Cover Story Overview
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant: More than Just a June Surprise
By Daniel Milton, Bryan Price and Muhammad al-`Ubaydi
On June 29, 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) declared a caliphate in territories it holds in Iraq and Syria. In the past few weeks, the world has watched as the rapid advance of the ISIL has offered a serious and significant challenge to the stability of Iraq. Combined with the announcement from President Barack Obama about the deployment of 300 U.S. military advisers to help combat the threat posed by the ISIL, the quickly evolving nature of the crisis has focused public attention more on recent developments. While the importance of understanding the ISIL’s current actions is clear, it is also critical to understand the group’s past actions. This article offers a recent operational history of the ISIL. It relies on a new source of data: the words of the ISIL itself. The ISIL has published an extensive listing of its operations from November 2012-November 2013, including where and how each of its operations were carried out. Reviewing this record, particularly given the ISIL’s recent actions in Iraq, allows the examination of the ISIL from a different perspective. The sheer number of successful ISIL operations between November 2012-November 2013 suggests that a limited military solution that rolls the ISIL back to its pre-May 2014 state will not eliminate the threat posed by the group in the future.