Gulf Roundtable: Fighting the Islamic State
Understanding the origins and appeal of the Islamic State group (ISG, also known as ISIS or ISIL) is crucial to fighting the movement, according to Hassan Hassan.
Hassan is the co-author of the new book, ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, which examines the evolution of an insurgent group linked to al Qaeda into a jihadi army that in 2014 declared a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq. He spoke at a CSIS Middle East Program Gulf Roundtable entitled “Fighting the Islamic State” on March 13, 2015.
Hassan identified three historical changes in the region that have contributed to the rise of the ISG. The first dates back to the early 1990s, following Iraq’s expulsion from Kuwait in the Gulf War. The second major development, according to Hassan, occurred ten years later with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.The third historical change Hassan noted was the Arab Spring. The democratic ideals that spurred the uprisings also contributed, paradoxically, to the rise of a group anathema to them. Hassan also addressed several setbacks that have hampered the international effort to defeat the ISG. He stressed that the ISG’s appeal is genuine and derives from its political project to restore Sunni dominance, tapping into anti-Shi‛a and anti-Persian sentiment. Even if the ISG is defeated militarily, Hassan argued, a more radical group will emerge as long as these core grievances are not addressed.