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Should Americans be Afraid of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)?

Updated on June 12, 2014

ISIL Fighters



ISIL is an Islamic-fundamentalist, Sunni-militant group, and they have declared open war with the Shia dominated government in Baghdad. ISIL originated from a few other well-known Islamist groups. One of ISIL’s important parent groups was Tawhid wal-Jihad, which was run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. After the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan by coalition forces, Zarqawi fled to Iraq where he began fomenting unrest against Saddam Hussein. However, Hussein was unable to apprehend Zarqawi.

After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Zarqawi turned his group, Tawhid wal-Jihad against the American military. They conducted numerous attacks against American forces and Iraqi collaborators, including suicide bombings. They attacked humanitarian groups, such as the Red Cross, without restraint.

In 2006 Zarqawi was killed by Americans forces; he was considered enemy number one to the United States. Shortly after that, the group changed its name to the Islamic Stat in Iraq (ISI). There also was Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and they continued to pose a serious threat to the government in Baghdad. After a short amount of time, the leadership of the organization changed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It appears that the ISI and AQI joined forces to become the ISIL. Since the Arab Spring began in 2011, ISIL has been able to maintain a base of operations in Western Syria due to the central government’s inability to end the ongoing civil war.

During the last few years, ISIL is considered one of the strongest forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Because of their control of large areas of Iraq and Syria, they have been able to transport weapons and supplies into Syria without much difficulty.

Iraqi Government's Response

Late in 2013, the government in Baghdad, under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, began an offensive in northern Iraq to destroy ISIL. That offensive was not effective, and Iraqi security forces have not been able to contain ISIL. In retaliation to the Iraqi offensive, ISIL attacked and was able to seize control of Fallujah. During this crisis, ISIL has been conducting numerous attacks against civilians. There was even a suicide bombing at funeral for a police officer that as killed.

From their new base of operations in Fallujah, ISIL has struck fear into the Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi military is actually less-equipped and not as well-trained as the ISIL, especially in regards to urban warfare.

Map of Iraq

ISIL's major areas of control are in pink, but they operate mainly in the contested province of Anbar.
ISIL's major areas of control are in pink, but they operate mainly in the contested province of Anbar. | Source

What is Happening now?

Currently, ISIL seems to be stronger than ever. They control large swaths of territory in Syria, and just yesterday seized control of Mosul, which is the second largest city in Iraq. The Turkish authorities were unable to evacuate their consulate and staff from Mosul, and now they are being held captive by ISIL. The Turkish government is in a state of panic, and they have called an emergency meeting with NATO to review their options. There is a vague possibility that Turkey will actually invade Iraq in response to this crisis. Notably, their military has entered Iraq before in recent years, but that as in response to attacks from Kurdish groups.

ISIL is continuing its push southward and leaving a trail of destruction behind them. In the areas they control in Syria and Iraq, they have instituted a harsh version of Sharia law, and hardly any journalists or international observers have been allowed to assess the situation.

There also have been reports of members of ISIL killing “non-believers”. Hundreds of Syrian civilians have been killed in the areas controlled by ISIL. Just today they have seized control of Tikrit, and they are getting dangerously close to Baghdad. If they were to reach Baghdad, then the government of Iraq would surely be in jeopardy.

Should Americans be Worried?

Fundamentalists of any religion or creed are problematic. ISIL are especially dangerous, because they have shown little remorse for the violence they have caused. ISIL is outspoken in their hatred towards Israel and the Western world. If given the capability, there does not seem to be any reason why they would restrain from carrying out attacks on American soil.

Another serious issue is that there are many foreign fighters in ISIL from Western countries (between 2,000 and 3,000) including American citizens. Hopefully, the State Department has kept tabs on what Americans have joined ISIL, but these Americans are ideologically driven to fight against the United States. The State Department has been quick to denounce ISIL's recent move. ISIL has been successful in recruiting non-Arabs to join the fight, because they release most of their recruitment materials, both videos and magazines, in English as well as Arabic.

We should not forget that the Shia population of Iraq has suffered a great deal due to Sunni groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda. ISIL has carried out attacks on Shia cvilians before, and we can expect they will again.

If you combine all of these factors, it becomes clear that ISIL is a clear danger to the people of Iraq and even the United States. What is President Obama supposed to do? Considering that the ISIL came to being in response the invasion of Iraq in 2003, is it wise for the United States to become militarily involved in Iraq once more? One way or the other, the situation seems to be slipping from bad to worse, and we should not be surprised if other regional powers, such as Turkey, get involved militarily.

ISIL M arch


News Report


Will this situation spiral out of control?

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    • Aubrey Durkin profile image

      Aubrey Durkin 

      4 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      On to the immediate problem... stay armed at home and continue drone-bombing those apes to remind them they aren't worth boots on the ground, just bots in the air.

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      A base to attack us, good sense of humor. And the base would be where?Iraq? How many miles away is it from us? Do you see my point and the lack of logic your reasoning imply?

      If an organization is powerful enough to attack any Americans, and it did happen, it is secretly hidden in the hallways of the CIA.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub explaining this little known but very dangerous Al Qaeda splinter group. We should indeed be worried. If they continue to gain control in the Middle East, they could have a base to attack us. Great job, Philippe.

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Who will you vote for (don't answer it's private)? Every educated citizen knows that democrats or republicans are the same. I will just cite one example Bush and Obama are the epitome of the dysfunction of our institution. Do you still want their continuity? By not voting you express your disapproval. If the majority disapproves of both parties, the "democracy" has we know it will hopefully disappear. If you don't understand my point, I understand. You are still young.

      Al-Qaeda was our database during the Mujahideens'era in what way a group of anti-US will adapt their name from us? It is also interesting that they are VERY convenient. They are resurging in countries that we couldn't muzzle.

    • Philippe Morel profile imageAUTHOR

      Philippe Morel 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      I disagree with what you are saying. Yeah, the system in the USA is broken, but you shouldn't reject it altogether.

      We have to vote, because if we don't, then who wins? Maybe Al Qaeda and others hate America because of the abuse of the US government, but we still need a government.

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      One independent source at least stated it.

      In what way will it affect Western societies? The ones that our Western societies trained, financed and supported logistically will either attack us (the Boston marathon is the perfect example) or like in Iraq and Libya will attack only countries of any interest for us. If a country doesn't obey us they will send those killers (Syria is the best example).

      If you are afraid (what makes sense) eliminate the clique that perpetuates crimes with your vote (by not voting).

    • Philippe Morel profile imageAUTHOR

      Philippe Morel 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      I didn't say that Americans should be afraid, but we should be worried. Even if we created them, that doesn't mean we should ignore the threat they pose. If you are right and their funds are coming from an ambassador in the USA, then we should be very afraid.

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      The group is under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's command whom is obeying to Abdul Rahman al-Faiçal (Saudi and brother of the Saudi Ambassador in Washington DC)

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Why would we be afraid if we created them?


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