On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (i.e. Greater Syria) – henceforth, ISIS – surprised the world by advancing into several territories of central and northern Iraq. Most notably, ISIS has taken over Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul, and the also important cities of Fallujah and Tikrit (the birthplace of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein). ISIS has also tried to gain control of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk (which is now under the control of Iraqi Kurdish forces). Furthermore, it is said that the vitally important oil refinery in Baiji has been almost completely taken over by ISIS in an offensive against the Iraqi army.
Most importantly, ISIS has declared itself to be an Islamist “Caliphate” (i.e. Islamic state) and has unilaterallydeclared statehood in Syrian and Iraqi territories under its control. The group has recently renamed itself as the “Islamic State” and declared the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, as the new caliph of the Islamic State and the leader of Muslims everywhere.
ISIS’offensive has left the Iraqi state in a dire situation, ridden by sectarian and ethnic conflict. The conflict has created a large number of refugees, and has threatened Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. The following addresses the roots and ideological features of the conflict, in addition to the geopolitical implications of the Iraqi crisis for regional relations and U.S. foreign policy. Emphasis is placed upon analyzing the most important developments and their implications rather than on facts, as the situation on the ground is highly fluid. Continue reading