheeb in the foreground.

On 8 April 2013, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement in which he announced that the al-Nusra Front had been established, financed, and supported by the Islamic State of Iraq,[102] and that the two groups were merging under the name “Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham”.[53] Al-Jawlani issued a statement denying the merger, and complaining that neither he nor anyone else in al-Nusra’s leadership had been consulted about it.[103] In June 2013, Al Jazeera reported that it had obtained a letter written by al-Qaeda‘s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, addressed to both leaders, in which he ruled against the merger, and appointed an emissary to oversee relations between them to put an end to tensions.[104] In the same month, al-Baghdadi released an audio message rejecting al-Zawahiri’s ruling and declaring that the merger was going ahead.[105] The ISIL campaign to free imprisoned ISIL members culminated in July 2013, with the group carrying out simultaneous raids on Taji and Abu Ghraib prison, freeing more than 500 prisoners, many of them veterans of the Iraqi insurgency.[98][106]
In October 2013, al-Zawahiri ordered the disbanding of ISIL, putting al-Nusra Front in charge of jihadist efforts in Syria,[107]but al-Baghdadi contested al-Zawahiri’s ruling on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence,[105] and his group continued to operate in Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIL.[43]

According to journalist Sarah Birke, there are “significant differences” between the al-Nusra Front and ISIL. While al-Nusra actively calls for the overthrow of the Assad government, ISIL “tends to be more focused on establishing its own rule on conquered territory”. ISIL is “far more ruthless” in building an Islamic state, “carrying out sectarian attacks and imposing sharia law immediately”. While al-Nusra has a “large contingent of foreign fighters”, it is seen as a home-grown group by many Syrians; by contrast, ISIL fighters have been described as “foreign ‘occupiers'” by many Syrian refugees.[108] It has a strong presence in central and northern Syria, where it has instituted sharia in a number of towns.[108] The group reportedly controlled the four border towns of Atmeh, al-Bab, Azaz and Jarablus, allowing it to control the entrance and exit from Syria into Turkey.[108] Foreign fighters in Syria include Russian-speaking jihadists who were part of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar(JMA).[109] In November 2013, the JMA’s Chechen leader Abu Omar al-Shishani swore an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi;[110] the group then split between those who followed al-Shishani in joining ISIL and those who continued to operate independently in the JMA under new leadership.[111]

In January 2014, rebels affiliated with the Islamic Front and the US-trained Free Syrian Army[112] launched an offensive against ISIL militants in and around the city of Aleppo in Syria.[113][114] In May 2014, Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered al-Nusra Front to stop its attacks on its rival, ISIL.[115] In June 2014, after continued fighting between the two groups, al-Nusra’s branch in the Syrian town of Al-Bukamal pledged allegiance to ISIL.[116][117] In mid-June 2014, ISIL captured the Trabil crossing on the Jordan–Iraq border,[118] the only border crossing between the two countries.[119] ISIL has received some public support in Jordan, albeit limited, partly owing to state repression there,[120] but ISIL has undertaken a recruitment drive in Saudi Arabia,[121] where tribes in the north are linked to those in western Iraq and eastern Syria.[122]

As self-proclaimed Islamic State (June 2014–present)

On 29 June 2014, the organization proclaimed a Worldwide Caliphate.[28] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—known by his supporters as Amir al-Mu’minin, Caliph Ibrahim—was named its Caliph, and the group renamed itself the “Islamic State“.[39] As a “Caliphate,” it claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.[29][41] The concept of a Caliphate and the name “Islamic State” has been rejected by governments and Muslim leaders worldwide.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][66]

In June and July 2014, Jordan and Saudi Arabia moved troops to their borders with Iraq, after Iraq lost control of, or withdrew from, strategic crossing points that had then come under the control of ISIL, or tribes that supported ISIL.[119][123]There was speculation that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had ordered a withdrawal of troops from the Iraq–Saudi crossings in order “to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia and bring the threat of ISIS over-running its borders as well”.[122]

In July 2014, ISIL recruited more than 6,300 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some of whom were thought to have previously fought for the Free Syrian Army.[124] Also, on 23 July 2014, Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon swore loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video, along with the rest of the organization, giving ISIL a presence in the Philippines.[26][125] In September 2014, the group began kidnapping people for ransoming, in the name of ISIL.[126]

On 3 August 2014, ISIL captured the cities of Zumar, Sinjar, and Wana in northern Iraq.[127] The need for food and water for thousands of Yazidis, who fled up a mountain out of fear of approaching hostile ISIL militants, and the threat of genocideto Yazidis and others as announced by ISIL, in addition to protecting Americans in Iraq and supporting Iraq in its fight against the group, were reasons for the US to launch a humanitarian mission on 7 August 2014, to aid the Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar[128] and to start an aerial bombing campaign in Iraq on 8 August.

On 11 October 2014, ISIL dispatched 10,000 militants from Syria and Mosul to capture the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad,[129]and Iraqi Army forces and Anbar tribesmen threatened to abandon their weapons if the US did not send in ground troops to halt ISIL’s advance.[130] On 13 October, ISIL fighters advanced to within 25 kilometers—15.5 miles—of Baghdad Airport.[131]

At the end of October 2014, 800 radical militants gained control of the Libyan city of Derna pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, thus making Derna the first city outside Syria and Iraq to be a part of the “Islamic State Caliphate.”[132]On 2 November 2014, according to the Associated Press, in response to the coalition airstrikes, representatives from Ahrar ash-Sham attended a meeting with the al-Nusra Front, the Khorasan Group, ISIL, and Jund al-Aqsa, which sought to unite these hard-line groups against the US-led Coalition and moderate Syrian rebel groups.[133] However, by 14 November 2014, it was revealed that the negotiations had failed.[134] On 10 November 2014, a major faction of the Egyptian militant group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis also pledged its allegiance to ISIL.[135]

In mid-January 2015, it was revealed that ISIL had the dozens in Yemen since December 2014, and that they were coming into direct competition with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with their recruitment drive.[136]

In January 2015, Afghan officials confirmed that ISIL had a military presence in Afghanistan,[137] recruiting over 135 militants by late January. However, by the end of January 2015, 65 of the militants were either captured or killed by theTaliban, and ISIL’s top Afghan recruiter, Mullah Abdul Rauf, was captured by the Taliban.[138][139][140]

In late January 2015, it was revealed that ISIL members infiltrated the European Union and disguised themselves as civilian refugees who were emigrating from the war zones of Iraq and the Levant.[141] An ISIL representative said that ISIL had successfully smuggled 4,000 fighters, and that the smuggled fighters were planning attacks in Europe in retaliation to the airstrikes carried out against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria. However, experts believe that the claim of 4,000 was exaggerated to boost their stature and spread fear, although they acknowledged that some Western countries were aware of the smuggling.[142]

In early February 2015, ISIL militants in Libya managed to capture part of the countryside to the west of Sabha, and later, an area encompassing the cities of Sirte, Nofolia, and a military base to the south of both cities.

On 16 February 2015, Egypt began conducting airstrikes in Libya, in retaliation against ISIL’s beheading of 2 Egyptian Christians. By the end of that day, 64 ISIL militants in Libya had been killed by the airstrikes, including 50 militants in Derna.[143]

Group goals, structure and characteristics

Goals

From at least since 2004, a significant goal of the group has been the foundation of an Islamic state.[144][145] Specifically, ISIL has sought to establish itself as a Caliphate, an Islamic state led by a group of religious authorities under a supreme leader—the Caliph—who is believed to be the successor to Muhammad.[146] In June 2014, ISIL published a document in which it claimed to have traced the lineage of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi back to Muhammad,[146] and upon proclaiming a new Caliphate on 29 June, the group appointed al-Baghdadi as its caliph. As Caliph, he demands the allegiance of all devout Muslims worldwide, according to Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).[147]

Areas controlled (as of 3 February 2015)     Remaining territory in countries with ISIL presence

When the Caliphate was proclaimed, ISIL stated: “The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah’s [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.”[146] This was a rejection of the political divisions in the Middle East that were established by Western powers during World War I in the Sykes–Picot Agreement.[148][149][150]

In late 2014, ISIL claimed that they would humiliate U.S. soldiers in Syria and raise the “flag of Allah” over the White House.[151] ISIL also threatened to “liberate” Istanbul if Turkey did not open a dam that has been limiting the flow of water to Syria and Iraq.[151] Recruits are encouraged to “set out in jihad” if they “desire what God had promised.”[151] Speaking to Westerners, one fighter from Belgium said, “God willing, the Caliphate has been established and we are going to invade you as you invaded us. We will capture your women as you captured our women. We will orphan your children as you orphaned our children.”[151] Also, in late September 2014, it was revealed that ISIL planned to kill 10 million Americans as retribution for their perceived role of America in killing “10 million Muslims.”[152]

Territorial control and provinces

In Iraq and Syria, ISIL uses many of the existing Governorate boundaries to subdivide its claimed territory; it calls these divisions wilayah or provinces.[153] After a series of expansions, as of November 2014, it claims provinces and controls territory in Iraq, Syria, Sinai, and eastern Libya. ISIL also claims provinces and has members in Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan,Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Turkey, but it does not control territory in these areas.

Barqa Province

On 5 October 2014, The Shura Council of Islamic Youth and other militants in Libya were absorbed and designated the Barka Province of ISIL.[154][155] There are 800 fighters reported to be operating within Libya. The Libyan branch of ISIL has been the most active and successful out of all the ISIL branches outside of Iraq and Syria. They appear to be active mainly in the eastern urban centres of Derna and Benghazi. The group was responsible for the 2015 Corinthia Hotel attack, which saw between 9–10 people killed.[156] ISIL forces in Libya have also seized control of the city Derna.

On 4 January 2015, ISIL forces in Libya also seized control of the eastern countryside of Sabha, executing 14 Libyan soldiers in the process.[157][158]

Sinai Province

On 10 November 2014, many members of the group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis took an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL.[159] ISIL supporters from the group describe themselves as “Sinai Province” (Arabic: ولاية سيناء‎ Wilayat Sinai).[160][161] A faction of the Sinai group also operates in the Gaza Strip, which has renamed itself to the Islamic State in Gaza.[162]

When Ansar Bait al-Maqdis was dissolved, a large Sinai-based part of the group pledging allegiance to ISIL assumed the designation Sinai Province of ISIL.[154][163] They are estimated to have 1,000–2,000[26] fighters.[164]

Khorasan Province

On 29 January 2014, Hafiz Saeed Khan and Abdul Rauf swore an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL. Khan was named as the Emir (Governor) of the Province and Rauf as his deputy. The province includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, and “other nearby lands”.[165][166][167][168]

Algerian Province

Members of Jund al-Khilafah swore allegiance to ISIL in September 2014.[24] ISIL in Algeria gained notoriety when it beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel in September 2014. Since then, the group has largely been silent, with reports that its leader Khalid Abu-Sulayman was killed by Algerian forces in December 2014.[169]

Other areas

  • Unidentified militants in Saudi Arabia and Yemen – are described as ISIL provinces[24]
  • Militants of the group Sons of the Call for Tawhid and Jihad (Jordan) pledging allegiance to ISIL
  • Militants of the groups Jundallah,[170] Tehreek-e-Khilafat, and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar[26] (Pakistan) pledging allegiance to ISIL
  • Militants of the group Abu Sayyaf (Philippines, Malaysia)[171] pledging allegiance to ISIL[26]
  • Almost all the commanders of the Caucasus Emirate in Chechnya and Dagestan have switched their allegiance to ISIL.[172]

Leadership and governance

Mugshot of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by US armed forces while in detention at Camp Bucca in 2004

The group is headed and run by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with a cabinet of advisers. There are two deputy leaders, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (KIA) for Iraq and Abu Ali al-Anbari for Syria, and 12 local governors in Iraq and Syria. Beneath the leaders are councils on finance, leadership, military matters, legal matters—including decisions on executions—foreign fighters’ assistance, security, intelligence and media. In addition, a Shura council has the task of ensuring that all decisions made by the governors and councils comply with the group’s interpretation of sharia.[173] The majority of the ISIL’s leadership is dominated by Iraqis, especially among former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime. It has been reported that Iraqis and Syrians have been given greater precedence over other nationalities within ISIL.[174][175][176][177]

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivering a sermon in the Great Mosque of al-Nuriin Mosul (July 2014)

The Wall Street Journal estimated in September 2014 that eight million Iraqis and Syrians live in areas controlled by ISIL.[178] Ar-Raqqah in Syria is the de facto headquarters, and is said to be a test case of ISIL governance.[179] As of September 2014, governance in Ar-Raqqah has been under the total control of ISIL where it has rebuilt the structure of modern government in less than a year. Former government workers from the Assad government maintained their jobs after pledging allegiance to ISIL. Institutions, restored and restructured provided their respective services. The Ar-Raqqah dam continues to provide electricity and water. Foreign expertise supplements Syrian officials in running civilian institutions. Only the police and soldiers are ISIL fighters, who receive confiscated lodging previously owned by non-Sunnis and others who fled. Welfare services are provided, price controls established, and taxes imposed on the wealthy. ISIL runs a soft power program in the areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, which includes social services, religious lectures and da’wah—proselytizing—to local populations. It also performs public services such as repairing roads and maintaining the electricity supply.[180]

British security expert Frank Gardner has concluded that ISIL’s prospects of maintaining control and rule are greater in 2014 than they were in 2006. Despite being as brutal as before, ISIL has become “well entrenched” among the population and is not likely to be dislodged by ineffective Syrian or Iraqi forces. It has replaced corrupt governance with functioning locally controlled authorities, services have been restored and there are adequate supplies of water and oil. With Western-backed intervention being unlikely, the group will “continue to hold their ground” and rule an area “the size of Pennsylvania for the foreseeable future”, he said.[153][181]Further solidifying ISIL rule is the control of wheat production, which is roughly 40% of Iraq’s production. ISIL has maintained food production, crucial to governance and popular support.[182]

Ideology and beliefs

ISIL is a Salafi or Wahhabi extremist group.[183][184] It follows an extreme interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence, and regards those who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates—see takfirism.[7] ISIL has demonstrated that ideology and adherence to Islamic beliefs and laws are secondary to its criminal financial enterprises supporting the group’s activities.[185] ISIL’s philosophy is well represented by the symbolism in the Black Standard variant of the legendary battle flag of Muhammad that it has adopted. The flag shows the seal of the Muhammad within a white circle, with the phrase above it, “There is no God but Allah“.[186] Such symbolism has been said to point to ISIL’s belief that it represents the restoration of the caliphate of early Islam, with all the political, religious and eschatological ramifications that this would imply.[187] Saudi Arabia was criticised by Noam Chomsky in October 2014 of having “long been the major source of funding for ISIS as well as providing its ideological roots” (i.e. Salafism or Wahhabism).[188] According to Owen Jones at The Guardian, “Salafists across the Middle East receive ideological and material backing from within the kingdom” of Saudi Arabia, and America knows this, with Hillary Clinton having called Saudi donors “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.[189] Some people in Saudi Arabia applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite “fire” with Sunni “fire”.[190]

According to some observers, ISIL emerged from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, the first post-Ottoman Islamist group dating back to the late 1920s in Egypt.[191] It adheres to global jihadist principles and follows the hard-line ideology ofal-Qaeda and many other modern-day jihadist groups.[23][7]

However, other sources trace the group’s roots not to the Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood and the more mainstream jihadism of al-Qaeda, but to Wahhabism. The New York Times wrote:

For their guiding principles, the leaders of the Islamic State … are open and clear about their almost exclusive commitment to the Wahhabi movement of Sunni Islam. The group circulates images of Wahhabi religious textbooks from Saudi Arabia in the schools it controls. Videos from the group’s territory have shown Wahhabi texts plastered on the sides of an official missionary van.[192]

ISIL aims to return to the early days of Islam, rejecting all innovations in the religion, which it believes corrupt its original spirit. It condemns later caliphates and the Ottoman Empire for deviating from what it calls pure Islam,[193] and seeks to revive the original Wahhabi project of the restoration of the caliphate governed by strict Salafist doctrine. Following Salafi-Wahhabi tradition, ISIL condemns the followers of secular law as disbelievers, putting the current Saudi government in that category.[194]

Salafists such as ISIL believe that only a legitimate authority can undertake the leadership of jihad, and that the first priority over other areas of combat, such as fighting non-Muslim countries, is the purification of Islamic society. For example, ISIL regards the Palestinian Sunni group Hamas as apostates who have no legitimate authority to lead jihad and it regards fighting Hamas as the first step toward confrontation with Israel.[192][195]

Eschatology

One difference between ISIL and other Islamist and jihadist movements is its emphasis on eschatology and apocalypticism, and its belief that the arrival of the Mahdi is imminent. ISIL believes it will defeat the army of “Rome” at the town of Dabiq in fulfillment of prophecy. According to ISIL, true Islam ceased to exist for over a thousand years and was only restored in 2014 with the declaration of al-Baghdadi as caliph. They argue that one cannot be fully Islamic without pledging allegiance to a true caliph.[196]

Theological objections

According to The New York Times, “All of the most influential jihadist theorists are criticizing the Islamic State as deviant, calling its self-proclaimed caliphate null and void” and have denounced it for its beheading of journalists and aid workers.[192] ISIL is widely denounced by a broad range of Islamic clerics, including al-Qaeda-oriented and Saudi clerics.[192][8]

Sunni critics, including Salafi and jihadist muftis such as Adnan al-Aroor and Abu Basir al-Tartusi, say that ISIL and related terrorist groups are not Sunnis, but modern-day Khawarij—Muslims who have stepped outside the mainstream of Islam—serving an imperial anti-Islamic agenda.[197][198][199][200] Other critics of ISIL’s brand of Sunni Islam include Salafists who previously publicly supported jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda, for example the Saudi government official Saleh Al-Fawzan, known for his extremist views, who claims that ISIL is a creation of “Zionists, Crusaders and Safavids”, and the Jordanian-Palestinian writer Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the former spiritual mentor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was released from prison in Jordan in June 2014 and accuses ISIL of driving a wedge between Muslims.[200]

Non-combatants

Although the Islamic State attracts extremists from different parts of the world by promoting the image of holy war, not all of them end up in combatant roles. There have been several cases of new recruits who expected to be mujihadeen that returned from Syria disappointed by the everyday jobs that had been assigned to them, like drawing water or cleaning toilets, or by the ban imposed on use of mobile phones during military trainings.[201]

ISIL also publishes material directed to women. Although women are not allowed to take up arms, media groups encourage them to play supportive roles within ISIL: providing first aid, cooking, nursing and sewing, to become “good wives of jihad”.[202]

Designation as a terrorist organization

Organisation Date Faction References
Multinational Organizations
 United Nations 18 October 2004 United Nations Security Council [203][204]
 European Union 2004 EU Council (via adoption of UN al-Qaida Sanctions List) [205]
Nations
 United Kingdom March 2001 (as part of al-Qaeda)
20 June 2014 (after separation from al‑Qaeda)
Home Secretary of the Home Office [206]
 United States 17 December 2004 United States Department of State [207]
 Australia 2 March 2005 Attorney-General for Australia [208]
 Canada 20 August 2012 Parliament of Canada [209]
 Turkey 30 October 2013 Grand National Assembly of Turkey [210][211]
 Saudi Arabia 7 March 2014 Royal decree of the King of Saudi Arabia [212]
 Indonesia 1 August 2014 National Counter-terrorism Agency BNPT (id) [213]
 UAE 20 August 2014 UAE Cabinet [214]
 Israel 3 September 2014 Ministry of Defense [215]
 Malaysia 24 September 2014 Ministry of Foreign Affairs [216]
 Egypt 30 November 2014 The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters [217][218]
 India 16 December 2014 Ministry of Home Affairs [219][220]
 Russia 29 December 2014 Supreme Court of Russia [221]

The United Nations Security Council in its Resolution 1267 (1999) described Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda associates as operators of a network of terrorist training camps.[222] The UN’s Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee first listed ISIL in its Sanctions List under the name “Al-Qaida in Iraq” on 18 October 2004, as an entity/group associated with al-Qaeda. On 2 June 2014, the group was added to its listing under the name “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”. The European Unionadopted the UN Sanctions List in 2002.[205]

Many world leaders and government spokespeople have called ISIL a terrorist group or banned it, without their countries having formally designated it as such. Some examples:

The Government of Germany banned ISIL in September 2014. Activities banned include donations to the group, recruiting fighters, holding ISIL meetings and distributing its propaganda, flying ISIL flags, wearing ISIL symbols and all ISIL activities. “The terror organisation Islamic State is a threat to public safety in Germany as well,” de Mazière said. “Today’s ban is directed solely against terrorists who abuse religion for their criminal goals.” The ban does not mean ISIL has been outlawed as a foreign terrorist organisation, as that requires a court judgement.[223]

In October 2014, Switzerland banned ISIL’s activities in the country, including propaganda and financial support of the fighters, with prison sentences as potential penalties.[224]

In mid-December 2014, India banned ISIL, after arresting the operator of a pro-ISIL Twitter account.[225]

Media sources worldwide have also called ISIL a terrorist organization.[226][227][228][229][230]

Human rights abuse and war crime findings

In July 2014, the BBC reported the United Nations‘ chief investigator as stating: “Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) may be added to a list of war crimes suspects in Syria.”[231] By June 2014, according to United Nations reports, ISIL had killed hundreds of prisoners of war[232] and over 1,000 civilians.[233][234][235] In August 2014, the UN accused ISIL of committing “mass atrocities” and war crimes,[236][237] including the mass killing of up to 250 Syrian Armysoldiers near Tabqa Air base.[232] Other known killing of military prisoners took place in Camp Speicher (1,095–1,700 Iraqi soldiers shot and “thousands” more “missing”)[238][239] and the Shaer gas field (200 Syrian soldiers shot).[240] Navi Pillay, UNHigh Commissioner for Human Rights, said that they were performing “widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under their control.”[241]

In early September 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to send a team to Iraq and Syria to investigate the abuses and killings being carried out by the ISIL on “an unimaginable scale”. Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, the newly appointedUN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged world leaders to step in to protect women and children suffering at the hands of ISIL militants, who he said were trying to create a “house of blood”. He appealed to the international community to concentrate its efforts on ending the conflict in Iraq and Syria.[242]

In November 2014, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that ISIL was committing crimes against humanity.[243][244]A report by Human Rights Watch in November 2014 accused ISIL groups in control of Derna, Libya of war crimes andhuman rights abuses and of terrorizing residents. Human Rights Watch documented three apparent summary executions and at least ten public floggings by the Islamic Youth Shura Council, which joined ISIL in November. It also documented the beheading of three Derna residents and dozens of seemingly politically motivated assassinations of judges, public officials, members of the security forces and others. Sarah Leah Watson, Director of HRW Middle East and North Africa, said: “Commanders should understand that they may face domestic or international prosecution for the grave rights abuses their forces are committing.”[245]

Speaking of ISIL’s methods, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has stated that the group “seeks to subjugate civilians under its control and dominate every aspect of their lives through terror, indoctrination, and the provision of services to those who obey”.[246]

Religious and minority group persecution

ISIL compels people in the areas that it controls to declare Islamic creed and live according to its interpretation of Sunni Islam and sharia law.[226][247] There have been many reports of the group’s use of death threats, torture and mutilation to compel conversion to Islam,[226][247] and of clerics being killed for refusal to pledge allegiance to the so-called “Islamic State”.[248] ISIL directs violence against Shia Muslims, indigenous Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac and Armenian Christians,Yazidis, Druze, Shabaks and Mandeans in particular.[249]

Amnesty International has held ISIL responsible for the ethnic cleansing of ethnic and religious minority groups in northern Iraq on a “historic scale”. In a special report released on 2 September 2014, it describes how ISIL has “systematically targeted non-Arab and non-Sunni Muslim communities, killing or abducting hundreds, possibly thousands, and forcing more than 830,000 others to flee the areas it has captured since 10 June 2014”. Among these people are Assyrian Christians,Turkmen Shia, Shabak Shia, Yazidis, Kaka’i and Sabean Mandeans, who have lived together for centuries in Ninevehprovince, large parts of which are now under ISIL’s control.[250][251]

Among the known killings of religious and minority group civilians carried out by ISIL are those in the villages and towns ofQuiniyeh (70–90 Yazidis killed), Hardan (60 Yazidis killed), Sinjar (200–500 Yazidis killed), Ramadi Jabal (60–70 Yazidis killed), Dhola (50 Yazidis killed), Khana Sor (100 Yazidis killed), Hardan (250–300 Yazidis killed), al-Shimal (dozens of Yazidis killed), Khocho (400 Yazidis killed and 1,000 abducted), Jadala (14 Yadizis killed)[252] and Beshir (700 Shia Turkmen killed),[253] and others committed near Mosul (670 Shia inmates of the Badush prison killed),[253] and in Tal Afarprison, Iraq (200 Yazidis killed for refusing conversion).[252] The UN estimated that 5,000 Yazidis were killed by ISIL during the takeover of parts of northern Iraq in August 2014.[254] In late May 2014, 150 Kurdish boys from Kobani aged 14–16 were abducted and subjected to torture and abuse, according to Human Rights Watch.[255] In the Syrian towns of Ghraneij,Abu Haman and Kashkiyeh 700 members of the Sunni Al-Shaitat tribe were killed for attempting an uprising against ISIL control.[256][257] The UN reported that in June 2014 ISIL had killed a number of Sunni Islamic clerics who refused to pledge allegiance to it.[248]

Christians living in areas under ISIL control who want to remain in the “caliphate” face three options: converting to Islam, paying a religious levy—jizya—or death.[258][259] “We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword”, ISIL said.[260] ISIL had already set similar rules for Christians in Ar-Raqqah, once one of Syria’s more liberal cities.[261][262]

Treatment of civilians

During the Iraqi conflict in 2014, ISIL released dozens of videos showing its ill treatment of civilians, many of whom had apparently been targeted on the basis of their religion or ethnicity. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned of war crimes being committed in the Iraqi war zone, and disclosed a UN report of ISIL militants murdering Iraqi Army soldiers and 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul. The UN reported that in the 17 days from 5 to 22 June, ISIL killed more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians and injured more than 1,000.[233][234][235] After ISIL released photographs of its fighters shooting scores of young men, the UN declared that cold-blooded “executions” by militants in northern Iraq almost certainly amounted to war crimes.[263]

ISIL’s advance in Iraq in mid-2014 was accompanied by continuing violence in Syria. On 29 May, ISIL raided a village in Syria and at least 15 civilians were killed, including, according to Human Rights Watch, at least six children.[264] A hospital in the area confirmed that it had received 15 bodies on the same day.[265] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that on 1 June, a 102-year-old man was killed along with his whole family in a village in Hama province.[266] According to The Reuters 1878 people were killed in Syria by ISIL during the last six months of 2014, most of them civilians.[267]

In Mosul, ISIL has implemented a sharia school curriculum which bans the teaching of art, music, national history, literature and Christianity. Although Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has never been taught in Iraqi schools, the subject has been banned from the school curriculum. Patriotic songs have been declared blasphemous, and orders have been given to remove certain pictures from school textbooks.[268][269][270][271] Iraqi parents have largely boycotted schools in which the new curriculum has been introduced.[272]

After capturing cities in Iraq, ISIL issued guidelines on how to wear clothes and veils. ISIL warned women in the city of Mosul to wear full-face veils or face severe punishment.[273] A cleric told Reuters in Mosul that ISIL gunmen had ordered him to read out the warning in his mosque when worshippers gathered. ISIL ordered the faces of both male and female mannequins to be covered, in an order which also banned the use of naked mannequins.[274] In Ar-Raqqah the group uses its two battalions of female fighters in the city to enforce compliance by women with its strict laws on individual conduct.[275]

ISIL released 16 notes labeled “Contract of the City”, a set of rules aimed at civilians in Nineveh. One rule stipulated that women should stay at home and not go outside unless necessary. Another rule said that stealing would be punished by amputation.[180][276] In addition to the Muslim custom of banning the sale and use of alcohol, ISIL has banned the sale and use of cigarettes and hookah pipes. It has also banned “music and songs in cars, at parties, in shops and in public, as well as photographs of people in shop windows”.[277]

According to The Economist, dissidents in the ISIL capital of Ar-Raqqah report that “all 12 of the judges who now run its court system … are Saudis”. Saudi practices also followed by the group include the establishment of religious police to root out “vice” and enforce attendance at salat prayers, the widespread use of capital punishment, and the destruction of Christian churches and non-Sunni mosques or their conversion to other uses.[278]

ISIL carried out executions on both men and women who were accused of various acts and found guilty of crimes against Islam such as homosexuality, adultery, watching pornography, usage and possession of contraband, rape, blasphemy, renouncing Islam and murder. Before the accused are executed their charges are read toward them and the spectators. They carry out executions in various forms such as stoning to death, crucifixions, beheadings and some are thrown from the top storeys of tall buildings.[279][280][281]

Child soldiers

ISIL has recruited Iraqi children as young as nine to its ranks, who can be seen with masks on their faces and guns in their hands patrolling the streets of Mosul and even making arrests.[282] According to a report by the magazine Foreign Policy, children as young as six are recruited or kidnapped and sent to military and religious training camps, where they practise beheading with dolls and are indoctrinated with the religious views of ISIL. Children are used as human shields on front lines and to provide blood transfusions for Islamic State soldiers, according to Shelly Whitman of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. The second instalment of a Vice News documentary about ISIL focused on how the group is specifically grooming children for the future. A spokesman told VICE News that those under the age of 15 go to sharia camp to learn about religion, while those older than 16 can go to military training camp. Children are also used for propaganda. According to a UN report, “In mid-August, ISIL entered a cancer hospital in Mosul, forced at least two sick children to hold the ISIL flag and posted the pictures on the internet.” Misty Buswell, a Save the Children representative working with refugees in Jordan, said, “It’s not an exaggeration to say we could lose a whole generation of children to trauma.”[283]

Sexual violence and slavery

There are many reports of sexual abuse and enslavement in ISIL controlled areas of women and girls, predominantly from the minority Christian and Yazidi communities.[284][285] According to one report, ISIL’s capture of Iraqi cities in June 2014 was accompanied by an upsurge in crimes against women, including kidnap and rape.[286][287][288] The Guardian reported that ISIL’s extremist agenda extended to women’s bodies and that women living under their control were being captured and raped.[289] Fighters are told that they are free to have sex and rape non-Muslim captive women.[290] A Baghdad-based women’s rights activist, Basma al-Khateeb, said that a culture of violence existed in Iraq against women generally and felt sure that sexual violence against women was happening in Mosul involving not only ISIL but all armed groups.[291] During a meeting with Nouri al-Maliki, British Foreign Minister William Hague said with regard to ISIL: “Anyone glorifying, supporting or joining it should understand that they would be assisting a group responsible for kidnapping, torture, executions, rapeand many other hideous crimes”.[292] According to Martin Williams in The Citizen, some hard-line Salafists apparently regard extramarital sex with multiple partners as a legitimate form of holy war and it is “difficult to reconcile this with a religion where some adherents insist that women must be covered from head to toe, with only a narrow slit for the eyes”.[293]

Haleh Esfandiari from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has highlighted the abuse of local women by ISIL militants after they have captured an area. “They usually take the older women to a makeshift slave market and try to sell them. The younger girls … are raped or married off to fighters”, she said, adding, “It’s based on temporary marriages, and once these fighters have had sex with these young girls, they just pass them on to other fighters.”[294] Speaking ofYazidi women captured by ISIL, Nazand Begikhani said, “These women have been treated like cattle… They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. They’ve been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags.”[295] Yazidi girls in Iraq allegedly raped by ISIL fighters have committedsuicide by jumping to their death from Mount Sinjar, as described in a witness statement.[296]

A United Nations report issued on 2 October 2014, based on 500 interviews with witnesses, said that ISIL took 450–500 women and girls to Iraq’s Nineveh region in August, where “150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIL fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves”.[285] In mid-October, the UN confirmed that 5,000–7,000 Yazidi women and children had been abducted by ISIL and sold into slavery.[297][298] In November 2014 The New York Times reported on the accounts given by five who escaped ISIL of their captivity and abuse.[299] In December 2014 the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced that ISIL had killed over 150 women and girls in Fallujah who refused to participate in sexual jihad.[300][301] Non-Muslim women have reportedly been married off to fighters against their will. ISIL claims the women provide the new converts and children necessary to spread ISIL’s control.[302] Shortly after the death of U.S. hostage Kayla Mueller was confirmed on February 10, 2015,.[303][304][305][306] several media outlets reported that the U.S. intelligence community believed she may have been given as a wife to an ISIL fighter.[307][308][309]

In its digital magazine Dabiq, ISIL explicitly claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women.[310][311][312][313][314][315]According to The Wall Street Journal, ISIL appeals to apocalyptic beliefs and claims “justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world”.[316] ISIL appeals to the Hadith andQur’an when claiming the right to enslave and rape captive non-Muslim women.[317][313][318] According to Dabiq, “enslaving the families of the kuffar and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharia’s that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’an and the narration of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.” Captured Yazidi women and children are divided among the fighters who captured them, with one fifth taken as a tax.[318][319] ISIL has received widespread criticism from Muslim scholars and others in the Muslim world for using part of the Qur’an to derive a ruling in isolation, rather than considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.[317][313][318]According to Mona Siddiqui, ISIL’s “narrative may well be wrapped up in the familiar language of jihad and ‘fighting in the cause of Allah’, but it amounts to little more than destruction of anything and anyone who doesn’t agree with them”; she describes ISIL as reflecting a “lethal mix of violence and sexual power” and a “deeply flawed view of manhood”.[302] Dabiqdescribes “this large-scale enslavement” of non-Muslims as “probably the first since the abandonment of Shariah law”.[318][319]

In late 2014 ISIL released a pamphlet that focused on the treatment of female slaves.[320][321][322] It says fighters are allowed to have sex with adolescent girls and to beat slaves as discipline. The pamphlet’s guidelines also allow fighters to trade slaves, including for sex, as long as they have not been impregnated by their owner.ISIL claims that sexual slavery is justified only against infidels (non-Muslims) according to the koran.[320][321][322][323][324][325] Charlie Winter, a researcher at the counter-extremist think tank Quilliam, described the pamphlet as “abhorent”.[323][325] In response to this document Abbas Barzegar, a religion professor at Georgia State University, said Muslims around the world find ISIL’s “alien interpretation of Islam grotesque and abhorrent”.[324] Muslim leaders and scholars from around the world have rejected the validity of these claims, claiming that the reintroduction of slavery is unislamic, that they are required to protect ‘People of the Scripture’ including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Yazidis, and that ISIL’s fatwas are invalid due to their lack of religious authority and the fatwas’ inconsistency with Islam.[326][327]

Attacks on members of the press

The Committee to Protect Journalists states: “Without a free press, few other human rights are attainable.”[328] ISIL has tortured and murdered local journalists,[329][330] creating what Reporters Without Borders calls “news blackholes” in areas controlled by ISIL. ISIL fighters have reportedly been given written directions to kill or capture journalists.[331]

In December 2013, two suicide bombers stormed the headaquarters of TV station Salaheddin and killed five journalists, after accusing the station of “distorting the image of Iraq’s Sunni community”. Reporters Without Borders reported that on 7 September 2014, ISIL seized and on 11 October publicly beheaded Raad al-Azzawi, a TV Salaheddin cameraman from the village of Samra, east of Tikrit.[332] As of October 2014, according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, ISIL is holding nine journalists and has nine others under close observation in Mosul and Salahuddin province.[331]

During 2013 and part of 2014, an ISIL unit nicknamed the Beatles acquired and held 12 Western journalists hostage, along with aid workers and other foreign hostages, totaling 23 or 24 known hostages. A Polish journalist Marcin Suder was captured in July 2013 but escaped four months later.[333] The unit executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and released beheading videos. Eight of the other journalists were released for ransom: Danish journalist Daniel Rye Ottosen, French journalists Didier François, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin, and Pierre Torres, and Spanish journalists Marc Marginedas, Javier Espinosa, and Ricardo García Vilanova. The unit continues to hold hostage British journalist John Cantlie and a female aid worker.[334]

Cyber-security group the Citizen Lab released a report finding a possible link between ISIL and a digital attack on the Syrian citizen media group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RSS). Supporters of the media group received an emailed link to an image of supposed airstrikes, but clicking on the link introduced malware to the user’s computer that sends details of the user’s IP address and system each time it restarts. That information has been enough to allow ISIL to locate RSS supporters. “The group has been targeted for kidnappings, house raids, and at least one alleged targeted killing. At the time of that writing, ISIL was allegedly holding several citizen journalists in Raqqa,” according to the Citizen Lab report.[335]

On January 8, 2015, ISIL members in Libya claimed to have executed Tunisian journalists Sofiene Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari who disappeared in September 2014.[336] Also in January 2015, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto Jogo was captured after traveling to Raqqah and displayed on video with another Japanese citizen with a demand for $200 million ransom.

Beheadings and mass executions

An unknown number of Syrians and Iraqis, several Lebanese soldiers, at least ten Kurds, two American journalists, one American and two British aid workers, and three Libyans have been beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIL uses beheadings to intimidate local populations and has released a series of propaganda videos aimed at Western countries. They also engage in public and mass executions, sometimes forcing prisoners to dig their own graves before shooting lines of prisoners and pushing them in.[337][338] ISIL was reported to have beheaded about 100 foreign fighters as deserters who tried to leave Raqqa.[339]

Destruction of cultural and religious heritage

UNESCO‘s Director-General Irina Bokova has warned that ISIL is destroying Iraq’s cultural heritage, in what she has termed “cultural cleansing”. “We don’t have time to lose because extremists are trying to erase the identity, because they know that if there is no identity, there is no memory, there is no history”, she said. Referring to the ancient cultures of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities, she said, “This is a way to destroy identity. You deprive them of their culture, you deprive them of their history, their heritage, and that is why it goes hand in hand with genocide. Along with the physical persecution they want to eliminate – to delete – the memory of these different cultures. … we think this is appalling, and this is not acceptable.” [340] Saad Eskander, head of Iraq’s National Archives said, “For the first time you have cultural cleansing… For the Yazidis, religion is oral, nothing is written. By destroying their places of worship … you are killing cultural memory. It is the same with the Christians – it really is a threat beyond belief.”[341]

In order to finance its activities, ISIL is stealing artifacts from Syria[342] and Iraq and sending them to Europe to be sold. It is estimated that ISIL raises US$200 million a year from cultural looting. UNESCO has asked for United Nations Security Council controls on the sale of antiquities, similar to those imposed after the 2003 Iraq War. UNESCO is working withInterpol, national customs authorities, museums, and major auction houses in attempts to prevent looted items being sold.[341] ISIL occupied Mosul Museum, the second most important museum in Iraq, as it was about to reopen after years of rebuilding following the Iraq War, saying that the statues were against Islam and threatening to destroy the museum’s contents.[343][344]

ISIL considers worshipping at graves tantamount to idolatry, and seeks to purify the community of unbelievers. It has used bulldozers to crush buildings and archeological sites.[344] Bernard Haykel has described Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi‘s creed as “a kind of untamed Wahhabism”, saying, “For Al Qaeda, violence is a means to an ends; for ISIS, it is an end in itself”.[192] The destruction by ISIL in July 2014 of the tomb and shrine of the prophet YunusJonah in Christianity—the 13th century mosque of Imam Yahya Abu al-Qassimin, the 14th century shrine of prophet Jerjis—St George to Christians—and the attempted destruction of the Hadba minaret at the 12th century Great Mosque of Al-Nuri have been described as “an unchecked outburst of extreme Wahhabism”.[345] “There were explosions that destroyed buildings dating back to theAssyrian era“, said National Museum of Iraq director Qais Rashid, referring to the destruction of the shrine of Yunus. He cited another case where “Daesh (ISIL) gathered over 1,500 manuscripts from convents and other holy places and burnt all of them in the middle of the city square”.[346]

There is also the fear that warfare waged on any side will harm cultural heritage. “The worst thing about wars is that they do not distinguish between the past and the future”, Mosul calligrapher and conservationist Abdallah Ismail told a local correspondent for the German-funded publication Niqash.org. He suggested that ISIL was “taking the pulse” of the local population to see how it would react to their appetite for destruction. Philippe Lalliot, France’s ambassador to UNESCO gave this perspective: “When people die in their tens of thousands, must we be concerned about cultural cleansing? Yes, definitely yes … It’s because culture is a powerful incentive for dialogue that the most extreme and the most fanatical groups strive to annihilate it.”[346] According to the London Charter and several Hague Conventions, the deliberate destruction of historical sites and places of worship, unless such destruction is a necessity during war, is a war crime.[347]

Organ trafficking

According to media reports, ISIL has established a system for harvesting and selling human organs from fighters, captives, and hostages, including minority children in Mosul and other areas. ISIL is using imported teams of doctors who are not allowed to interact with local medical staff.[348][349][350][351]

Criticism

Islamic criticism

ISIL has been at the receiving end of severe criticism from other Muslims, especially religious scholars and theologians. In late August 2014, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, condemned the Islamic State and al-Qaeda saying, “Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisation, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims”.[352] In late September 2014, 126 Sunni imams and Islamic scholars—primarily Sufi[353]—from around the Muslim world signed anopen letter to the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, explicitly rejecting and refuting his group’s interpretations of Islamic scriptures, the Qur’an and hadith, used by it to justify its actions.[354][355] “[You] have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder … this is a great wrong and an offence to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world”, the letter states.[356] It rebukes the Islamic State for its killing of prisoners, describing the killings as “heinouswar crimes” and its persecution of the Yazidis of Iraq as “abominable”. Referring to the “self-described ‘Islamic State'”, the letter censures the group for carrying out killings and acts of brutality under the guise of jihad—holy struggle—saying that its “sacrifice” without legitimate cause, goals and intention “is not jihad at all, but rather, warmongering and criminality”.[356][357]It also accuses the group of instigating fitna—sedition—by instituting slavery under its rule in contravention of the anti-slavery consensus of the Islamic scholarly community.[356] Other scholars have described the group as not Sunnis, butKhawarij.[358]

Kurdish demonstration against ISIL in Vienna, Austria, 10 October 2014

The group’s declaration of a caliphate has been criticized and its legitimacy disputed by Middle Eastern governments, other jihadist groups,[359] and Sunni Muslimtheologians and historians. Qatar-based TV broadcaster and theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi stated: “[The] declaration issued by the Islamic State is void under shariaand has dangerous consequences for the Sunnis in Iraq and for the revolt in Syria”, adding that the title of caliph can “only be given by the entire Muslim nation”, not by a single group.[360]

Two days after the beheading of Hervé Gourdel, hundreds of Muslims gathered in the Grand Mosque of Paris to show solidarity against the beheading. The protest was led by the leader of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Dalil Boubakeur, and was joined by thousands of other Muslims around the country under the slogan “Not in my name”.[361][362] French president François Hollande said Gourdel’s beheading was “cowardly” and “cruel”, and confirmed that airstrikes would continue against ISIL in Iraq. Hollande also called for three days of national mourning, with flags flown at half-mast throughout the country and said that security would be increased throughout Paris.[361]

International criticism

The group has attracted widespread criticism internationally for its extremism, from governments and international bodies such as the United Nations and Amnesty International. On 24 September 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated: “As Muslim leaders around the world have said, groups like ISIL – or Da’ish — have nothing to do with Islam, and they certainly do not represent a state. They should more fittingly be called the “Un-Islamic Non-State”.”[363] The group was described as a cult in a Huffington Post column by notable cult authority Steven Hassan.[364]

Criticism of the name “Islamic State” and “caliphate” declaration

The declaration of a new caliphate in June 2014 and the name “Islamic State” have been criticized and ridiculed by Muslim scholars and rival Islamists inside and outside the territory it controls.[31][32][33][34] In a speech in September 2014, President Obama said that, ISIL is not “Islamic” on the basis that no religion condones the killing of innocents and that no governmentrecognises the group as a state,[66] and many object to using the name “Islamic State” owing to the far-reaching religious and political claims to authority which that name implies. The United Nations Security Council, the United States, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom[35][36][37][365][366][367][368] and other countries generally call the group “ISIL”, while much of the Arab world uses the Arabic acronym “Dāʻish”. France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims, and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.'”[369] Retired general John Allen, the U.S. envoy to coordinate the coalition, U.S. military Lieutenant General James Terry, head of operations against the group, and Secretary of State John Kerry have all shifted toward the term DAESH by December 2014.[370]

In late August 2014, a leading Islamic educational institution, Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah in Egypt, advised Muslims to stop calling the group “Islamic State” and instead refer to it as “Al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria” or “QSIS”, because of the militant group’s “un-Islamic character”.[371][372] When addressing the United Nations Security Council in September 2014, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott summarized the widespread objections to the name “Islamic State” thus: “To use this term [Islamic State] is to dignify a death cult; a death cult that, in declaring itself a caliphate, has declared war on the world”.[373] The group is very sensitive about its name. “They will cut your tongue out even if you call them ISIS – you have to say ‘Islamic State'”, said a woman in ISIL-controlled Mosul.[374]

In mid-October 2014, representatives of the Islamic Society of Britain, the Association of British Muslims and the UK’sAssociation of Muslim Lawyers proposed that “‘Un-Islamic State’ (UIS) could be an accurate and fair alternative name to describe this group and its agenda”, further stating, “We need to work together and make sure that these fanatics don’t get the propaganda that they feed off.”[375][376] The “Islamic State” is mocked on social media websites such as Twitter andYouTube, with the use of hashtags, mock recruiting ads, fake news articles and YouTube videos.[377] One parody, by aPalestinian TV satire show, portrays ISIL as “buffoon-like hypocrites”, and has had more than half a million views on YouTube.[377][378]

Analysis

By 2014, ISIL was increasingly being viewed as a militia rather than as a terrorist group.[379] As major Iraqi cities fell to ISIL in June 2014, Jessica Lewis, a former US army intelligence officer at the Institute for the Study of War, described ISIL as “not a terrorism problem anymore”, but rather “an army on the move in Iraq and Syria, and they are taking terrain. They have shadow governments in and around Baghdad, and they have an aspirational goal to govern. I don’t know whether they want to control Baghdad, or if they want to destroy the functions of the Iraqi state, but either way the outcome will be disastrous for Iraq.” Lewis has called ISIL “an advanced military leadership”. She said, “They have incredible command and control and they have a sophisticated reporting mechanism from the field that can relay tactics and directives up and down the line. They are well-financed, and they have big sources of manpower, not just the foreign fighters, but also prisoner escapees.”[379]

While officials[which?] fear that ISIL may either inspire attacks in the United States by sympathizers or by those returning after joining ISIL, US intelligence agencies find there is no immediate threat or specific plots. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagelsees an “imminent threat to every interest we have”, but former top counterterrorism adviser Daniel Benjamin has derided such alarmist talk as a “farce” that panics the public.[380]

Some news commentators, such as international newspaper columnist Gwynne Dyer,[381] and samples of American public opinion, such as surveys by NPR,[382] have advocated a strong but measured response to ISIL’s recent provocative acts.

Conspiracy theories in the Arab world

Conspiracy theorists in the Arab world have advanced rumors that the U.S. is secretly behind the existence and emboldening of ISIL, as part of an attempt to further destabilize the Middle East. After such rumors became widespread, the U.S. embassy in Lebanon issued an official statement denying the allegations, calling them a complete fabrication.[383]Others[which?] are convinced that ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an Israeli Mossad agent and actor called Simon Elliot. The rumors claim that NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal this connection. Snowden’s lawyer has called the story “a hoax.”[384][385][386]

Countries and groups at war with ISIL

ISIL’s expanding claims to territory have brought it into armed conflict with many governments, militias and other armed groups. International rejection of ISIL as a terrorist entity and rejection of its claim to even exist have placed it in conflict with countries around the world.

Opposition within Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, and Yemen

Iraqi Insurgency Syrian Civil War Other conflicts
Iraq-based opponentsIraq Iraqi Armed Forces

Iraqi Kurdistan Iraqi Kurdistan

IRGC-Seal.svg Special Groups

Iraqi Turkmen Front[390]

Shabak Militia[391][392]

Syria-based opponents[393]Syria Syrian Armed Forces

Syria Syrian Opposition[394][395][396]

Syrian Kurdistan Syrian Kurdistan[399]

Lebanon-based opponentsLebanon Lebanese Armed Forces[403]

Hezbollah[404]

Egypt-based opponents

Egypt Egyptian Armed Forces[405]

Libya-based opponents

Libya Libyan Armed Forces

Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade (Libyan rebel group)[407]

Afghanistan-based opponents

Afghanistan Afghan Armed Forces[137]
Taliban[408][409]

Yemen-based opponents

Yemen Yemeni Armed Forces[136]
al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula[136]
Houthis[410]

American-led Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Airstrikes in Syria by 24 September 2014

The Global Coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Daesh), also referred to as the Counter-ISIL Coalition or Counter-DAESH Coalition,[411] is a US-led group of nations and non-state actors that have committed to “work together under a common, multifaceted, and long-term strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL/Daesh”. According to a joint statement issued by 59 national governments and the European Union, participants in the Counter-ISIL Coalition are focused on multiple lines of effort:[412]

  1. Supporting military operations, capacity building, and training;
  2. Stopping the flow of foreign terrorist fighters;
  3. Cutting off ISIL/Daesh’s access to financing and funding;
  4. Addressing associated humanitarian relief and crises; and
  5. Exposing ISIL/Daesh’s true nature (ideological delegitimization).

Operation Inherent Resolve is the operational name given by the US to military operations against ISIL and Syrian al-Qaeda affiliates. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve is coordinating the military portion of the response.

The following multi-national organizations are part of the Counter-ISIL Coalition:[412]
 European Union – declared to be part, most members are participating;[412]
 NATO – all 28 members are taking part;
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf or GCC – all six current members and the two pending members, Jordan and Morocco, are taking part.

Military operations in or over Iraq and/or Syria
airstrikes, air support, and ground forces performing training
Supplying military equipment to opposition forces
within Iraq and/or Syria in cooperation with EU/NATO/partners
Humanitarian and other contributions
to identified coalition objectives
NATO members:

CCASG members:

Other:

Part of the Counter-ISIL Coalition engaged in anti-ISIL military operations within their own borders[412]

Note: Listed countries in this box may also be supplying military and humanitarian aid, and contributing to group objectives in other ways.

NATO members: (also EU members except Albania)

 European Union Members (not in NATO)

Other:

  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina[433]

Note: These countries may also be supplying humanitarian aid and contributing to group objectives in other ways.

NATO members: (who are also EU members, except Iceland)

 European Union Members (not in NATO)

CCASG members:

Other

Other state opponents

 Azerbaijan[436][437] — security operations within state borders

 Iran[438][439] — ground troops, training and air power (see Iranian intervention in Iraq (2014–present))

 Russia[440][441] — arms supplier to Iraqi and Syrian Governments

Other non-state opponents

 Arab League—coordinating member response[442]
al-Qaeda[443]

Afghanistan Taliban[444]
Kurdistan Workers Party of Turkey—ground troops in Iraqi Kurdistan [445]
Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran—ground troops in Iraqi Kurdistan[445]
HouthisShi’ite insurgent group in Yemen backed by Iran, currently participating in an insurgency in Yemen[410]
Anonymous

Supporters

Groups with expressions of support

Memberships of these groups have declared support for ISIL, either fully or in part.

By mid-November 2014, the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) in Florida had identified 60 jihadist groups in 30 countries that have pledged allegiance or support to ISIL. “We at TRAC are constantly adding to the list (nearly daily)”, it said. Many of these groups were previously affiliated with al-Qaeda, indicating a shift in global jihadist leadership toward ISIL.[458]

Allegations of Turkish support

Turkey has been accused of supporting or colluding with ISIL, especially by Syrian Kurds.[459][460] According to journalistPatrick Cockburn, there is “strong evidence for a degree of collaboration” between the Turkish intelligence services and ISIL, although the “exact nature of the relationship … remains cloudy”.[461] David L. Phillips of Columbia University‘s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, who compiled a list of allegations and claims accusing Turkey of assisting ISIL, writes that these allegations “range from military cooperation and weapons transfers to logistical support, financial assistance, and the provision of medical services”.[462] Several ISIL fighters and commanders have claimed Turkey supports ISIL.[463][464][465]Within Turkey itself, ISIL is believed to have caused increasing political polarisation between secularists and Islamists.[466]

Turkey has been further criticized for allowing individuals from outside the region to enter its territory and join ISIL in Syria.[467][468] With many Islamist fighters passing through Turkey to fight in Syria, Turkey has been accused of becoming a transit country for such fighters and has been labeled the “Gateway to Jihad”.[469] Turkish border patrol officers are reported to have deliberately overlooked those entering Syria upon the payment of a small bribe.[469] A report by Sky Newsexposed documents showing that passports of foreign Islamists wanting to join ISIL by crossing into Syria had been stamped by the Turkish government.[470] An ISIL commander stated that “most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies”,[465][471] adding that ISIL fighters received treatment in Turkish hospitals.[465]

Allegations of Saudi Arabia’s support

Although Saudi Arabia‘s government rejected these claims,[472] the Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki[473] and some media outlets like NBC, BBC, and NYTimes stated that Saudi Arabia is funding ISIL.[474][475][476][477]

Military and resources

Military

Main article: Military of ISIL

ISIL fighters seen here in the Anbar province, Iraq.

Estimates of the size of ISIL’s military vary widely from tens of thousands up to 200,000 fighters.[12][478]

Alleged support by the US

Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky, accused the US government of allying with ISIL in the Syrian Civil War by arming their allies and fighting their enemies in that country.[479][480]

Foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria

There are an estimated 15,000 fighters from nearly 70 countries in ISIL’s ranks, according to a UN report.[481]

Statistics gathered on a nation by nation basis indicate: 7,000 from Saudi Arabia,[482] 2,400–5,000 from Tunisia,[482][483]500–2,000 from the United Kingdom,[484] 1,000 from the Russian Federation, 1,000 from Turkey,[485] 900 from France,[486]550 from Germany,[487] 300 from China,[488] 250–400 from Belgium,[489] 250 from Australia,[490] 150 from Sweden,[491] 140 from Norway,[492] 130 from Canada,[493] 130 from the Netherlands,[494] 100 from the United States,[495] 100 from Denmark,[496] 50 from Finland,[497] 40–50 from Israel,[498] and 40 from Spain.[499]

Weapons

Conventional weapons

ISIL relies mostly on captured weapons. Major sources are Saddam Hussein‘s Iraqi stockpiles from the 2003–11 Iraq insurgency[500] and weapons from government and opposition forces fighting in the Syrian Civil War and during the post-US withdrawal Iraqi insurgency. The captured weapons, including armor, guns, surface-to-air missiles, and even some aircraft, enabled rapid territorial growth and facilitated the capture of additional equipment.[501]

Armored fighting vehicles

Name Type Quantity Origin Photo Notes
T-55/55MV/AM/AMV Main battle tank 45+  Soviet Union T-55 4.jpg Multiple captured[181]
T-62M/K Main battle tank 10-15  Soviet Union T-62 BRL.jpg Multiple captured[181]
T-72/72M/A/AV /TURMS-T/M1 TURMS-T Main battle tank 5+  Soviet Union T-72 NPA.JPG Multiple captured[181]
M1A1M Abrams main battle tank Main battle tank 1-5  United States Abrams in Tahrir.jpg Multiple captured from Iraq Army[190]

Non-conventional weapons

The group has a long history of using truck and car bombs, suicide bombers, and IEDs, and has used chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria. ISIL captured nuclear materials from Mosul University in July 2014, but is unlikely to be able to turn them into weapons.[502][503]

 

Propaganda and social media

The logo of al-Hayat Media Center, a near-copy of that of Al Jazeera.

ISIL is known for its extensive and effective use of propaganda.[504][505] It uses a version of the Muslim Black Standard flag and developed an emblem which has clear symbolic meaning in the Muslim world.[506]

In November 2006, shortly after the group’s rebranding as the “Islamic State of Iraq”, the group established the al-Furqan Institute for Media Production, which produces CDs, DVDs, posters, pamphlets, and web-related propaganda products.[507] ISIL’s main media outlet is the I’tisaam Media Foundation,[508] which was formed in March 2013 and distributes through the Global Islamic Media Front(GIMF).[509]

In 2014, ISIL established the al-Hayat Media Center, which targets a Western audience and produces material in English, German, Russian and French.[510][511]Also in 2014, ISIL launched the Ajnad Media Foundation, which releases jihadistaudio chants.[512] In December 2014, FBI Director James Comey stated that ISIL’s “propaganda is unusually slick. They are broadcasting… in something like 23 languages”.[513]

From July 2014, al-Hayat began publishing a digital magazine called Dabiq, in a number of different languages including English. According to the magazine, its name is taken from the town of Dabiq in northern Syria, which is mentioned in ahadith about Armageddon.[514]

ISIL’s use of social media has been described by one expert as “probably more sophisticated than [that of] most US companies”.[504][515] It regularly takes advantage of social media, particularly Twitter, to distribute its message by organizing hashtag campaigns, encouraging Tweets on popular hashtags, and utilizing software applications that enable ISIL propaganda to be distributed to its supporters’ accounts.[516] Another comment is that “ISIS puts more emphasis on social media than other jihadi groups… They have a very coordinated social media presence.”[517] In August 2014, Twitter administrators shut down a number of accounts associated with ISIL. ISIL recreated and publicized new accounts the next day, which were also shut down by Twitter administrators.[518] The group has attempted to branch out into alternative social media sites, such as Quitter, Friendica and Diaspora; Quitter and Friendica, however, almost immediately worked to remove ISIL’s presence from their sites.[519]

In a switch from its former practices, ISIL’s media arm imposed a social media blackout on 27 September 2014, fearing that tweets and posts would give away military positions.[520] ISIL has also attempted to present a more “rational argument” in its series of “press release/discussions” performed by hostage/captive John Cantlie and posted on YouTube. In its most recent “Cantlie presentation”, various current and former US officials were quoted, such as US President Barack Obama and former CIA station chief Michael Scheuer.[521]

Finances

In 2014, the RAND Corporation carried out a study of 200 documents—personal letters, expense reports and membership rosters—that had been captured from Islamic State of Iraq (al-Qaeda in Iraq).[522] It found that from 2005 until 2010, outside donations amounted to only 5% of the group’s operating budgets, with the rest being raised within Iraq.[522] In the time period studied, cells were required to send up to 20% of the income generated from kidnapping, extortion rackets and other activities to the next level of the group’s leadership. Higher-ranking commanders would then redistribute the funds to provincial or local cells that were in difficulties or needed money to conduct attacks.[522] The records show that the Islamic State of Iraq was dependent on members from Mosul for cash, which the leadership used to provide additional funds to struggling militants in Diyala, Salahuddin and Baghdad.[522]

In mid-2014, Iraqi intelligence obtained information from an ISIL operative which revealed that the organization had assets worth US$2 billion,[523] making it the richest jihadist group in the world.[524] About three quarters of this sum is said to be represented by assets seized after the group captured Mosul in June 2014; this includes possibly up to US$429 million looted from Mosul’s central bank, along with additional millions and a large quantity of gold bullion stolen from a number of other banks in Mosul.[525][526] However, doubt was later cast on whether ISIL was able to retrieve anywhere near that sum from the central bank,[527] and even on whether the bank robberies had actually occurred.[528]

Exporting oil from oilfields captured by ISIL brings in tens of millions of dollars.[153][529] One US Treasury official has estimated that ISIL earns US$1 million a day from the export of oil. Much of the oil is sold illegally in Turkey.[530] Dubai-based energy analysts have put the combined oil revenue from ISIL’s Iraqi-Syrian production as high as US$3 million per day.[531] ISIL also extracts wealth through taxation and extortion.[530]

Today the majority of the group’s funding comes from the production and sale of energy. It controls around 300 oil wells in Iraq alone. At its peak, it operated 350 oil wells in Iraq, but lost 45 to foreign airstrikes. It has captured 60% of Syria’s total production capacity. About one fifth of its total capacity is in operation. ISIL earned US$2.5 million a day by selling 50,000–60,000 barrels of oil daily.[530][532] Foreign sales rely on a long-standing black market to export via Turkey. Many of the smugglers and corrupt Turkish border guards who helped Saddam Hussein to evade sanctions are helping ISIL to export oil and import cash.[532][533][534] Energy sales include selling electric power from captured power plants in northern Syria; some of this electricity is reportedly sold back to the Syrian government.[535]

Sales of artifacts may be the second largest source of funding for ISIL, according to an article in Newsweek. More than a third of Iraq’s important sites are under ISIL’s control. It looted the 9th century BC grand palace of the Assyrian kingAshurnasirpal II at Kalhu. Tablets, manuscripts and cuneiforms were sold, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Stolen artifacts are smuggled into Turkey and Jordan. Abdulamir al-Hamdani, an archaeologist from SUNY Stony Brook, has said that ISIL is “looting… the very roots of humanity, artifacts from the oldest civilizations in the world”.[532]

The group routinely practises extortion, by demanding money from truck drivers and threatening to blow up businesses, for example. Robbing banks and gold shops has been another source of income.[227]

Pictures show damage to the Gbiebe oil refinery in Syria following airstrikes by US and coalition forces.

ISIL is widely reported as receiving funding from private donors in the Gulf states,[536][537] and the governments of Iraq and Iranhave repeatedly accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of financing and supporting the group. Ahead of the conference of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition held in Paris in September 2014, France’s foreign minister acknowledged that a number of countries at the table had “very probably” financed ISIL’s advances.[538]

Although Iran and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding the group,[539][540][541][542] there is reportedly no evidence that this is the case.[121][542][543][544] However, according to The Atlantic, ISIL may have been a major part of Saudi Arabian Bandar bin Sultan’s covert-ops strategy in Syria.[545]

Unregistered charity organizations are used as fronts to pass funds to ISIL. As they use aliases on Facebook‘s WhatsApp and Kik, the individuals and organizations are untraceable. Donations transferred to fund ISIL’s operations are disguised as “humanitarian charity”. Saudi Arabia has imposed a blanket ban on unauthorized donations destined for Syria as the only means of stopping such funding.[532]

Since 2012, ISIL has produced annual reports giving numerical information on its operations, somewhat in the style of corporate reports, seemingly in a bid to encourage potential donors.[504][546]

On 11 November 2014, ISIL announced that they intended to mint their own gold, silver and copper coins, based on thecoinage used by the Umayyad Caliphate in the 7th Century. Following the announcement, the group began buying up gold, silver and copper in markets throughout northern and western Iraq, according to precious metal traders in the area. Members of the group also reportedly began stripping the insulation off electrical power cables in order to obtain the copper wiring.[547][548] The announcement included designs of the proposed coins, which displayed imagery including a map of the world, a sword and shield, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and a crescent moon. Economics experts, such as Professor Steven H. Hanke of Johns Hopkins University, were skeptical of the plans.[548][549] See also Modern gold dinar.

Timeline of recent events

Index to main: 2013 events; 2014 events: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September,October, November, December; 2015 events: January, February.

February 2015