ISIS Resurgence and the Sunni-Shi’a Schism
This article argues that the recent resurgence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), otherwise known as the Islamic State, gained momentum during the Syrian civil war in 2011. Coinciding with the final withdrawal of the United States and coalition troops in Iraq, ISIS has surfaced as one of the most prominent radical insurgent groups in Iraq – after al-Qaeda – that threatens the social and security fabric struggling to unite the sectarian-divided country. However, there exists a gap in literature failing to examine whether the Sunni-Shi’a schism is the main force multiplier of the status quo conflict and insurgency. This paper investigates the ancient sectarian rivalry in Iraq that dates all the way back to the period of Prophet Muhammad, the composition of ISIS and its motivation, the timely concurrence of the Syrian civil war and U.S. troop withdrawal, and finally recommends courses of action for the government of the United States and Iraq. Through all this, this paper tries to piece together the impetus that has driven the resurgence of ISIS. The picture that emerges is a group that is largely an indirect offspring of the Syrian civil war that benefited from the final withdrawal of the U.S. and international troops as well as the political instability and sectarianism that continue to plague Iraq.
On 29 June 2014, a goal to establish a Sunni-majority Islamic caliphate in the Islamic world under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced in the midst of internal chaos and political uncertainty in Iraq following American withdrawal three years earlier. Yet, the terror group who had made such a bold declaration is not, strictly speaking, a brand new phenomenon. The roots of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now known as the “Islamic State” (ISIS), dates all the way back to the world’s most widely-known terrorist group, al-Qaeda. Following several amalgamations of the parent group, ISIS came under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who of Iraqi origin, rebranded the group under the banner of ISIS in April 2013. The recent resurgence of ISIS under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gained momentum during the period of the American troops withdrawal in Iraq and the Syrian uprising in 2012. However, its brutality and notorious intractability has been denounced by other terror group, including al-Qaeda, and has propelled intra-fighting between ISIS and other terror groups, such as Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra (JN). Yet, ISIS has been largely successful in controlling swaths of land (in Iraq, at least) despite the internal conflict with other likeminded Islamic jihadist groups in the region.