[Editorial Note: This is not a "Best of," only a roundup of significant pieces. Seehere for an introduction to this roundup series]
Abductions in Syria cause widespread fear (27 April 2015) Massoud Hamed reports that "The Islamic State and the Kurdish People`s Protection Units have been carrying out kidnappings in Syria, both seemingly working toward the same goal: terrorizing those who do not support them."
The Arabic version of this article can be found here: الحراك الثوريّ وعمليّات الخطف الممنهجة ضدّهم في سوريا
ISIL seems to be losing appeal and here’s why (28 April 2015) The Islamic State is losing a degree of support to Syrian rebel coalition, according to Hassan Hassan.
Stumbling Into a Wider War (2 May 2015) According to The New York Times, "some regional members of the anti-ISIS coalition of more than 60 nations, according to a report in The Times, are now pressing the administration to carry the fight to other terrorist groups that have declared themselves “provinces” of the Islamic State."
Exclusive: Pentagon admits anti-ISIS strikes killed civilians (4 May 2015) “Because of these political and strategic calculations, the care given to civilian avoiding and counting civilian casualties rests largely with the same forces conducting the operations.”
Tikrit: Iraq’s Abandoned City (4 May 2015) After the liberation of Tikrit by Iraqi forces backed by US warplanes on April 3, Zaid Al-Ali explores how did ISIS take over Tikrit so quickly and what does Tikrit’s experience reveal about the way ISIS rules.
ISIS & the Shia Revival in Iraq (6 May 2015) Zaid Al-Ali reports from Baghdad “While ISIS destroys museums, the south refurbishes them; while ISIS destroys shrines, the ayatollahs expand them; and while ISIS is burning relics and books, the Imam Ali shrine hosts a book fair where scripture shares space with romantic novels”
US begins training Syrian rebels to fight ISIL group (7 May 2015) US defence secretary says 90 moderate Syrian rebels have begun training in Jordan to fight against ISIS armed group and the US plans to train 15,000 rebels.
A woman was forced to restore her virginity 20 times after abuse before marriage to Isis fighters (9 May 2015) Zainab Bangura, special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, states that ISIS "have institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations."
Isis in Libya: Families forced to marry girls as young as 12 to fighters for protection as clinics see growing number of miscarriages and STDs (12 May 2015) Heather Saul reports that "families in Isis` stronghold in Libya are being forced to marry off girls as young as 12 to jihadists in exchange for protection."
IS launches full-on assault on Palmyra (13 May 2015) “The Islamic State launched a two-pronged attack Wednesday on the historic town of Palmyra in the eastern Homs countryside, and is now just 5km northeast of its Roman-era ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
ISIS Advance in Syria Endangers Ancient Ruins at Palmyra (14 May 2015) Anne Barnard reports about the serious dangers posed by ISIS after the advances of militants from the Islamic State into to the outskirts of the historical town of Palmyra.
ISIS nears Syria`s ancient Palmyra, advances in Iraq (15 May 2015) “Extremists from ISIS closed in on Syria`s ancient metropolis of Palmyra Friday, hours before seizing a government headquarters in the strategic Iraqi city of Ramadi.”
Isis pulls back from Palmyra but fear of `cultural atrocity` remains (15 May 2015) “Palmyra’s fall does not appear imminent – the Syrian regime has repelled the initial incursion into the city, which is also of vital strategic and political significance. But government resources are stretched thin and the historic city remains in danger, with Isis renewing its assault on its eastern border and consolidating its hold on nearby towns.”
Officials: Islamic State tightens grip on capital of Iraq’s Anbar province (16 May 2015) ISIS militants tightened their grip on Ramadi capital of the largely Sunni province of Anbar. Police and residents accused ISIS militants of executing dozens of civilians and blowing up homes.
ISIL advances on Syria`s ancient city of Palmyra (16 May 2015) “Governor of Homs province, where city is located, says army has sent reinforcements and is bombing fighters from air.”
IS seizes northern part of Syria`s Palmyra: monitor (16 May 2015) “Jihadists from the Islamic State group seized control Saturday of the northern part of Syria`s ancient desert city of Palmyra after fierce clashes with government forces.”
Islamic State jihadists pushed back from heritage-listed ruins at Palmyra, officials say (17 May 2015) “Syria`s antiquities chief has expressed guarded relief as government troops push jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group back from the remains of the ancient city of Palmyra.”
A Statement, The Syrian cultural heritage in the ancient city of Palmyra is face to face with challenges and risks(18 May 2015) Prof. Maamoun Abdul Karim, the director-general of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, warns that Palmyra “is facing an imminent threat to its ruins and its very survival, which can lead to a real disaster inflicted on Syria’s history and wipe out its glorious past.”
Isis `tourist guide`: British jihadist Abu Rumaysah publishes e-book comparing self-declared caliphate to `plush holiday resort` (19 May 2015) Heather Saul reports “A British jihadist who skipped bail and claimed to have fled the UK to join Isis in Syria has purportedly released an e-book guide targeting Western recruits that compares territories under the extremist group to a “plush holiday resort”
The ISIS March Continues: From Ramadi on to Baghdad? (19 May 2015) The Islamic State continues to make new and strategic advances, despite American firepower. Hassan Hassan argues that the idea that the Islamic State is declining is absurd.
`A message written in blood` – British poet takes on Islamic State (20 May 2015) After writing a poem attacking ISIS, Sana al-Yemen found herself at the center of a media frenzy.
Palmyra, ISIS` Latest Conquest, Has Dark History Of State Torture And Abuse (21 May 2015) Sophia Jones writes about the story of Dr. Bara Saraj who wrote his memoir under the title, From Tadmur to Harvard. His story captures the modern history of Syria and also the possibilities of hope, knowledge, and peace from the very trenches of despair, torture, and imprisonment.
ISIS Takes Full Control Of Palmyra, Books Second Major Victory In Days (21 May 2015) “Islamic State fighters tightened their grip on the historic Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday and overran Iraqi government defenses east of Ramadi, the provincial capital that they seized five days earlier.”
Palmyra: Syrian forces trapped civilians, UN says (21 May 2015) John Simpson reports on the successes of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and what it means for the region.
The Kingdom of Silence: Literature from Tadmor prison (22 May 2015) Overshadowed by the fall of Palmyra`s ancient heritage site, the capture of the notorious jail by Islamic State could prove more significant.
Among Syrians, Palmyra is famous for a different landmark — its brutal prison (22 May 2015) The Islamic State’s capture of Palmyra is significant. ISIS seeks to remove all traces of the past to pave the way for a modern rule.
The Islamic State Brings the War to Saudi Arabia (22 May 2015) With the deadly suicide bombing of a Saudi mosque, the Islamic State may be debuting a new strategy: lone-wolf attacks inside the kingdom.
Islamic State expands its `state` (22 May 2015) The Islamic State’s capture of Palmyra has great strategic and symbolic value, potentially destroying yet another ancient Assyrian city.
The Islamic State`s schools in Deir Ezzor (22 May 2015) Deir Ezzor’s schools and education system have been restructured to extremist Islamic curriculums.
Isis Palmyra: Islamic State blows up ancient Muslim shrines as Syrian army advances (23 May 2015) “The Islamic State (Isis) has blown up two ancient Muslim shrines in the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in Syria after it planted explosives and mines around the Roman-era ruins.”
Religious teaching that drives Isis to threaten the ancient ruins of Palmyra (23 May 2015) Hassan Hassan argues that western fixation over ruined lives in Syria may prompt ISIS to destroy Palmyra for propaganda, doing more harm than good.
U.N. Official: ISIS is `Institutionalizing Sexual Violence` (24 May 2015) Zainab Bangura, a UN special representative, reports that ISIS “brutalization of women and girls,” is “central to their ideology.”
Secret Pentagon Report Reveals US “Created” ISIS As A “Tool” To Overthrow Syria`s President Assad (24 May 2015) Nafeez Ahmed provides his insight into the newly Declassified US Government Documents on Syria. “Judicial Watch shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.”
Syria regime `to accept de facto partition` of country (24 May 2015) “Weakened by years of war, Syria`s government appears ready for the country`s de facto partition, defending strategically important areas and leaving much of the country to rebels and jihadists.”
For an IS fighter, a paid honeymoon in caliphate`s heart (26 May 2015) This article provides insights into ISIS welfare system to help settle and create lives for the jihadist, men and women, who join the group in Syria.
ISIL seizes Syrian regime`s lucrative phosphate mines (27 May 2015) “ISIL strikes at heart of Syrian economy with gains in oil, gas and mining following capture of Palmyra and further gains deeper into the province.”
ISIS Alternates Stick and Carrot to Control Palmyra (28 May 2015) Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad report about ISIS`s strategies to control residents in Palmyra as the group "alternates between terrorizing residents and courting them."
Isil destroys notorious Palmyra prison (30 May 2015) ISIS destroys notorious prison in the Syrian city of Palmyra. However, some Syrians say Tadmor prison should have been preserved as a reminder of the Assad family`s past and current atrocities.
An Internal Struggle: Al Qaeda`s Syrian affiliate is grappling with its identity (31 July 2015) Charles Lister claims that the coordination between the Western-backed FSA, Islamists, Jabhat al-Nusra and jihadists has increased significantly.
While nobody was looking, the Islamic State launched a new, deadly offensive (1 June 2015) Recent offensive push by the Islamic State in Aleppo indicates that they are far from defeated despite more than eight months of U.S. led airstrikes.
ISIS Will Fall Through Internal Revolt (1 June 2015) According to Richard Barrett, "Rather than train up a few hundred rebels to fight ISIS in Syria, or worry about enabling Shia militia by bombing Sunni targets in Iraq, it might be better to take a longer view. The future of Syria—and increasingly of Iraq—lies in part with the millions of women and children who are now refugees."
Syria: Isis advance on Aleppo aided by Assad regime air strikes, US says (2 June 2015) The US has accused the Syrian government of providing air support to an advance by ISIS militants against opposition groups north of Aleppo.
Assad’s forces may be aiding new ISIS surge (2 June 2015) Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is attempting to break the ISIS-FSA truce by getting them to fight one another, a cynical divide and rule tactic.
US Air Force absent as Daesh/ ISIL advances on North Aleppo against Sunni rebels (2 June 2015) Syrian rebels in northern Aleppo are forced to defend themselves through Islamic State offensives, as US military does not intervene.
Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq (3 June 2015) Seumas Milne argues that ISIS won’t be defeated by the western states that incubated it in the first place.
Isis executes three gay men by dangling them from top of 100ft building and letting go (3 June 2015) ISIS has recently murdered three gay men in Mosul by dropping them from the top of a 100 ft building.
What an estimate of 10,000 ISIS fighters killed doesn’t tell us (4 June 2015) “If [10,000 killed] is accurate, then that means all the estimates of ISIS strength from the fall were wildly inaccurate.”
Incredible moment elated Syrian women rip off strict Islamic robes and headscarves after escaping religious persecution under ISIS (5 June 2015) Exclusive video shows women removing robes after escaping from ISIS and arrived into Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria.
The Peril of Taking Taxis in Raqqa (5 June 2015) Leen Ahmad shares Hayat’s experience in the public space under the rule of ISIS.
The Arabic version of this article can be found here: حياةتبحثعنحياتها
Syrian army regains ground against Islamic State in Hasaka city (7 June 2015) Syrian army repulses strong offensive, in northeastern city of Hasaka, by the Islamic State.
Assad’s strategy: don’t fight Daesh; direct it (8 June 2015) Haid Haid argues that al-Assad regime "is trying to turn his problems into opportunities by helping ISIS (Daesh; ISIL) choose what’s in his own best interests and allowing ISIS easier access to some areas than to others."
Syria conflict: Will Aleppo fall to Islamic State? (9 June 2015) Lina Sinjab states that "there are growing fears that Syria`s second city, Aleppo, could be taken over by Islamic State (IS) as fighting to the north between government and rebel forces intensifies."
An Arabic translation of this article can be found here: ترجمة: هلتسقطحلببيدتنظيم “الدولة”؟
String of losses in Syria leaves Assad regime increasingly precarious (11 June 2015) Much of Syria is now under control of rebel fights and IS after loss of base in Deraa, Idlib and eastern Homs.
Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut (12 June 2015) U.S. strategy in Syria has shifted as the funding to train and arm rebels in Syria has been cut.
Syrian civil war: Jabhat al-Nusra`s massacre of Druze villagers shows they`re just as nasty as Isis (14 June 2015) Patrick Cockburn reports “Members of the regime in Damascus know that getting rid of Assad is not going to do them any good and, if they lose, they may well end up dead, like the Druze villagers of Qalb Lawzeh.”
Syrian rebels accuse Kurdish forces of `ethnic cleansing` of Sunni Arabs (15 June 2015) The allegation came with the recent Kurdish seizure of the key border post of Tal Abyad from IS.
Is the Islamic State on the Rise in Gaza? (17 June 2015) Gregg Carlstrom comments on the dynamics of recent events in which Hamas is fighting a group that might be affiliated with ISIS.
How The Times Covers ISIS (17 June 2015) Ben Hubbard argues that the best way to understand ISIS is to hear from people who live under ISIS or had recently fled its territories.
Islamic State crisis: `Mines planted in Syria`s Palmyra` (21 June 2015) “Islamic State (IS) militants have planted landmines and explosives around the ancient Palmyra ruins, according to a group that monitors the war in Syria.”
Three sisters, nine children, one dangerous journey to the heart of Isis. What is the lure of the caliphate? (21 June 2015) “Hundreds of Britons have joined the Islamist militants. Hassan Hassan has interviewed dozens of members of the group in Syria and Iraq”.
Syrian army advances in ISIS-held Palmyra (22 June 2015) “Syria’s army advanced this weekend west of the ancient city of Palmyra, reopening a key supply route for oil and gas to the capital”.
The implications of a Kurdish victory over ISIS in Tal Abyad (22 June 2015) Aaron Stein reports on the implications of the Kurdish victory in Tal Abyad and problems for Turkey.
After Tell Abyad, what`s next for PYD? (22 June 2015) “With the route from Tal Abyad to Raqqa cut, the extremist group will have to rely on border crossings much further west in neighboring Aleppo province, adding several hundred kilometers to their supply lines.”
ISIS is begging for your attention—by killing people with rocket launchers (23 June 2015) ISIS produces more baroque ways to murder on video, becoming desperate to steer media narrative.
To stem ISIL advance, US must clarify Syria strategy (24 June 2015) Months after the U.S. vowed to destroy ISIS, they remain far from extinction, and appear to be growing.
ISIS militants disguised as Kurdish fighters infiltrate Syrian town (25 June 2015) “The dual offensive against Kobani and al-Hasakah might be an ISIS effort to divert Kurdish fighters away from Raqqa.”
Islamic State attacks Kobane 5 months after ouster; scores reported killed (25 June 2015) Attack on Kobane was a reminder that ISIL still has the ability to upset the battlefield even when it appears to be in the defensive.
ISIS Strikes Back (28 June 2015) ISIS has continuously manipulated the global news cycle, and tries to turn its enemies against each other, Michael Weiss reports.
United against ISIS… or is it ISIL or the Islamic State? (1 July 2015) Chris Doyle argues that "ISIS storm troopers are not invincible superhumans from the latest comic strip blockbuster. They are very vulnerable."
Isis militants destroy 2,000-year-old statue of lion at Palmyra (2 July 2015) “Syrian antiquities director says destruction of Lion of Al-lāt statue dating from 1st century BC at Palmyra museum is serious crime against world heritage site”
ISIS Destroy Palmyra Ruins (2 July 2015) According to Syrian Human Rights Committee, ISIS have published photos in which some of its members are seen to be destroying statues from the city of Palmyra (Tadmur).
Looted in Syria – and sold in London: the British antiques shops dealing in artefacts smuggled by Isis (3 July 2015) “When Mark Altaweel agreed to hunt for ‘blood antiquities’ in London dealerships, he was expecting more of a challenge. But as the archaeologist discovered, relics from the ruins of Palmyra and Nimrud are now on display in British shops – and so far no-one has worked out how to stop it.”
Isis in Syria: We can`t win a war without taking sides (4 July 2015) According to Patrick Cockburn the US and Britain might have to rethink their strategy in Syria before its too late.
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal (4 July 2015) John Casey argues that ISIS use an attractive ideological appeal of "healing the divisions of Islam and forming a single state under God`s law is a dream that stands at the heart of all Muslim traditions."
Real-Life Indiana Jones Vs. ISIS (5 July 2015) “It could be the plot of an adventure movie: Archaeologists race against time to save cultural treasures from marauding barbarians. Only it’s real.”
The Women Who Secretly Keep ISIS Running (5 July 2015) A captured ISIS ‘bride’ has revealed the inner workings of a women’s network that’s responsible for recruiting, spying, and enforcing sexual slavery in the so-called caliphate.
An Arabic version of this article can be found here: “العميلات السريات” وراء استمرار “الدولة الإسلامية”
Why Isis will hate it if we start calling them Daesh (6 July 2015) In the wake of the Tunisia beach attack, there is increasing pressure to stop calling Isis by the self-chosen name "Islamic State", on the grounds that it grants the terrorist group legitimacy.
Syria is caught between bombs and butchery (12 July 2015) Hassan Hassan argues that "as long as the suffering and sacrifices of people on the ground are overlooked, the world should not expect true partners in the conflict. The savagery of the Assad regime is no less than the barbarity of ISIL. On the contrary, it helps perpetuate it."
Scores of ISIL child soldiers `killed` in Syria in 2015 (15 July 2015) “At least 52 children, all under the age of 16, have been killed in Syria since the beginning of this year”
It`s more likely that Isis will achieve statehood than Cameron coming to the rescue (21 July 2015) Memphis Barker discusses British policy on Syria and argues that "a gulf has been growing for months between Western policymakers and experts on the topic of Syria, and yet both the British and American governments seem happy to carry on regardless – even if the voice of dissent comes from within."
David Cameron’s fatal mistakes on Syria and ISIS (22 July 2015) Chris Doyle argues that Cameron’s approach on Syria is aggressive, ill thought-out and based on misguided surface-level assessment of the issue.
Tribal massacre victims forced to negotiate with IS (22 July 2015) A year after a deadly attack by the Islamic State, tribesmen in Syria`s Deir ez-Zor are trying to bring civilians back to their homes.
The Islamic State`s secret recruiting ground in Turkey (23 July 2015) Bombers from two separate incidents have hailed from Adiyaman province.
Turkey stages first airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria (24 July 2015) Turkish warplanes pounded Islamic State targets in Syria for the first time on Friday, with President Tayyip Erdogan promising more decisive action against both the jihadists and Kurdish militants.
Who must be killed to beat ISIS and al Qaeda? (27 July 2015) “Is there a key leader whose demise would deal a hammer blow? Does so-called "leadership decapitation" even work as a strategy? Or do Western counterterrorism agencies face an indefinite process of crossing names from a never-diminishing list? Are there just too many groups in too many places to combat as we witness the emergence of a new generation of terrorist leaders whose significance is yet to be grasped?”
Retreating ISIS Left `Thousands` of Mines in Syrian City of Hasakah: Kurds (28 July 2015) “ISIS fighters forced out of this northeastern Syrian city have left "thousands" of land mines in their wake, according to the Kurdish fighters battling to unseat the militants.”
Debate about ISIS
Experts weigh in (part 1): How does ISIS approach Islamic scripture? (24 March 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 2): How does ISIS approach Islamic scripture? (26 March 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 3): How does ISIS approach Islamic Scripture? (5 May 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 4): How does ISIS approach Islamic scripture? (7 May 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 5): How does ISIS approach Islamic scripture? (13 May 2015)
Experts weigh in: Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda? (17 June 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 2): Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda? (19 June 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 3): Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda? (29 June 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 4): Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda? (1 July 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 5): Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda? (8 July 2015)
Experts weigh in (part 6): Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda? (13 July 2015)
Policy and Reports
The Islamic State in Southern Syria - The Carter Center (PDF file) (15 May 2015) The Carter Center’s report about suspected IS affiliates in Southern Syria
ISIS Captures Ramadi (PDF file) (18 May 2015) Patrick Martin, Genevieve Casagrande, Jessica Lewis McFate, and the ISW (Institute for the Study of War) Iraq and Syria Teams report about the seizure of Ramadi in Iraq.
Exclusive: Syrian Rebels Backing Out of U.S. Fight Vs. ISIS (31 May 2015) “They were ready to accept American guns and training. But a key rebel group can’t accept the Obama administration’s insistence that they lay off Syria’s dictator.”
“U.S. Policy towards the Islamic State after its Seizure of Ramadi and Palmyra” (PDF file) (3 June 2015) Michael Rubin provides his insight into what policies could strengthen the fight against the Islamic State.
After Palmyra: Military and Economic Targets of the Islamic State (4 June 2015) Yezid Sayigh and Aron Lund analyze the new strategic possibilities available for ISIS after the taking of Palmyra, the central hub of Syria’s desert road network connecting southwest to northeast.
ISIS`s Military Operations during Ramadan: A Forecast for 2015 (7 June 2015) “The purpose of this intelligence forecast is to outline ISW’s assessment of the most likely and most dangerous courses of action for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to pursue during Ramadan (June 17, 2015 to July 17, 2015)”
Will Aleppo Be the Next Capital of ISIL? (7 June 2015) “ISIL’s sweeping attack on the positions of the Army of Conquest (AC) in the north of Aleppo in Syria recently has left many question marks about the eventual course of developments in that region. This was not “just another” attack in the daily war in Syria. It was a moment when all players came to recognize both their limitations and their potential. It deserves, therefore, a closer look.”
ISIS`s Military Operations during Ramadan: A Forecast for 2015 (PDF file) (7 June 2015) “The purpose of this intelligence forecast is to outline ISW’s assessment of the most likely and most dangerous courses of action for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) to pursue during Ramadan (June 17, 2015 to July 17, 2015).”
ISIS Has Up To 42 Million Supporters in the Arab World (28 June 2015) Ryan Mauro, a ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, claims that "an analysis of four polls surveying Arab public opinion towards the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) reveals that the group has a bare minimum of 8.5 million strong supporters and that`s a conservative estimate."
The Islamic State Marks One Year as a `Caliphate` (29 June 2015) Aron Lund comments on a one-year anniversary of announcing ISIS as a “caliphate” and Abu Muhammad al Adnani’s public announcements.
The Islamic State’s Strategy: Lasting and Expanding (PDF file) (June 2015) Lina Khatib argues that the “gaps in the international coalition’s approach as well as deep sectarian divisions in Iraq and the shifting strategies of the Syrian regime and its allies are allowing the Islamic State to continue to exist and expand”.
Challenging the Narrative of the “Islamic State” (PDF file) (June 2015)“In this Research Paper, Dr. Alex Schmid identifies a dozen narrative themes of ISIS and discusses them from theological, historical and other angles in an attempt to show vulnerabilities and point the way towards developing convincing counter-arguments.”
ISIS and the Saudi Wahhabi Threat to Asian Security (PDF file) (July 2015) According to Christina Lin "Despite US-led coalition`s largely military campaign to degrade ISIS, it is not addressing the root cause of its existence—Saudi Wahhabi ideology. Asian security officials are expressing alarm at Saudi-funded proliferation of Wahhabism that is radicalizing traditionally moderate Asian Muslims to join ISIS, and calling for regional countermeasures against Riyadh that continues to spawn other terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Sayyaf, MILF that threaten Asian security."
Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response (PDF file) (15 July 2015) “The expanding international confrontation with the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State (IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL/ISIS) has reshaped long-standing debates over U.S. policy toward the ongoing civil conflict in Syria, now in its fifth year.”
The Uncertain U.S. “Game Changers” in the ISIS, Iraq, and Syria War (PDF file) (28 July 2015) According to Anthony H. Cordesman, “This war cannot be defined as a struggle against “terrorism,” a form of counterterrorism, or part of a broader conflict or “war” against violent Islamic extremism.”
The Islamic State’s War on Women and Girls (PDF file) (28 July 2015) Sasha Havlicek, founding CEO of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), gives her testimony "about the growing spectre of female radicalisation and the unprecedented numbers of girls and women joining ISIS".
Women Under ISIS Rule: From Brutality to Recruitment (29 July 2015) Ariel Ahram; Sasha Havlicek; Kathleen Kuehnast; Edward Watts provide their testimonies about women and girls under the rule of ISIS.
Economy and Agriculture
Iraq says ISIS demolishes ruins to cover up looting operations (12 May 2015) According to one of Iraq`s top antiquities officials, the videos of ISIS militants destroying ancient artifacts in Iraq`s museums and blowing up three thousand-year-old temples, are a cover for the systematic looting of Iraq`s cultural heritage.
ISIS Finances Are Strong (19 May 2015) Sarah Almukhtar reports that "The Islamic State has revenue and assets that are more than enough to cover its current expenses despite expectations that airstrikes and falling oil prices would hurt the group’s finances, according to analysts at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit organization that researches public policy."
Smugglers Say Palmyra’s Artifacts Will Be “Good Business” (21 May 2015) Munzer al-Awad and Mike Giglio interview smugglers and report that Smuggled antiquities are a key source of revenue for ISIS.
ISIS is about to make A LOT of money off `the archaeological equivalent of a beheading` (22 May 2015) Pamela Engel reports that “ISIS likely works with smugglers who have networks in the Middle East and can transport looted goods into Turkey and other countries where there is a black-market demand for them.”
The balance-sheet of conflict: criminal revenues and warlords in Syria (26 May 2015) Syrian expert Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj provides his insights into the war economy in Syria, "As a result of the extended war efforts and the need for revenues to fund them, the national economy is now deeply affected by illicit activities such as trade in antiquities, oil and drugs, as well as smuggling, kidnapping, looting and extrajudicial land expropriations."
The War Over Syria`s Gas Fields (8 June 2015) Yezid Sayigh analyzes ISIS recent seizure of Palmyra nearby gas fields, which deprived the Syrian regime of 45 percent of its gas and electricity resources.
The Arabic version of this article can be found here: الحربعلىحقولالغازفيسورية
The Islamic State`s scorched earth policy in Kobani (12 June 2015) Residents of Kobani are living on harsh conditions, sometimes their crops being burned, and are faced with the threat of death and destruction in the city.
The Arabic version of this article can be found here: مدينة كوباني بين التدمير والحريق... قصّة لم تنته
Isis claims to mint gold and silver coins for currency free from `satanic` global economy (24 June 2015) “Supporters of the so-called Islamic State have released pictures of what they said were new gold dinars on social media, amid a propaganda drive by the group as it approaches its one-year anniversary.”
ISIL looting heritage sites on `industrial scale` (3 July 2015) “Warning from UNESCO comes as Syria`s antiquities director says famous lion statue in Palmyra has been destroyed.”
Is ISIL running out of oil? (19 July 2015) "Fighters may lost Iraq`s Beiji refinery, but they still control a number of oil wells and continue to exploit them."
Is the ISIS War About Oil After All? (21 July 2015) Jack Werner argues that "the unfolding intervention against the Islamic State shows that oil doesn`t just guide U.S. foreign policy. It constrains our ways of thinking about it."
ISIL, JAN and the war economy in Syria (PDF File) (31 July 2015) In this report, Rim Turkmani explores “how the collapse of the state and the spread of the war economy enable ISIL’s expansion and JAN’s infiltration in Syria”.
Documentaries, Special Reports, and Other Media
بالصور: عناصرمنتنظيمالدولةيتنزهونمعالسباياالإيزيدياتفيالرقة (4 May 2015) This article shares photos of ISIS fighters promenading with Yazidi abducted women and children.
Pentagon hunts for ISIS on the secret Internet (12 May 2015) Barbara Starr and Jamie Crawford report that the recent ISIS inspired attack in Garland, Texas, captured the attention of US law enforcement and the military to the role of Deep or Dark Web.
المشهدالسوريبعدتقدمالمعارضةوتنظيمالدولة (21 May 2015) Al Jazeera`s Hadith ath-Thawra hosts Yezid Sayigh, Hisham Jaber, Asaad al-Zu`bi, Sharif Shehadeh, and Omar Idlebi to discuss the situation in Syria after the military victories of Jaish al-Fatah (The Army of Conquest) in Idlib and the expansion of ISIS.
US plans lie in ruins after IS scores stunning successes in Syria and Iraq (24 May 2015) From the Arab Spring to proxy wars, Charles Glass on why Syria is in ruins and that US policy is incoherent.
Obama at War (26 May 2015) This Frontline video provides insights into the Obama administration’s struggle to deal with ISIS and the deadly civil war in Syria.
The women of ISIS: Who are they? (29 May 2015) This article and video casts light on who the ISIS women are, and why they moved to Iraq and Syria.
ISIS Control and Expected Offensives in Central Syria: May 29, 2015 Christopher Kozak and Jennifer Cafarella provide a map that demonstrates areas of control in central Syria following the capture of Palmyra by ISIS.
Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi Responds to al-Julani’s al-Jazeera Interview (31 May 2015) Matthew Barber interviews Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, a respected Sufi scholar and teacher from Damascus, who “shared his current efforts to ideologically combat IS, as well as his thoughts on the way that Al Jazeera handled the interview with al-Julani, the ranking representative of al-Qaida in Syria.”
Tweets as weapons: How `Islamic State` is fighting its battles... digitally (3 June 2015) This article discusses ISIS usage of the internet as a propaganda tool. and its social media strategy.
Among the warriors: Extraordinary photos portray the lives of the Kurdish volunteers resisting Isis in Syria and Iraq (5 June 2015) Photographer Joey Lawrence takes portraits that aim to humanize Kurdish guerrilla groups.
داعش..النضالالمزعوم (7 June 2015) An interview, in Arabic, with Nicolas Hénin the French reporter who had been held hostage for 10 months by ISIS about his experience with the extremist group.
GUEST POST: The Conquest of Constantinople: The Islamic State Targets a Turkish Audience (9 June 2015)“On 01 June 2015, official Islamic State (IS) media outlet al-Hayat Media released the first issue of a new Turkish language magazine entitled, Konstantiniyye (the transliteration of the Ottoman spelling of Constantinople)”
The Man Saving Syria`s Antiquities (10 June 2015) BBC Outlook featured the efforts of Prof. Ma`amoun Abdul-karim the Director of Antiquities in Syria to protect Syria`s heritage.
Besieged by ISIS: Photographs from inside the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor (11 June 2015) Series of images that illustrate the hardships and conflict in Deir-ez Zor.
Captured fighter details Islamic State`s Turkey connection (17 June 2015) Huseyin Mustafa Peri, captured IS fighter, explains the ISIL recruiting process, its expansion, and their presence in Turkey.
The Arabic version of this article can be found here: مقاتل مأسور يفصّل الصّلة بين تنظيم الدولة الإسلاميّة وتركيا
على خطوط التماس مع تنظيم الدولة في ريف حلب (June 22 2015) This video shows heavy battles between Syrian opposition armed group and ISIS at Umm Hawsh, north of Aleppo.
ISIS takes a sledgehammer to civilization once again: Activists caught smuggling Palmyra statues to safety are lashed - then forced to destroy priceless antiquities in front of a baying crowd (2 July 2015) “An activist had been attempting to smuggle the statues out of Palmyra only for the statues to be uncovered when he was caught by the militant group”.
Ogres and Orientalism: An Interview with Yassin al-Hajj Saleh (3 July 2015) Radio Free Syria editor Ruth Riegler interviews Yassin al-Hajj Saleh who shares his perspective about the Assad regime, Daesh and the West.
ISIS video shows execution of 25 men in ruins of Syria amphitheater (4 July 2015) A recent-released video from ISIS shows militants executing 25 captives in the ruins of a Roman amphitheater in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
Living with IS `nothing but pain, rape and war` (14 July 2015) Three Yazidi girls who were held captive by Islamic State (IS) group told schoolchildren in the UK of their experiences. One explained that living with IS was "nothing but pain, rape and war."
The Yazidi women held as sex slaves by IS (15 July 2015) It is almost a year since thousands of Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar, in northern Iraq, as Islamic State fighters entered their villages. This video sheds lights on the stories of three survivors.
`I`m Not a Butcher`: An Interview with Islamic State`s Architect of Death (16 July 2015) Christoph Reuter interviews Abu Abdullah who was, for one and a half years, responsible for organizing Islamic State`s suicide bombings in Baghdad. He is one of the organization`s rare leading figures to be captured alive. The interview conducted in a high-security prison in Baghdad.
Victims of ISIL attack in Turkey in personal stories (21 July 2015) These photos share stories of the victims of the Suruc massacre.
IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack (22 July 2015) Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
A visual guide to the rise of the Islamic State: Turkey Agrees to Assist U.S. With Airstrikes Against ISIS (27 July 2015) “The American and Turkish militaries announced a joint plan to remove Islamic State militants from a 60-mile strip along the Turkish border. The deal opens two air bases in southern Turkey for use by American warplanes to carry out strikes against Islamic State positions.”
قوانيندولةالخلافةتتحكمبمصيرالمرضى Hussam Al-Jaber demonstrates the ways in which ISIS laws negatively affects the lives, health and well-being of Syrians.
"داعش" يبدأتجميلالموصلاحتفالاً بذكرىتأسيسه ISIS started a beautification campaign of Mosul city in order to prepare to celebrate the anniversary of establishing the Islamic State.
النظام السوري و«داعش»... و«حزام الأمان» المترنّح في جنوب دمشق Mahmoud Sarhan comments on recent development between conflict parties in Southern Damascus.
لماذايتزوجالمهاجرمنفتاةسورية ؟ Noor Mahdi explores marriage manners under the rule of ISIS and the increasing marriages between Syrian women and immigrant Mujahidin.
اليونسكو: "تدميرمدينةتدمرالسوريةخسارةللبشريةوعلىمجلسالأمنبحثالمسألة" UNESCO states that it has serious concerns about the safety of monuments in Palmyra after the city falls under ISIS control.
نشأةداعشفيكتاب… قوةالأسطورةتكمنفيقوةأسرارها Ammar Daioub reviews an Arabic book about the foundation of ISIS by Nabil al-Mulhem.
لائحة "حدودالله" يوزعها "داعش" فيالرقةوتتضمنالجرائموالعقوبات ISIS distributed recently a list of offences and penalties according to Islamic Shariah.
هكذا تخلّى النظام السوري عن جيشه في تدمر This article shares the story of a soldier with the Syrian regime army in Palmyra that highlights how the regime abandoned soldiers in the city.
هل تغير انتصارات داعش موازيين القوى في العراق وسوريا؟ In this interview with Middle East expert Michael Luders, he states that "Homs is likely to be IS`s next target."
تنظيم الدولة الاسلامية يفجر خطا لنقل الغاز الى دمشق ISIS bombed a line that is responsible to transport natural gas from eastern Syria to Damascus and its suburbs.
إيران تتهم داعش بالاقتراب من حدودها وتهدد بضربه مباشرة.. وتنفي إرسال قواتها إلى العراق Iran threatens to strike ISIS in Iraq due to the group closeness to its borders.
تهديد"داعش" لآثار تدمر ..دعاية مقصودة ! This article explores ISIS communication and propaganda strategies of dealing with Palmyra archaeological heritage.
"عضاضات" داعشيثرنالهلعبيننساءالحويجةبالعراق This article reports about ISIS’ all-female mordacious team in Iraq, which has the mission to bite and pinch women who do not compile with ISIS interpretation of sharia.
البنتاغون 2012: نحن ندعم إمارة للقاعدة في سوريا Amer Mohsen writes about the recent declassified documents that reveal how the American administration deliberately allowed the emergence of Islamist groups in Syria to weaken the Syrian regime.
« لابشر ولا حجر».. تدمر وسرديات الحرب على الاثار Basileus Zeno criticizes the narratives that justify the war on Syria’s archaeological sites by creating a false moral dilemma, or a false dichotomy between “people” and “stones”.
"داعش" يشكل وزارة للآثار ISIS has recently formed a ministry of archaeology.
آسياآسيا الوسطى "تسقط" في غواية تنظيم "الدولة الإسلامية" This article demonstrates ISIS recruitment of and popularity among jihadists from Central Asia.
"سيلفي" "سيلفي" يتسبب بتدمير موقع لتنظيم "الدولة" في سوريا US intelligence in Florida was able to identify and struck an ISIS location in Syria after an ISIS member post a selfie picture on social media.
القصبي يعري «داعش»... و «التنظيم» يتوعد بجز رأسه This article features a Ramadan TV drama that portrays ISIS and the controversy around that.
معركةمعركة كسر العظم.. تبدأ في مارع Hasan Arfeh writes about the battle of Mare`, a town in northern Syria, administratively part of the Aleppo Governorate, between the city citizens and ISIS.
هل ينسف تنظيم "الدولة الإسلامية" مدينة تدمر التاريخية بعد أن فخخ مواقعها الأثرية؟ ISIS planted large deal of explosives and mines in the archaeological locations of the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra.
""داعش" في الذكرى الأولى لإعلان "الخلافة".. السيطرة على نصف سوريا ومجازر لا تنسى " On the occasion of the first anniversary of ISIS foundation, this article reviews the human rights violations by the group.
ياسين الحاج صالح: العرب ضد سوريا.. ولا ثورة دينية بأوامر سياسية (حوار) In this interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh, he shares his ideas about issues like Arabs position toward Syria and political Islam.
نتائج عكسية للتغطية الصحفية لحالات اغتصاب الدواعش للنساء في سوريا Jumana Ali writes about the counterproductive outcomes of the press coverage of rape cases against Syrian women by ISIS members.
بالصور..داعش يضع 7 شروط صارمة لخروج المرأة من بيتها ISIS imposes 7 conditions that restrict women`s appearance in public places.
داعش يبيع 100 من "السبايا" السوريات بسوق "النخاسة" في الفلوجة وينظم مسابقة للقرآن جائزتها "سبية" ISIS sold 100 of his female Syrian "captives" in a "slave" market in in Fallujah and organized a Quran competition that awarded a "Sabbieh" for each winner.
لبنان: تراجع عدد مسلحي «داعش» و«النصرة» إلى 700 This article states that ISIS and al-Nousra Front lost many fighters in Lebanon who escaped from the eastern Lebanese - Syrian border area after Hezbollah tightened siege on the Syrian side of Tmrkzhma areas, and colliding Lebanese army from the Lebanese side.
بتهمة الردة.. “داعش” تعدم أبرز علماء السنة في العراق ISIS executed the most prominent Sunni scholars in Iraq, Ahmed Ali Saleh al-Qaisi.
غموض يلف مقتل الشويب .. «منشد داعش» Al-Shuaib, a chanter of ISIS, was killed in mysterious circumstances.
داعش يشن حملات تفتيش على مقاهي الإنترنت في الرقة ISIS launches a new campaign that restricts Internet use in the public and private spaces of Al-Raqqah.
صورة مسربة من مبايعة لداعش.. تكشف هوية الزعيم والأمير الشرعي A new collection of photos that documents pledging allegiance to ISIS in southern Damascus reveals the true identity of one of ISIS`s emirs who was allegedly a former prisoner in Sednaya prison.
Books and Publications
The Islamic State`s (ISIS, ISIL) Magazine: Dabiq
“All of the issues of the Islamic State`s glossy propaganda magazine `Dabiq,` named after a key site in Muslim apocalypse mythology can be foundhere.”
Or you can download the last issue (Issue 9) from here:
Islamic State (ISIS) Magazine: Dabiq - “They Plot and Allah Plots” (Issue 9) (PDF file)
“The ninth issue of the Islamic State`s Dabiq magazine is called They Plot and Allah Plots, referring to the central feature of the magazine which argues that Islamic State supporters should not fear any plans to defeat them since Allah controls the world. The issue focuses on legitimacy - both attacking that of its enemies in Syria and the surrounding Arab nations, and in building up its own, with pieces on the importance of jihad. Most shockingly this issue ran a lengthy segments admitting to and justifying sex slavery. It threatens to sell US first Lady Michelle Obama into sexual slavery for a third of a dinar”.
Islamic State (ISIS) Magazine: Dabiq - “The Laws of All or the Laws of Men” (Issue 10) (PDF file)
“The tenth issue of the Islamic State`s Dabiq magazine is called The Laws of All or the Laws of Men. It opened by praising the deadly simultaneous terror attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France and the massive casualties caused. It calls on children to obey Allah (ie. ISIS) before their parents and wives to leave their husbands who fight ISIS. It also boasts of expansions in the Caucasus and recruitment in Afghanistan. Since it is the Ramadan issue, it discusses the historical victories of some of the early Muslim armies during Ramadan as well as expounding on the holiness of the month.”
al-Ḥayāt Media Center presents a new magazine from The Islamic State: “Constantinople #1” (1 July 2015)
This issue is in Turkish and available as a PDF from here
al-Ḥayāt Media Center presents a new magazine issue from The Islamic State: “Constantinople #2″ (21 July 2015)
This issue is in Turkish and available as a PDF from here
How to Survive in the West: A Mujahid Guide (PDF Format)
ISIS published a Jihadi e-book that describes itself as “a guide for the Muslims who are living in a majority non Muslim land” that “will teach you how to be a secret Agent who lives a double life, something Muslims will have to do to survive in the coming years.”
A Brief Guide to the Islamic State
British jihadi Abu Rumaysah released a tourist guide titled “A Brief Guide to the Islamic State` ” which claims ISIS “has all the makings of a plush holiday resort”.