17 things about ISIS and Iraq you need to know

19 Cards

CURATED BY Zack Beauchamp

2014-10-09 12:57:39 -0400

  1. ISIS used to be al-Qaeda in Iraq
  2. ISIS wants to establish a caliphate
  3. The conflict between Iraqi Sunnis and Shias sustains ISIS
  4. Iraq’s former Prime Minister made the ISIS problem worse
  5. ISIS has a really important base in Syria
  6. ISIS funds itself through oil and an extortion racket
  7. The global oil market was spooked by ISIS' initial advance
  8. The conflict has been a boon to Iraq's Kurds — but that may have changed
  9. ISIS isn’t the only anti-government rebel group
  10. ISIS has made significant territorial gains in Iraq
  11. The Iraqi army is much stronger than ISIS, but it’s also kind of a mess
  12. Iran is fighting on the Iraqi government’s side
  13. The US and Iran have talked about Iraq
  14. The US has launched a campaign to destroy ISIS
  15. Some Americans blame Obama for this
  16. Iraq's Sunnis and minorities will probably suffer the most
  17. ISIS captured and executed James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two American journalists
  18. This video explains the crisis in 3 minutes
  19. How have these cards been updated?
  1. Card 1 of 19

    ISIS used to be al-Qaeda in Iraq

  2. Card 2 of 19

    ISIS wants to establish a caliphate

  3. Card 3 of 19

    The conflict between Iraqi Sunnis and Shias sustains ISIS

  4. Card 4 of 19

    Iraq’s former Prime Minister made the ISIS problem worse

    ISIS would be able to recruit Sunni fighters off of the Sunni-Shia tension even if Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki hadn't held office until mid-August, but his policies towards the Sunni minority have helped ISIS considerably. It remains to be seen whether the new PM, Haider al-Abadi, will be an improvement.

    Maliki, a Shia Muslim, built a Shia sectarian state and refused to take steps to accommodate Sunnis. Police killed peaceful Sunni protestors and used anti-terrorism laws to mass-arrest Sunni civilians. Maliki made political alliances with violent Shia militias, infuriating Sunnis. ISIS cannily exploited that brutality to recruit new fighters.

    When ISIS reestablished itself, it put Sunni sectarianism at the heart of its identity and propaganda. The government persecution, according to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies' Michael Knights, "played right into their hands." Maliki "made all the ISIS propaganda real, accurate." That made it much, much easier for ISIS to replenish its fighting stock.

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    Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images

    That wasn't the only way the Iraqi government helped ISIS grow, according to Knights. The US and Iraqi governments released a huge number of al-Qaeda prisoners from jail, which he thinks called "an unprecedented infusion of skilled, networked terrorist manpower - an infusion at a scale the world has never seen." US forces were running sophisticated raids "every single night of the year," and Knights believes their withdrawal gave ISIS a bit more breathing room.

    Whether Abadi will be better on these fronts than Maliki remains an open question. Like Maliki, Abadi hails from the Shia Islamist Dawa faction in the State of Law Coalition — he took power after a lawmaker rebellion against Maliki. He's promised to govern in a more inclusive manner, but there just hasn't been enough time since he's taken office to see for sure.

  5. Card 5 of 19

    ISIS has a really important base in Syria

  6. Card 6 of 19

    ISIS funds itself through oil and an extortion racket

  7. Card 7 of 19

    The global oil market was spooked by ISIS' initial advance

  8. Card 8 of 19

    The conflict has been a boon to Iraq's Kurds — but that may have changed

  9. Card 9 of 19

    ISIS isn’t the only anti-government rebel group

  10. Card 10 of 19

    ISIS has made significant territorial gains in Iraq

  11. Card 11 of 19

    The Iraqi army is much stronger than ISIS, but it’s also kind of a mess

  12. Card 12 of 19

    Iran is fighting on the Iraqi government’s side

  13. Card 13 of 19

    The US and Iran have talked about Iraq

  14. Card 14 of 19

    The US has launched a campaign to destroy ISIS

  15. Card 15 of 19

    Some Americans blame Obama for this

  16. Card 16 of 19

    Iraq's Sunnis and minorities will probably suffer the most

  17. Card 17 of 19

    ISIS captured and executed James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two American journalists

  18. Card 18 of 19

    This video explains the crisis in 3 minutes

  19. Card 19 of 19

    How have these cards been updated?

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