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The Global War on Terrorism: ISIS

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) is a radical jihadist group that is based in Iraq and has multiple bases of operation in Syria, Lebanon and Boko Haram. This terrorist organization developed from Al Qaeda and formed a more diverse and widely acceptable message spreading throughout the Middle East and North Africa. On April 10th, 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the merger of al-Nusra to form the Islamic State that expanded into Syria. (Shamieh & Zoltan, 2015, 5) The importance of this organization is their affiliation to multiple terrorist attacks around the world including France, America, and Great Britain. ISIS has developed a means of recruitment for young Muslim soldiers to fight for their religious righteousness. ISIS claims that their Muslim religion, power seeking and community acceptance is a motivation to fight for the ISIS cause. The organization wants to create a unified Muslim Islamic State of jihadist by engaging in financial supporters, local and cyber sympathizers.

The Islamic State uses multiple means of threats and tactics to involve terror across the world to gain their organizational goals. Thirty thousand international fighters have decided to fight for ISIS and ISIS holds territory in Iraq and Syria. ISIS controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure and state sponsored funding to keep their organization operational. ISIS uses extortion by targeting owners and producers in ISIS territories, taxing small family farms and larger enterprises like cell-phone service providers, water delivering companies, and electrical utilities. Brutality is their core message demonstrating videotaped beheadings, mass executions designed to intimidate foes and suppress dissent actors. Mainly, ISIS is using three types of strategies in the Iraqi region. First, mass targeting of civilians and popular sites causing brutality and terror among Shia, Christians, and other rivals. Secondly, targeting foreign military personnel and opposition supporters. Lastly, targeting internationals to send their message either through various outlets including mass media, brutal force and even death. (Shamieh & Zoltan, 2015, 9)

Recruitment messaging uses religious righteousness, adventure, personal power, sense of community as motivations to become a jihadist fighter. Some statistics say the number of fighters ranged from 7,000 to 12,000 with man recruits arriving daily. (Shamieh & Zoltan, 2015, 8) Quick availability to become a fighter gaining a short term gratification without younger people fully learning what ISIS elders really have planned against Western states and their cultures. ISIS spreads its ideologies with sympathizers across the world. New cyber jihadist recruitment is a form of propaganda against any other ideology or culture that disagrees with the jihadist movement. Leader of ISIS Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has called for Sunni youths to fight for ISIS, “I appeal to the youths and men of Islam around the globe and invoke them to mobilize and join us to consolidate the pillar of the State of Islam and wage jihad against the Rafidhas (shia), the Safadis of Shi’ites.” (Awan, 2017, 1)

Vulnerable to extremist ideologies using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as platforms to announce recruitment and organizational goals. Propaganda rhetoric is used for transnational recruitment tactics broadcast and translated in different languages and countries such as Algeria, Libya, and Egypt. “Proudly support the Muslim cause”, used to appeal a religious righteous motivation. “Young men and Muslims in various parts of the world to fight for ISIS”, rhetoric to spread ISIS ideologies. (Awan, 2017, 2) The internet is a means for terrorists to engage in psychological warfare, publicity, propaganda, fundraising, recruitment, networking, sharing information, and planning.” (Awan, 2017, 3)

ISIS motivation and behavior to exploit the online environment by using global crises apparatus like in Iraq and Syria to create ideas. The symbolization created by these events regulate their environments and every aspect of their lives. Using this symbolization causes an emotional reaction that transfers to online hate groups and gives power to make judgements against the opposition. Types of ISIS sympathizers include the cyber mobs, loners, fantasists, thrill seekers, moral crusaders, narcissists and identity seekers. Searches through Twitter will populate thousands of accounts and retweets of ISIS related events and ideas. According to Awan, this study found 1,264 specific incidents of ISIS propaganda and hate related messages which could be constructed as inciting violence and actual offline physical threats. (Awan, 2017, 9)

A proposal for ISIS counter terrorism propaganda on the internet include physically removing the offending propagandists through the US criminal justice process. Capturing these ISIS propagandists that are ghost users is vital to keeping ISIS ideas from spreading on the internet. Removing offending propaganda on social media platforms to counter radical jihadist ideologies. By removing propaganda used for recruitment, spreading terrorist ideas, and engages in illegal solicitation of funding, we can combated ISIS through the internet. Discrediting and undermining the group through active counter-propaganda measures, for instance creating positive social media feed about Western countries. (Lieberman, 2017, 16)

Counter terrorism operations and counter insurgency are to determine the rate of legitimate ISIS threats. Strategy of offensive containment is a combination of limited military tactics and broad diplomatic strategy to halt ISIS expansion, isolate the group and degrade its capabilities. US intelligence agencies created Post 9/11 including the Department of Homeland Security, National Counterterrorism Center and Transportation Security Administration. Over fifty thousand reports of terrorism from these US agencies have been investigated. Another counterterrorism strategy is to attack the flow of money to the terrorist network. Department of Defense (DOD), US military and Intelligence campaigns against terrorist threats launch raids and armed drone attacks to neutralize various ISIS threats. Trillion dollar US spending budget allocated through government agencies including FBI, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), DOD, US military branches to mitigate foreign and domestic insurgency groups that threaten US sovereignty.

Combating the Jihadist movement in other developing countries is another global counter terrorist tactic lead by the US. The movement includes building relationships in local international communities, teaching religious messages in prisons before rehabilitation, and negotiating local grievances. Changing the core views that developing countries have of the US is key to mitigating any radical Islamic ideologies that are being spread by ISIS scare tactics. Air strikes can pin ISIS down and cut off supply routes of weapons, technologies, and ammunition.

According to Brands and Feaver, the best option for the Trump administration was to defeat ISIS by aggressive campaign encompassing air strikes, drone attacks, special operation raids, and small deployments of regular ground troops in response to specific threats all in support of efforts by regional US partners. (Brands & Feaver, 2017, 28) The balance between military enforcement and diplomatic relations is vital to ensuring a positive strategy for mission success. Avoiding too many troops and resources that might irritate the cooperating Muslim world is essential for international diplomacy.

The US response to ISIS is supporting local Iraqi and Syrian opposition. Operation Inherent Resolve was an air strike attack that destroyed and damaged 16,075 targets (tanks, military vehicles, staging areas, fighting positions, buildings) and killed a half dozen ISIS leaders and leading personnel. (Shamieh & Zoltan, 2015, 12) The broader global response to ISIS brutality has been to cooperate with countries in opposition to terrorist acts and legitimate supporters. In the future, the US should stop downplaying the seriousness of the ISIS threat. Recognize that ISIS is targeting the youth and to create a better strategy to combat social media propaganda spread. (Gorka & Gorka, 2015, 19) Surveillance on refugee individuals accepted for asylum or immigration process. Use an open-source intelligence plan for individuals or legitimate state actors with information on ISIS personnel, while removing communication paths to terrorist propaganda, ISIS rhetoric and extreme jihadist ideas.

US commander in Iraq General Lloyd describes US-Iraqi relations in November 2011 as follows, “As we leave, we can expect to see some turbulence in security initially, and that’s become you’ll see various elements try to increase their freedom of movement and freedom of action.” General Lloyd continues saying, “there will probably be unfinished business for many, many years to come…” (Shamieh & Zoltan, 2015, 5) General Lloyd was right because ISIS has shown their freedom through spreading hateful accusations at Western countries. Through social media propaganda and spreading their ideologies, ISIS has planned and successfully followed through on various international attacks. Increased their rate of recruitment using the internet and have working insurgencies in different international countries. The US partners in combating ISIS terrorist threats is vast among several western countries. The threat of ISIS to the US will not stop anytime soon and create effective counterterrorism operations.

Since June of 2019, Matthew Tueller has been the U.S. ambassador to Iraq stating that in Syria there were large numbers of displaced people, which had an impact on US partners in Europe. The US has been fostering military engagement to strengthen the Iraqi government’s control on Islamic State by giving them a seat at the table. Although the former Trump and current Biden administrations have constituted a new democratic rule of law in the Middle East there are extreme issues of polarization, domestic violence, and illegitimate sovereignty. The next administrative actions must be to determine legitimate threats and reshape western ideologies to encompass an Arab world point of view. The significance of an Arab world point of view with a democratic rule of law would still give the Arab people a voice in their national and local government systems. The Arab people would be able to evolve their preexisting cultural traits to the new democratic rule of law that provides amenities to their current governance system. For instance, the people would allow women more rights to attire, walking outside, and household duties. The men would expand their current work environments to achieve new business opportunities to make profit. The businesses would still need to have protection against gang control.

Iraqi gangs in Baghdad look different than the Iraqi soldiers at checkpoints for incoming vehicles and ground transport systems. Gang members usually look mean and don’t wear uniforms holding assault rifles or Glock 9 millimeter pistols. These weapons are easier to attain through local weapons shops that can be affiliated with a known terrorist organization to cut cheaper deals. However, the significance of the gang members at certain checkpoints create an operational caliphate area that is described as the ISIS controlled areas. The importance of identifying the caliphate areas is to gain an understanding of were the ideological sympathizers are gaining control and what preventative measures can be acquired.


Awan, I. (2017, 03 15). Cyber-Extremism: Isis and the Power of Social Media. Social science and public policy, 54, 138-149.

Brands, H., & Feaver, P. (2017, March/ April). Foreign Affairs. Trump and Terrorism: US strategy after ISIS, 96(2), 28-36.

Cronin, A. K. (2015). ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group. Foreign Affairs 94 Foreign Aff., 94(2), 87-98.

Gorka, S. L., & Gorka, K. C. (2015, November). Threat knowledge group. ISIS: The threat to the United States, 1-20.

Lieberman, A. (2017). Terrorism, propaganda and the internet: deadly combination. Journal of National Security Law and Policy, 9(1), 95-124. Heinonline.

Shamieh, L., & Zoltan, S. (2015). The rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, 14(4), 363-378.

Magias, Mari (2021) A seat at the table for all Iraqis: Ambassador Matthew Tueller MPP 1984.

Spencer, John (2020) Gangs of Baghdad

Mark, Julian (2021) Trump says his administration killed bigger terrorist than Osama bin Laden

Arnaldi, J. A., & Webel, C. (2011). The Ethics and Efficacy of the Global War on Terrorism: Fighting Terror with Terror. Palgrave Macmillan.

Jacob, E. D. (2020). American security and the Global War on Terror . Routledge.

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