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The Rise of ISIS

by Joby Warrick

Reviewed by Veronica Del Torre


By Veronica Del Torre | Beheadings are events that no one should have to witness − in person or remotely. The marriage of high technology and archaic ideologies have brought such images into the lives of millions around the world. The so-called Caliphate has used, and is still using, tech-tools to recruit fighters, for propaganda, as a media diffusor and to enhance the perception of fear. How did we get here?

The aim of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, by Joby Warrick, seeks to answer this question. In doing so, he provides a detailed step-by-step analysis of both Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s personal history and impact on global jihadism, which helps better grasp the regional and international political decisions that generated the ideal context for Islamist radicalization. Although much has happened since the book’s publication (2015), it remains valid and helps readers look deeper into the matter and understand current events. Warrick provides a comprehensive insight into the regional dynamics that occurred this past decade. The work illustrates how regional states, for instance Jordan, spent these years warning Western powers of the highly possible dangerous outcomes of a protracted war in the Middle East; it had been fighting early ISIS at the forefront with its intelligence and military. The Western states acted as if they knew better and refused to get too involved.

This work critically explains the process that facilitated the Islamic State’s rise to physically conquer territory in Iraq (due to its brutal methods) and how that created a political vacuum which doubled by the Western removal of Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussain. Indeed, the US-led coalition did not take into deep consideration the culture and history of the inhabitants; the dynamics occurring in the region and the possible outcomes of the “war on terror” in Iraq and beyond. It started without a proper plan for re-building post-Hussain’s Iraq. In doing so, they paved the way for the Caliphate to creep into villages and towns, conquering them all without much resistance and realizing Zarqawi’s dream. This scrutiny highlights, somehow, the Western pretentious believe to know how to fight dictators and import democracy around the world.

This book comes highly recommended for its accurate explanation of key events. Moreover, even if it has a storytelling easy-to-read flow, it is enlightening not only for scholars but also for policymakers and the concerned public. It contributes to a greater understanding of the group’s formation, evolution, purpose and the reasons why it is so difficult for Westerners to understand, and defeat it, but also all the mistakes made over the past decade. While, the work does not deeply research the reasons why Zarqawi was the right leader to build the Caliphate. It focuses instead, on how he becomes the leader to inspire hundreds of thousands people to commit horrible crimes and how everything developed and continued after his death in 2006. ISIS, Zarqawi’s perverted ideological baby, continues to haunt global affairs. Warrick, and others like him, can be used to fight back.

11 September 2019

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