The confrontation with ISIL

The emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) triggered many question marks regarding the balance of power in the region, the magnitude of triggered sectarianism by Arab policies, the internal Iraqi conflict after the US invasion in 2003 and the roles played by Iran and the Gulf countries in Iraq.

Analysts almost agree that ISIS represents a contrasting stage in a certain manner to what is known as global jihadism, as it differs from al-Qaeda, the incubator from which it emanated, in its objectives and strategies but also in its management of the appropriated territories, although there are similarities in their resources and their ideology.

ISIS was able to merge former Iraqi generals and former Baath members; as it was able to exploit the sectarian politics of Iraqi former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, by instigating Sunni clans against him and his rule, and allying with Sunni tribes to defeat Iraqi army forces in more than one province.

The influence that ISIS succeeded in gaining has affected many policies of neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon. Jordan for instance, has taken part of the coalition led by the United States; while Bashar al-Assad took advantage of ISIS’s existence to present himself as the one facing this organization on his own. On the other hand, the role played by Ankara is still ambiguous to a large extent, as some perceive Turkey as reluctant in its fight against ISIS in order to bring down Assad’s regime, while others view that Turkish intelligence services contribute tremendously in data gathering. However, one of the neighboring countries that is hardly coping with the impact of the unrest is Lebanon, a country that is already suffering from a well-established political sectarianism.

The "Islamic state" is able to maintain a presence and existence through its control of civilian areas, which are difficult aerial targets, and through the selling of Iraqi oil on the black market as well as living off ransoms and robberies. ISIS has distinguished itself through the use of excessive cruelty and the exploitation of modern media in its psychological war against its opponents.