President Obama has described the Islamic State as being a cancer, while the militants themselves believe in the establishment of a Caliphate that will obliterate modern day borders across the Middle East.
What is a Caliphate?
An Islamic state is a type of government, in which the primary basis for government is Islamic religious law (sharia).
From the early years of Islam, numerous governments have been founded as “Islamic”, beginning most notably with the caliphate established by Muhammad himself and including subsequent governments ruled under the direction of a caliph (meaning “successor” to the Islamic prophet Muhammad).
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State and is a recluse who has maintained operational control of the Islamic State despite some of his deputies having never met him in person.
He has kept a very low profile despite leading Al Qaeda in Iraq since 2010.
Formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group was expelled from Al Qeada in February this year.
However the Islamic State (IS) has shown that it did not need Al Qaeda and has made more progress than Al Qaeda ever did in establishing a Islamic caliphate.
The group was made startling gains over the northern hemisphere summer in Iraq.
They have captured towns and control the supply of oil in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq.
IS was brutal with the local populations and executed Iraqi Christians who refused to convert to Islam.
The massacre of about 500 of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority as well as the capture of the Mosul Dam eventually saw a determined response from the Iraq government, assisted by the US Military.
An offensive against IS to dislodge them from the Mosul Dam included over 90 air strikes by the US.
IS has attracted Jihadists from all over the world, including battle hardened Chechens, who have been waging jihad for decades.
One Chechen, Omar al-Shishani, has emerged as a military commander of IS and has been heavily involved in the battle for control in Eastern Syria.
In a video released by IS, al-Shishani stated:
“Our aim is clear and everyone knows why we are fighting. Our path is toward the caliphate.
We will bring back the caliphate, and if God does not make it our fate to restore the caliphate, then we ask him to grant us martyrdom.”
It is unknown how many fighters IS has under its control.
IS executed an American journalist James Foley, in retaliation for the US involvement in the Battle of the Mosul Dam.
America responded by attacking IS in support of Iraqi Security Force operations, using fighter and attack aircraft to conduct six airstrikes in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam.
Currently IS is laying siege to the town of Amerli, in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, which has been entirely cut off from the rest of government held territory since early June.
“The situation of the people in Amerli is desperate and demands immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens,” UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.