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The Islamic rise of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in Iraq-Syrian context occurred against the backdrop of the overall dominance of a number of radical Islamist organizations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. They are among the most lethal terrorist groups in the world as well as the founders of sporadic bursts of jihadist terrorism in the West. The presence of ISIS is also characterized as more active in the conflict zones. This group is especially popular in the Muslim world, with the influx of foreign jihadists into both the Middle East and other regions of the world, including Western countries. This paper aims to analyze ISIS presence in connection with the military interventions of the USA referring to the book Middle Eastern Security, the US Pivot and the Rise of ISIS by Toby Dodge and Emile Hokayem.
The book is dedicated to the phenomenon of “Islamic State,” which is one of the most dangerous and effective international terrorist organizations. The piece presents a study of the genesis of the ISIS group and the reasons for its inception. The analysis of the social and geo-political situations of the Sunni community in Iraq since the US aggression of 2003 is conducted. The identification of the factors which are conducive to the spread of religious extremism in the northern regions of Syria and Iraq is also provided. Lastly, there is the study of military and political potential of the ISIS and the factors that may hinder the expansion of education. Throughout the book in question, ISIS is regarded as a fundamentally new phenomenon that can affect the development of the Middle Eastern region, as the boundaries have already been shifted. According to the authors of the book, the main reason for an armed uprising in the northern provinces of Iraq in the summer of 2014 was discontent of the Sunni population with the discriminatory policy of the government. The driving forces of the uprising at the first stage were the Iraqi Sunni tribes and former Baath party activists. At the next stage, however, the initiative was overtaken by Islamic extremists generally referred to as jihadists. Another reason was the civil war in Syria. If these factors are not eliminated, then, according to the authors, the fight against the “Islamic state” will be ineffective. The book includes scientific studies, newspaper and magazine articles, as well as content in English, Russian, French, and Persian, all of which are dedicated to this issue.
One of the strongest points of the book is in the fact that the authors conduct a critical analysis of the situation in the Middle East and the American engagement in the process. ISIS does not only interact with other Islamic factions of the Iraqi armed opposition (which, actually, have established an informal coalition), but continues its armed activity on the territory of neighboring Syria. In the authors’ point of view, ISIS also has very substantial financial resources to ensure its sustainable survival. Their financial activities include oil smuggling and other forms of cross-border trade, financial assets and property seizures, Islamic collection of taxes on the territories under their control, and similar illegal actions.
Another strong point of the book encompasses the fact that the authors draw illustrative examples that support the assumptions, which have been proposed throughout the book. For instance, the authors believe that the new aggravation of the situation in Iraq in 2014 could only seem apocalyptic to the particular audience. These people took seriously the fact that the US government and many Western media pacified Iraq and the gradual establishment of stability and function of the government in this country. This picture required political propaganda and the support of the Obama administration for one of its main foreign policy promises – the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. However, as the authors mention, this mismatch has been obvious to any serious observer long before the crisis of 2014.
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It was prominent that as the US military and political leadership tried to gloss over the situation in Iraq after the withdrawal of US forces, it accentuated the threat from ISIS to US interests and security in the summer and autumn of 2014. The official response to this threat became a series of American air strikes on ISIS positions in Iraq, which began on August 8th, 2014. The decision of the US airstrikes on militant positions was to increase military aid to the governmental forces and to provide humanitarian aid to Iraq.
In addition, the US intervention had to contribute to the improvement of the image of the Obama administration as the midterm elections in Congress were upcoming in the autumn of 2014. It had to take place against the background of the succession of foreign policy failures by demonstrating commitment and long-term strategic support for Iraq (as well as the improved relations with Iran).
However, it has been impossible to improve the situation in Iraq by the limited air strikes by the coalition led by the United States with the assistance of its Western and Arab allies. The authors believe that even with sufficient military and financial assistance of local forces that oppose ISIS (Kurdish troops in Iraq and Syria, the forces of the Iraqi government and other Shi’ite groups), ISIS has largely managed to adapt. It has relocated to the cities and other settlements, as well as it has achieved a large-scale reduction in the number of convoys and other major targets.
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The authors of the book also forecast further plans and directions of the conflict. First, in accordance with the authors, ISIS’s plan to control various parts of Iraq has limits. Firstly, in the mountainous Kurdish areas and Shia populated areas, the strong position of groups is supported by Iran. Secondly, as the authors investigate the situation of ISIS and Iraq, they lead the reader to the conclusion that the transition from captured to controlled territory as well as population management in the areas are disloyal. Thus, the non-Sunni radical Islamist movement will start to slip.
In addition, contradictions within the opposing coalition - particularly between the more secular forces (ex-Baathists) and the radical Islamists - can develop. In Syria, the ISIS has spoiled relations with other groups in the radical jihadist wing, including the biggest group called Al-Nusra Front. As a result, armed clashes have developed causing the relocation of the main ISIS forces at the turn of 2013-2014 back to Iraq.
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In general, the book Middle Eastern Security, the US Pivot and the Rise of ISIS by Toby Dodge and Emile Hokayem is a precious source of the information about ISIS conflict. The authors have conducted profound analysis of the case and have even forecasted possible further directions of crisis development. All the assumptions used in the text of the book have been supported by direct examples from the credible sources. The book is an interesting source for those interested in the US foreign policy and the history of the Middle East.
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