A thorough survey of the genesis of the Islamic State, from al-Qaida wannabe to lethal caliphate.
The Islamic State emerged strong from the shattered democratic ideals of the Arab Spring and, before that, the devastating sectarian violence that resulted from the American invasion of Iraq. In this rigorous synthesis of what is actually known about the jihadi terror group, Middle East scholar Gerges (International Relations/London School of Economics and Political Science; Obama and the Middle East: The End of America's Moment?, 2012, etc.) looks at its power center and leaders and the troubling incursions by the group into Iraq, Syria, and Kurdish territories since the summer of 2014. He also examines its enormous wealth from oil and the black market and recruiting attraction for young, disaffected rural, religious men. In contrast to al-Qaida, which was nearly destroyed by the death of Osama bin Laden and swore vengeance on the “far enemy” (the U.S., Israel, and the Western powers), the Islamic State has focused its fury on the “near enemy,” the apostate Shias. Gerges sees this as an ongoing genocide in contrast to the relatively few deaths of Western journalists and others. The group’s leadership, especially Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has thus co-opted the global jihadi movement, moving into the chaotic vacuum left by the American invasion of Iraq, appropriating the Baathist tools of repression, and offering “aggrieved Sunnis a potent pan-Sunni (Islamist) identity.” Though the Islamic State perversely took credit for the unleashing of popular discontent during the Arab Spring, Gerges points to the power grab resulting from the “grand collusion” between Arab autocrats and their patrons to maintain the status quo. The author looks carefully at the rise of leaders such as al-Baghdadi, but he concludes that the ideological-driven terror organization will eventually self-destruct because it cannot supply the civil state and institutions of freedom and social justice that the Arab people desperately want and need.
A specific, timely, well-rendered exegesis of the unfolding global threat.