The Islamic State (Terrorist Organization)

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ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), is a Sunni jihadist group with a particularly violent ideology that calls itself a caliphate and claims religious authority over all Muslims. It was inspired by al Qaida but later publicly expelled from it. RAND terrorism experts have analyzed the group's financing, management, and organization; its savvy use of social media for recruitment and fundraising; and the instability that spawned the group as a regional problem in the Middle East.

  • Residents of Raqqa gather in the morning to drink tea after they had been allowed back to inspect their homes, photo by Aboud Hamam

    Essay

    Civilian Casualties: Lessons from the Battle for Raqqa

    Jul 1, 2022

    The United States' emphasis on minimizing civilian harm in Raqqa, Syria, was quite clear and strong up and down the chain of command. But the way in which the U.S. military waged war in Raqqa too often undercut that commitment. The Pentagon asked RAND to find out what happened.

  • A collage of the COVID-19 virus, armed terror groups, and a biological response team

    Report

    Implications of the Pandemic for Terrorist Interest in Biological Weapons

    May 31, 2022

    Some policymakers and analysts have expressed concern that weaknesses in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic will motivate terrorists to seek biological weapons. While the prospect of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda pursuing biological weapons is not zero, it is unlikely, given the difficulties involved and the availability of simpler alternatives.

Explore The Islamic State (Terrorist Organization)

  • Al-Qaeda fighters celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces, on a main street in Fallujah, west of Baghdad

    Report

    Current Infighting Will Test al Qaeda's Brand

    Replacing one big al Qaeda with many smaller ones does not reduce the total number of terrorists but may reduce their overall strategic capability. For the U.S., the biggest opportunities may lie in countering al Qaeda's future recruitment and capitalizing on new sources of intelligence.

    Apr 23, 2014

  • Members of the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant are holed up in Fallujah along with Sunni fighters angry at Prime Minister Maliki over what they say are policies which discriminate against Iraq's Sunni minority

    Commentary

    Discord Among Terrorists

    Overall, divisions in Al Qaeda's ranks are good news for the United States. While the split will not end the jihadists' terrorist campaigns, it will preoccupy Al Qaeda's leaders and create uncertainty in its ranks.

    Feb 25, 2014

  • Masked Sunni Muslim gunmen take up positions with their weapons during a patrol in the city of Falluja

    Commentary

    Iraq Picture May Not Be as Bleak as It Seems

    Over the past month, al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has made a concerted effort to seize the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The attacks have received a lot of attention, but ISIS does not represent a majority of Iraqi Sunni in Anbar. Many Sunni Anbari leaders continue to reject al Qaeda.

    Jan 31, 2014

  • A man sits atop a lamp post waving pictures of Bashar Al Assad

    Report

    The Dynamics of Syria's Civil War

    As the Syrian conflict enters its third year, uncertainty persists regarding the circumstances on the ground, potential outcomes, and long-term consequences.

    Jan 17, 2014

  • A Free Syrian Army fighter inspects a resident's identification papers at the Karaj al-Hajez crossing

    Testimony

    The Role of Terrorism and Terror in Syria's Civil War

    The growing role of jihadist elements, with their numbers increasing through the recruitment of foreign fighters and defections from other rebel groups, has divided the Syrian rebel movement and discouraged anti-Assad governments in the West from providing significant military support.

    Nov 20, 2013

  • People gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad August 15, 2013

    Commentary

    Reading the Tea Leaves in Iraq

    The United States should not be too quick to write off Iraq based on recent violent trends, says Jason Campbell. After all, if there is anything that should be remembered from years past it's that the Iraqi populace can endure astonishing levels of violence and still maintain confidence in the survival of the state.

    Aug 19, 2013

  • Iraqi Army Commandos hone skills

    Testimony

    Re-Examining the Al Qa'ida Threat to the United States

    The United States needs to adopt an increasingly nuanced — but long-term — approach to countering the al Qa'ida movement, says Seth Jones. U.S. policymakers should view the al Qa'ida threat as a decades-long struggle like the Cold War.

    Jul 29, 2013

  • map of Syria

    Testimony

    Terrorist Threat to the United States from Syria Will Likely Increase

    Syria is attracting a growing cadre of foreign fighters from the West, who could potentially return home with the capability to conduct attacks against the United States and its allies, says Seth Jones.

    May 22, 2013

  • bill payment calculator

    Report

    Financial Records of al-Qa'ida in Iraq Reveal Vulnerabilities and Information about the Group

    An analysis of the financial operations and economics of al-Qa'ida in Iraq in Anbar province indicates that members were poorly compensated and suggests that they were not motivated primarily by money to join the group.

    Dec 15, 2010

  • People

    People

    Ian Mitch

    Senior Policy Analyst
    Education M.A. in security studies, Georgetown University; B.A. in political science, Wake Forest University

  • People

    People

    Jordan R. Reimer

    Policy Analyst
    Education M.P.A. in international relations, Princeton University; A.B. in politics, Princeton University

  • People

    People

    Ashley L. Rhoades

    Defense Policy Researcher
    Education M.A. in security studies, Georgetown University; B.A. in political science, Stanford University; Exchange Program in international security, University of Oxford