A crash course on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

Kathleen Keaveny


ISIS? ISIL? Islamic State? It has been in headlines, news anchors and their guests argue about it and approximately 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes because of it. In a poll taken by NBC/Wall Street Journal, 40 percent of the poll takers, when asked for their opinion on actions taken against the Islamic State, responded by saying that they did not have enough knowledge on the issue to answer.


Here is a crash course on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

ISIS, what it means and their objective

There has been confusion on what to call this Sunni Jihadist splinter group of al-Qaeda. A majority of  House Republicans call the group ISIS, meaning the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Obama administration and a majority of House Democrats are choosing to refer to the group as ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq the Levant.

The Levant region is an area in the Middle East comprised of primarily Muslim countries including Lebanon, Jordan, Israel,  Cyprus and southern Turkey.  The Sunni Jihadist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has named the group IS, or the Islamic State.

ISIS is designated by the United States and other nations, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia, as a foreign terrorist group. With the objective of gaining religious authority of the world, especially Muslim regions, ISIS has taken violent military action in order to capture and hold territory.

ISI becomes ISIS

Iraqi Army on a patrol in Mosul
Iraqi Army on a patrol in Mosul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ISI, the Islamic State in Iraq,  joins with an al-Qaeda backed militant group in Syria and al-Baghdadi and names the group ISIS on April 8, 2013. Al-Qaeda forgoes its connections with ISIS Feb. 3, 2014.

ISIS captures Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and Tikrit from June 9 through 11, beginning their seizures of Iraqi towns. Ten days later, ISIS continues to capture three more Iraqi towns and Al-Qaim, an Iraqi town bordering Syria.

ISIS declares a caliphate, an Islamic state ruled by religious authority, thereby erasing international borders. Al-Baghdadi declares himself the authority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims and names his new state the Islamic State.

U.S. Military Intervention

President Obama addresses the nation on his plan to “ultimately destroy [ISIS]” Sept. 10, 2014. (Photo credit: free domain)
 The United States sends 300 troops to Iraq, making a total of 800 troops on Iraqi soil, with the intent to provide security and protection for the U.S. Embassy, Iraqi forces and Baghdad airport on June 30, 2014.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that the United States has launched 150 airstrikes against ISIS on Sept. 10, 2014.

President Obama addresses the nation regarding his strategic plan to destroy ISIS on Sept. 10, 2014.


“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Obama said. “Our objective is clear, we will degrade and ultimately destroy [ISIS] through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”

President Obama is not only focusing on Iraq. The focus is also on Syria and the United States’ participation with the Iraqi government.

“Working with the Iraqi government and humanitarian missions, so that we are hitting [ISIS] targets as Iraqi forces take offense,” said President Obama. “I will not hesitate to take action against [ISIS] in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

President Obama ends with a message to the foreign terrorist group.

“If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” said Obama.

Collegian Interactive News Team member Kathleen Keaveny can be reached at socialmedia@collegian.com or on Twitter @katkeaveny.