THE MASTER PLAN by Brian Fishman


ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory
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A clinical dissection of the Islamic State group’s blueprint for waging jihad and establishing a caliphate.

Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow with the International Security Program at New America, analyzes the ideological motivation of the progenitors of IS, namely that of Jordanian “thug” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was first financed by al-Qaida to run a training and recruiting camp in Afghanistan, alongside the Taliban. With the United States invasion of Iraq, al-Zarqawi learned from the Kurdish jihadi community (Ansar al-Islam) much about violent governance and digital tools that he would later use in making IS a global phenomenon. By 2004, al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida had created a joint vision that took the form of a seven-stage “master plan” calling for the establishment of a caliphate by 2014—exactly as it happened. Fishman divides the book into these seven stages, supposedly culminating in the rallying of 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide “under a single banner to overthrow remaining apostate Muslim regimes and destroy Israel.” The other operational blueprint that delineated this murderous vision was the widely accessible manual The Management of Savagery (2004). Fishman pursues al-Zarqawi’s masterminding of terrorist attacks in Iraq, including the explosion at the Shia holy city of Najaf in 2003, an act aimed at polarizing relations between the Shiites and the Sunnis. Important tenets of what Fishman calls Zarqawiism are the dispensability of apostates (actually, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims) and the populist notion that the highest form of religious devotion is being an active warrior. The author notes how the Iraqi jihadi movement was greatly enhanced by disenfranchised Baathist policemen and by Bashar al-Assad’s release of political prisoners. The bedfellows the jihadi movement has engendered are strange indeed, and Fishman wonders, “just who would benefit most from the Islamic State’s defeat?”

A sage assessment showing how IS world domination could never come to pass because it has alienated too many Muslims worldwide.

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-300-22149-7
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2016


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