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Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century

Updated on May 8, 2021
Mark Caruthers profile image

BA University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Geography & History

The Rise of the Islamic State (ISIS)

The rise of ISIS and its increasingly sophisticated social media communication and recruitment strategies has influenced a diverse group of people around the world. ISIS's far-reaching propaganda regime has attracted thousands of recruits, and helped Syria and Iraq emerge as the destinations of choice for the new generation of extremists.

In its campaign against terrorism, the United States has entered period of pessimism and gloom. The Director of National Intelligence gave a particularly gloomy outlook to the Senate Armed Services Committee for the near future. He believes that the threat of terrorism is far more worse than any other point in history. The Commander of the U.S. Special Operations forces in the Middle East, regards the Islamic State as a greater menace than al-Qaeda. The pessimism that prevails in the U.S. counter-terrorism community has developed over the past year amid a series of discouraging developments. First is the growth of the Islamic State (ISIS), second is the ongoing influx of foreign fighters into Syria, finally the collapse of the U.S. backed government in Yemen and the serious security threat from Libya as extremist take over that country.

Middle East

Images of Islamic State (ISIS) across the Middle East.

The Plague of Extremism Spreads

Another concern is that new terrorist groups are joining the Islamic State and helping spread the plague of extremism across the planet. U.S. leaders are frustrated that after 14 years of massive counter-terrorism operations around the world the threat of terrorism has not only survived, but has expanded across the Middle East. The Islamic State has redrawn the Geopolitical map in the Middle East through its violence. The Islamic State has exploited the civil war in Syria to amass territory and established a new caliphate. Even if the near-term prospect of a major attack in United States or Europe is slim, the possibility of an attack is accumulating rapidly. Even if we aren't attacked at home in the United States, you would have to be foolish not to believe that a regional war in the Middle East couldn't lead to a global war. If a regional war in the Middle East should develop it would disrupt global markets further weakening other venerable nations around the world. Opening the window for ISIS to move in and amass more territory.

At this point in North Africa militant groups inside Egypt, Libya, and Algeria have pledged allegiance to ISIS. In Egypt there is a growing concern that ISIS is gaining traction where extremists in Sinai have carried out major attacks on government forces, an area historically known for unrest and lawlessness. Egypt's fragile new government feels threatened by ISIS and has used its airpower against ISIS forces in Libya. ISIS will continue to thrive in countries divided by civil war and air strikes will not drive them out.

ISIS What Do They Want In Iraq?

Chemical Weapons just lying by the road in Libya.

Airstrikes have yet push back ISIS

The Islamic State with its battlefield successes and abundant presence on social media has now eclipsed al-Qaeda as the number one terrorist organization in the world. Even months of airstrikes have failed to diminish the flow of fighters into Syria. It has been reported that just last month more than 20,000 foreign fighters have entered Syria, including at least 3,400 fighters from the West. These terrorist operatives could eventually infiltrate back inside the United States. With this influx of fresh fighters the Islamic State could possibly have the numbers it needs to conquer Iraq. In Iraq the war with ISIS has two fronts, the north where the Kurdish forces are making some headway but ISIS still occupies Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. And in the rest of the country, where the Iraqi army is unable to hold back the forces of ISIS. For example, in the south the Iraqi army is unable to keep ISIS from making advances in areas like Anbar Province, where ISIS forces have seized parts of a city called al-Baghdadi, advancing within just a few miles of a military base where about 300 American Marines are training Iraqi military forces. At this point in time the Iraqi army is really unable to recapture any lost ground, even with the help of airstrikes, Iraq basically is a house of cards.

The ISIS occupation of Iraq is very similar to the last days of American involvement in Vietnam. Iraq's army has basically melted away into the desert, the Iraqi soldiers removed their uniforms in an effort to save their own lives, leaving behind billions of dollars of military equipment. After thousands of American dead and billions of dollars, America seems to have lost its will to continue to fight an endless war in Iraq. At this point in time ISIS may have more Humvees and M1 Abrams tanks than the Iraqi army possesses. When ISIS took control over northern Iraq the Iraqi military abandoned all its military equipment to the ISIS forces that occupy that region.

Captured American Equipment

Islamic State and Possible Threats

ISIS is the best funded and most well armed terrorist group in the Middle East. The United Nations has warned Barack Obama that ISIS has a two year supply of weapons. The New York Times reported that ISIS forces have been using ammunition manufactured in the United States, China, and other countries that have been supporting the regional security forces fighting the jihadists. The international efforts to try to choke off the flow of weapons to radical groups in the end is futile. That is because there are so many different parties in these conflicts with different agendas. The odds are that there is always somebody who wants to sell weapons to somebody.

ISIS has the capabilities that put it first on the list of terrorist threats to the world: the control of large, urban territories, huge amounts of cash, and a global network of recruits. Its seizure of banks and oil fields has given ISIS more than $2 billion in assets. ISIS is expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, and Libya. American intelligence officials have began to push for a new global war on terror. Many factors have developed that has raised great concern around the globe. ISIS may have captured sophisticated SA-24 man-portable anti-aircraft missiles in Syria. ISIS has FIM-92 Stingers captured from Iraqi bases. ISIS has control of Saddam's notorious 1980s chemical weapons complex with sarin and mustard gas. ISIS seized 40kg (88 pounds) of uranium from a university in the northern city of Mosul in July 2014. ISIS has acquired a cache of deadly chemical weapons in Libya, the sarin and mustard gas is likely to be 10 years old but the weapons remain extremely dangerous. ISIS has used chlorine gas in Iraq and has acquired significant expertise in chemical warfare from those who previously developed chemical weapons for Saddam Hussein. Currently, the man in charge of ISIS chemical weapons is an Egyptian engineer from Cairo. He is believed to be operating somewhere in an agricultural area south of Baghdad.


Possible Allies of the Islamic State (ISIS)

If ISIS could make the right connections to corrupt officials in Russia or Pakistan, the group could possibly be able to buy enough highly enriched uranium (about 50 pounds) and the technical help to build a crude nuclear device. Militants recruited from Europe or the United States could smuggle it into their home nations. Economic problems and political tensions have made Pakistan even more unstable than usual for the region. If ISIS gains control of or gets an ally in Pakistan, it could gain access to Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Given the inhumanity of ISIS, it could very well use nuclear weapons to advance their cause. Possibly 98% of Pakistani's support Islamic jihad, if that sounds too far-fetched, didn't Pakistan shelter Osama bin Laden and protect him for over a decade. It was only through a covert operation which didn't involve informing the Pakistani government of our intentions that the U.S. was able to kill bin Laden. Pakistan is the only nuclear state that shelters and protects terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Haqani Network and now the monstrous ISIS.

Yemen Now Under the Control of al-Qaeda

Great concern should also be given to al-Qaeda, its terrorist cell in Yemen is considered the groups most dangerous affiliate, most of its best bomb makers make up this cell. Now that al-Qaeda controls the entire country, Yemen had turned into one giant black hole for American intelligence officials. It wouldn't surprise U.S. intelligence officials if any of these terrorist groups were able to bring down a civilian airliner in the U.S. at anytime.


Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya

Now ISIS seems to have established a foothold in Libya, the concern is that ISIS will use Libya's coastline as a departure point for other objectives around the world most notably Europe. Libya has lacked real security of any kind since the fall of long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, since then the country has been under control of various feuding militia fighting for control of the country. Recently, a number of these militias have pledged allegiance with ISIS. Libya with its 1,000 mile coastline holds vast potential as a strategic base for ISIS, with the right resources it could lead to the closure of shipping lanes and the targeting of ships and tankers. Not to mention Libya's vast oil reserves that now are available to ISIS to fund future operations around the world. Now ISIS can export its fighters to anywhere around the world with Libya as their base. Egypt's fragile government is very concerned about the threat from ISIS, as it recovers for revolution sparked by radical elements within its borders, they have asked for a United Nations backed military coalition to battle ISIS for control of Libya. But the U.S. and Britain rejected that call for help and have relied on a political solution.

Levant: The World Before Christ


Conclusion : ISIS Redraws the Map of the Middle East

Sykes-Picot was a secret deal concocted by Great Britain and France in May 1916 to carve up the Ottoman Empire in anticipation of a victory in the Great War. With the war's end, the victors took out their knives and carved up a territory dating from 1299.

Six centuries of pre-modern rule came to an end and with it a new geopolitical order came to power. The deal, cut by Sir Mark Sykes (Britain) and Francois Georges Picot (France), established spheres of influence for the Great Powers of Europe. The deal was rooted in the negotiators desire to secure control over the principle energy resource of the 20th century, oil. The borders established by the deal remain more or less in place today. ISIS seeks to redraw the traditional borders of what was once known as the Levant, a region that was established during the days of the Old Testament. In Biblical times, the Levant's southern border is what is known as Syria today, it was called Canaan during the late 2cnd millennium BC. ISIS seeks to overturn the Great Powers division of the Levant, thus reshaping traditional national territories into a religious-political caliphate. Like Europe in August 1914, as the geopolitical map of the Middle East changes the threat of war surrounds the region. With the lack of communication between all countries involved the possibility of full-scale military confrontation looms. After over a decade of war the United States is reluctant to send its troops to battle ISIS.


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