The recently established terrorist organization, ISIS has made a huge impact around the entire world within months and has proven to be a much larger threat to the Middle East and potentially nations all around the planet. The intentions of ISIS have been made clear since their conception, and that is to create a caliphate in the Middle East. They have already acquired territory roughly the size of Belgium so far in their conquest, and appear to wish to spread throughout the region even more, attempting to acquire all of Iraq in the process. The conflicts between Sunni and Shia help to boost up their numbers considering that they are Sunni, and appeal to other Sunnis in the region who wish to defeat the Shia.
The existence of ISIS could be potentially explained by Realism, and the pursuit of power and territory in a world of International Anarchy, with a hint of theological ideology thrown in the mix, although there are some aspects that could, or should make the claim that what they are doing is rational questionable. On one hand it can be argued that they are not crazy and completely fundamentalist, this is evident by their alignment with anti-Saddam secularist militias, and their self-sustaining cash flow coming from oil refineries and well organized crime brackets. They have even contributed to communities, helping to build them up and giving medical care to people in their controlled territory, winning over more support in the region. This appears to make them be rational actors, with very well-thought out plans and a system that ensures that they constantly gain new supporters by the day. Appealing to people around the world with their usage of social media and religious messages, getting other extremist Muslims to join from numerous nations, numbering to a shocking 15,000 members from foreign nations around 80 nations participating in the war on the side of ISIS. 2,000 of which are European, and around 100 are American.
Some features that make it seem as if what ISIS is doing is essentially insane, (yet not completely since victory isn’t even close to being in sight for anti-ISIS members) is the staggering amount of nations that are now participating in the fight against ISIS. One would expect this alone to mean that ISIS is doomed, yet the U.S. is overwhelmingly the most involved member of this coalition, with other members putting in significantly less direct military effort to stop ISIS. Even with Kurds and Anti-ISIL Sunni tribes helping in the fight they are not nearly enough to stop ISIS. Two nations that could prove to be essential in the fight against ISIS are Iran and Syria, but the lack of inclusion of leaders of these two nations and a seemingly low amount of intent to cooperate with them comes across as having a limited desire to actually defeat ISIS. The U.S. government doesn’t seem to want to align itself with the likes of Iran and Syria completely in the fight against ISIS, even though this could prove to be extremely effective in this fight.
The lack of overall International involvement militarily and the lack of trust between the U.S. and two key states, Syria and Iran, shows how the effort against ISIS isn’t exactly as strong as one would think considering that there are dozens of states in a coalition against it. Ingenious planning and tactical takeovers on ISIS’s part, as well as the intensely increasing numbers of soldiers fighting within their flanks, and even non-soldiers working alongside them such as doctors and other workers that mimics an actual operating state, puts them at a fairly large advantage even with a large coalition of some of the world’s most powerful nations against them. The lack of cooperation between the United States and states like Syria and Iran, and the lack of drive to get too directly involved on the part of most other members of the coalition greatly reflect key elements learned in class about uncertainty especially. with a lack of certainty about how trustworthy the U.S. can consider Iran/Syria as well as the lack of certainty on the part of other nations about how worth it getting involved would actually be for them.
One key thing that seems to make it appear that what ISIS is doing isn’t purely Realist in nature, is the threat of waging a jihad on the soil of numerous other nations, particularly the U.S., using foreigners that came in to join ISIS, get trained, and then returned to their home countries. This is more of an ideological element, and even though it shows how ISIS would want to pursue as much influence and power across the world as possible it isn’t exactly a tactic that would heighten its chance of survival, but rather increase hostility towards the “state” and the sentiment against them would become stronger raising the chance that they would be attacked by multiple states. Even with this apparent want on ISIS’s part they appear to have been acting fairly rationally overall so far in their endeavors, and with a lack of legitimate cooperation and strong united effort against them they will likely become much stronger.
Comment below with thoughts you have on this issue, and what you believe is likely to happen in the future in this fight against ISIS. Just how much more powerful do you believe ISIS will become? Do you think the U.S. must cooperate with Iran and Syria more in order to take out this threat more effectively? What do you make of the foreigners joining ISIS, how much of a threat could they pose against other states and just what does their membership say about International conflict and relations?
What credible incentive to these people have to leave places like Europe in the thousands to join ISIS (personal question that I am wondering about, and what this says since this class primarily focuses on state actors and non-state groups, and the people fleeing their nations to fight alongside ISIS and then return to their home countries seems to be a bit of a mind-boggling concept to explain in International terms appropriate for this course).