The Etymology of the Islamic State

Prior to adopting the name “Islamic State”, the terrorist organisation referred to by American President Barack Obama as ISIL and French President François Hollande as Daesh went through many different iterations, each with its own name.

Islamic State flag in Mosul
A motorist drives beneath a flag of the Islamic State at the entrance of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul (via Associated Press)

Aaron Zelin, founder of the fantastic Jihadology.net website, outlined the group’s development since its establishment in Iraq in early-1999. The group that has come to be known as the Islamic State was founded as Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (جماعة التوحيد والجهاد)– Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad — by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The group did not gain notoriety until in 2004, following the American invasion of Iraq, it adopted the name Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد في بلاد الرافدين) — Al-Qaeda in the Land of Two Rivers (Mesopotamia), better known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). For a brief period in 2006, prior to Zarqawi’s death, the group was organised into Majlis Shura al-Mujahedin (مجلس شورى المجاهدين) — the Mujahedin Shura Council. Following Zarqawi’s death in a US targeted strike in June 2006, the group was rebranded in October 2006 as dawlat al-iraq al-islamiyya (دولة العراق الإسلامية) — the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).

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U.S. Lacks Long-Term Strategy in the Fight Against ISIS

There is a lot of confusion about the American strategy toward the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This is partially due to the President Obama’s lack of specificity and the shortsighted nature of Congress. The conversation now revolves around a question of how we can prevent “lone wolf” attacks at home, when perpetrators are inspired by ISIS or Al Qaeda-affiliated groups. But this still falls in the context of the war America currently fights against ISIS in the Middle East.

On Tuesday, congressional counterterrorism policy advisor Harlan Geer spoke to the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University about Congress’ lack of a long-term strategy on the issue.

U.S. airstrike on Kobani
Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in November (via Associated Press)

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