Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 14:33 | SYDNEY
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Islamic State

Also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the  Sunni militant group Islamic State, after establishing itself in western Iraq and northeastern Syria, has blitzed across northern Iraq in recent months, seizing cities and military equipment.  The group has proclaimed the area that it holds as a caliphate. 

Maliki’s mismanagement of Iraq complicated the provision of military assistance to the central Baghdad government.  However, by launching attacks against religious and ethnic minorities in the region, the Islamic State has given the United States an opportunity al-Qaeda never did: the ability to deploy military support ostensibly in defence of local communities.

With Haidar al-Abadi now in power and the promise of a more inclusive government, Washington has decided to lead a broad coalition of states to assist the Iraqi government to take on Islamic State. US airpower has enabled a coalition of Iraqi government troops, Kurdish Peshmerga and Shi’a militias to blunt Islamic State advances in the north and to regain control over Mosul Dam.  This is a likely model for future military action against the Islamic State forces.


The Islamic State emerged from the marriage of radical Islamists with the chaos of post-invasion Iraq.  Under the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi an insurgent group that would eventually come to be known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was established.  In 2004 Zarqawi swore an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden, but AQI’s propensity for attacking Shia communities irked some within al-Qaeda.

In 2006 Zarqawi was killed by an airstrike, and the Egyptian-born Abu Ayyub al-Masri took over leadership of AQI. The group was renamed the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and four years later al Masri was killed in a joint American and Iraqi operation. The Iraqi-born Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was then named leader of ISI. Having secretly established its Syrian branch in the name of Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) under Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani in 2011, in 2013 Baghdadi attempted to make himself the pre-eminent jihadist leader by naming JAN as part of ISI, but Jowlani reaffirmed his loyalty to al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.  This led to a split between ISI and al-Qaida and clashes between IS and its now rivals amongst the Islamist ranks.  In June 2014 ISIS declared a region encompassing parts of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria as a new caliphate, and renamed itself the Islamic State.


With over a hundred Australian nationals fighting or supporting the fighting in Iraq and Syria, the Australian Government is concerned about the potential return to Australia of radicalised jihadists from Iraq and Syria, as well as the linkages that those who will not return, will have formed. The government has cancelled dozens of passports, and the fear of domestic terrorism has generated much debate about legislative changes to combat the threat.  

Neil, an Australian terrorist

The detention of Neil Prakash is of significant interest to Australia but perhaps less so for other countries. At this point, so little is known among open sources about the circumstances of his capture that it is difficult to make definitive statements about what it means. There are certainly many

Why Indonesian extremists are gaining ground

If anyone wonders why Indonesia has been ineffective in curbing extremism, the anti-Ahok campaign provides an object lesson. In the name of demanding that the Jakarta governor be prosecuted for blasphemy, it brings together violent extremists, moralist thugs and powerful political interests. And