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Iraq: Civil-Military Relations from the Monarchy to the Republics  

Ahmed S. Hashim

Iraq is a young state, having been founded in 1921 by a colonial power, Britain. Its army was created several months beforehand, with its nucleus being Iraqi Sunni Arab officers of the former Ottoman army. As the mandate power in Iraq, Britain wanted a small internal security establishment while the officer corps and the monarchy wanted a large army that would act as a nation-building institution to make Iraqis out of the disparate ethnic groups who found themselves reluctant subjects of this new entity. As the strongest institution in the fragile state, the army played an important role in the political process and ultimately launched the first coup in the Arab world in 1936. As the older and more pliant senior officer corps retired, younger, more nationalist officers came to the fore; they were discontented with the overbearing presence of the British, the rampant cronyism and corruption in the royal court and among the ruling elite, and by the backwardness of their country. A small group of militant nationalist officers seized power and fought a brief and unsuccessful war against Britain. The power of the ruling elite was seemingly consolidated in the period after World War II. Both Iraq and the rest of the Middle East were in turmoil as colonial powers found themselves facing a rising tide of movements striving for independence. Leading the way were junior and middle-ranking officers, and in Iraq they launched a bloody coup-revolution in 1958 that destroyed the monarchy and established a republic. The Iraqi republic was unstable, due mostly to the inability of elites to establish solid institutions for governing the country and channeling mass politics effectively. The fragility and lack of legitimacy of governments provided ample opportunity for the military—which was riven by factionalism and ideological differences—to intervene regularly in the political process. The seizure of power by the nationalist and socialist Baath Party under Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein effectively put an end to the military’s political role; the Baath Party implemented a series of stringent “coup-proofing” measures between 1968 and 2003 when it was displaced from power by the U.S. invasion. The Baath Party’s measures did not mean that members of the officer corps did not try their hand at overthrowing the Baath regime; many did, but all failed, often at tremendous costs to themselves and their families. The measures of control had a deleterious effect on the professionalism and combat performance in the conventional wars that it fought between 1980 and 2003. The Americans tried to build a new Iraqi army and sought to professionalize it, but their efforts had little success. The removal of the brutal authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein did not change Iraqi politics for the better. Sunni Arab dominance was replaced by Shia Arab dominance. Post-Baath governments were kleptocratic, corrupt, and characterized by ethno-sectarian favoritism and cronyism. These characteristics pervaded the new military itself but the military’s ability to interfere in the political process has been stymied by its focus on fighting the dangerous jihadist fighters of the Islamic State (Daesh), the proliferation of government security services, and by the emergence of heavily armed and motivated pro-government militias. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.


Suicide Terrorism Theories  

Susanne Martin and Ami Pedahzur

Suicide terrorism has captured considerable attention since the attacks on September 11, 2001. Governments offered unprecedented support for scholars who were willing to research the phenomenon. One result has been a tremendous growth in the volume of research on terrorism. The research has also become more diverse. Until 2001, 84% of the articles appeared within the disciplines of political science and international relations. Since 2002, though, only 53% of articles belonged to these disciplines. Meanwhile, other areas (most notably economics) increased in prominence. Despite the growth in the volume and diversity of the research, important aspects of the phenomenon remain largely unexplored. This is particularly evident when it comes to studies of suicide terrorism. Two areas requiring further attention include the “theater of terrorism” and the role of culture. The case of ISIS demonstrates the significant roles of the mass media and culture in explaining contemporary suicide terrorism.


Terrorism as a Global Wave Phenomenon: Religious Wave  

David C. Rapoport

Time gaps existed in the first three waves between precipitating political events and the development of terrorist activity. But now the time gap has disappeared because the precipitating events were directly associated with terrorism. All of those events occurred in the Islamic world where religion was employed to justify terror. Jewish, Sikh, and Christian terror groups emerged very quickly afterwards, but Islamic groups were larger, more durable, and had a more significant global impact. The international world changed; Iran’s religious revolution made it a major player; and the Soviet Union’s collapse intensified Islamic opposition to the United States. Sikh, Jewish, and Christian terrorists came from a national base, but Islamic ones often emerged from many countries to join a particular group; and two critical groups, al-Qaeda and ISIS, aimed to re-establish a caliphate embracing the Islamic world. Diasporas provided financial support as they had in other waves, but some Islamic immigrants, like first wave anarchists, employed terror in their new homes and often left those homes to seek targets elsewhere. “Suicide bombing” or “self-martyrdom,” the wave’s distinguishing tactic, made it the most destructive wave. The only religious groups to embrace this tactic were Islamic, though ironically, the secular Tamil Tigers used it and did so more often than any Islamic group did. Islamic groups initiated social services for their societies, a program not seen earlier, and the Tamil Tigers adopted social services for their communities as well. Al-Qaeda, born in the resistance to the Soviet Afghan invasion, became the wave’s most important group. After difficulties in helping uprisings outside Afghanistan in the Islamic world, it decided to strike the United States, and its 9/11 attacks, the wave’s high point, are the most destructive terrorist acts ever. The United States then invaded Afghanistan forcing al-Qaeda to leave that country. Instead of completing the job, however, the United States decided to invade Iraq to prevent Iraq from giving al-Qaeda weapons of mass destruction, weapons Iraq did not have. This over-reaction inflamed Muslims everywhere, enabling al-Qaeda to get more recruits and develop Iraqi resistance. One crucial focus of al-Qaeda in Iraq was its gruesome atrocities towards the Shia population, which produced violence between Sunni and Shia throughout the Islamic world. The United States ultimately eliminated al-Qaeda in Iraq, and al-Qaeda Central was unable to get another ground base. Al-Qaeda Central then adopted two methods to revitalize itself. The lone wolf strategy, developed first by U.S. Christian terrorists, did not produce many significant results. At the same time, many franchises were created but each focused on local activities and did not strengthen al-Qaeda’s global capacities. A new situation developed with the “Arab Spring” in 2011, when peaceful secular demonstrations for equality and democracy were transformed into violent conflicts between Shia and Sunni sects. Syria, the bloodiest scene, attracted support from Shia and Sunni elements everywhere and encouraged Russia and the United States to get engaged. ISIS (Islamic State), the remnant of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was reborn and grew immensely there as it captured much territory in Iraq and Syria and became the wave’s most important group. Al-Qaeda Central also became involved and eventually turned against ISIS. In a short time ISIS lost most of the territory gained, and its European strikes to get the West more deeply involved in the conflict by sending troops to Syria and Iraq failed. Al-Qaeda and ISIS franchises continue to fight each other, a conflict that may end the wave.