Islamic State: Challenges and Basic Policies. Part I


ISIL is too ambitious, aggressive and multi-dimensional to give up at the first sign of trouble. The question is how it will react to challenges and what policy it will pursue.


Recently, soothing articles started appearing in the Western media that the Islamic State terrorist organization is in crisis. Let us take a look at what might really be symptoms of an unfolding crisis.

1) ISIL units are increasingly forced to shoot their own fighters frightened by the horrors of ISIL policy and seeking to defect.

2) There are significant casualties among ISIL leading figures. First of all, we should talk about the change of the group leader. Reports of the death of the self-proclaimed Caliph of the Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have appeared more than once. However, in the second half of April 2015, ISIL commanders confirmed that al-Baghdadi really died from wounds in the Syrian city of Raqqa. According to another version, al-Baghdadi is not dead, but paralyzed and unable to remain the head of the ISIL. In any case, the leaders of the ISIL have pledged allegiance to the new Caliph. It is a teacher, who has studied theology, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, who is also called Abu Ala al-Afri (he was also reported killed by U.S.-led coalition airstrike, however, this is not certain – Editor).

Note that such a quick change of the top figure (less than a year after the proclamation of the “new Caliphate”) can indeed be regarded as a problem for ISIL. Before all Islamist groups that have sworn allegiance to ISIL, this change raises the question of stability of the structure to which they have committed. So, the ISIL must constantly affirm its viability. Often proving it with a display of power.

3) The Afghan media report that ISIL and the Taliban have declared jihad, holy war upon each other. However, Taliban is a very significant part of the Sunni radical community. The credibility of the movement in this community is high, and the most radical factions of the Afghan-Pakistani area will prefer to take their lead from Taliban, not from ISIL.

4) The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, referring to the report of the German intelligence agencies, argues that “the ISIL terrorist group has lost nearly all of their oil fields in Iraq”. The German intelligence agencies make this conclusion based on the satellite pictures showing fires in two areas of oil production near Tikrit. We should remind that in March-April of 2015 there were persistent fights for Tikrit and the oil areas around the city between the ISIL and the federal army of Iraq. As a result, by the beginning of May, ISIL had lost the city and these oil production areas.

German intelligence agencies claim that only the Qayara field near Mosul is under ISIL control, and that oil production available to ISIL at the moment is only 5% of that available to the ISIL last year.

5) The group failed to take the strategically important Syrian city of Kobanî near the Turkish border.

View of Kobanî during the siege of 2014

View of Kobanî during the siege of 2014

No doubt that all this seriously complicates the activities of ISIL. But ISIL is too ambitious, aggressive and multi-dimensional to give up at the first sign of trouble. The question is how it will react to the emerging problems and what policies it will pursue to give the correct responses to the above challenges/complications.

First of all, in no case will ISIL abandon its aggressive plans. In mid-March of 2015 there was an announcement from the spokesman of the Islamic State, Mohammed al-Adnani, who gave a list of the cities and countries that ISIL included in its area of interest:

“O Crusaders, if you are betting on Salahuddin, hoping for Mosul, dreaming of Sinjar, al-Hawl, Tikrit, or al-Hawijah, or dreaming of Mayadin, Jarabulus, al-Karmah, Tal Abyad, al-Qa’im, or Darnah, or dreaming of capturing a forest in the jungles of Nigeria or capturing nests of wild plants in the desert of Sinai, then know that we want Paris – by Allah’s permission – before Rome and before Spain, after we blacken your lives and destroy the White House, the Big Ben, and the Eifel Tower, by Allah’s permission, just as we destroyed the palace of Chosroes before. We want Kabul, Karachi, the Caucasus, Qom, Riyadh, and Tehran.  We want Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Sanaa, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Amman. The Muslims will return to mastership and leadership in every place.”

To what extent the list of countries and cities cited here is only a threat, and to what extent does it reflect the actual expansion plans of ISIL?

First of all, pay attention to “the jungles of Nigeria” mentioned by al-Adnani. It is no accident that they have been included to the list.

On March 7, 2015, armed radical Nigerian group Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic state.

In a few days, the spokesman of ISIL al-Adnani announced that Boko Haram had pledged allegiance. He also informed about the decisions taken by ISIL in connection with the allegiance pledge of the Nigerian group: “We announce… the expansion of the Caliphate to West Africa, because the Caliph has accepted (the pledge of) allegiance of our brothers of the Sunni group for preaching and the Jihad”.

From that moment on, Boko Haram has continued its activities as a vassal of ISIL. Thus, West Africa has been declared a jihad area of ISIL. And Boko Haram, like ISIL, acts with ambition and cruelty.

On 25 March 2015, media reported that the militants of Boko Haram captured more than 400 women and children. In total, according to the UN, for the 2014-2015 more than 8300 civilians fell victims to this group. In addition, in Nigeria militants of Boko Haram have deliberately destroyed or damaged more than 300 schools.

But back to the study of list of cities that ISIL considers to be its current or future conquests.

The first city named there is Mosul, the second-biggest Iraqi city, which really is the most valuable conquest, and a spearhead area of the ISIL. Being one of the oil regions of global importance, Mosul remains a major economic card of ISIL. That is why Islamic State has been making concentrated efforts to keep it under control and why it has been conducting the policy of severe socio-political and religious pressure in the city. At the beginning of March, militants in Mosul publicly executed the president of the criminal court. In mid-March the representatives of ISIL executed in Mosul 38 soldiers who had deserted the battlefield… At the beginning of April, 4 people were beheaded in the city … And there are lots of reports like that.

But there is one more very important element of the policy of ISIL in Mosul and around it – the ongoing cultural and religious purification actions by ISIL which should be called cleansing. The scope of such activities of ISIL is on par with the list of future conquests of the Islamic State.

In the above list, al-Adnani refers only to the destruction of the palace of Chosroes south of Baghdad Palace, the remains of which have actually been badly damaged. As a matter of fact, the overall destruction is much greater.

On March 7, 2015, in Nineveh province, the militants destroyed the ruins of the ancient city of Hatra, located 80 km to the south of Mosul, with bulldozers. The city itself was founded in III–II centuries BC by the Seleucids. But that is not all. In the center of the city there was a huge palace and temple complex with an area of about 30,000 square meters. Within this complex, there were ancient temples of Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, and Assyrian and Sumerian deities. Thus, the junction of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, significant for all humanity, is lost.

On March 8, the militants began demolishing the ancient Assyrian city of Dur Sharrukin, which in the eighth century BC was the capital of Assyria. Dur-Sharrukin was located about 15 km northeast of Mosul.

On March 9, 2015 in Mosul, the Christian temple of St. George was blown up.

In early April, in Mosul the remains of the fortress Bash Tapia, built in the XII–XIII centuries A. D. on the banks of the Tigris, were also blown up.

This sequential destruction of memory about the origins of the human civilization has inner logic, monstrous as it is. The same logic, which in 2001 prompted the Afghan Taliban to destroy the Buddhas of Bamiyan statues – mandatory for Muslims suppression of paganism and the war against the infidels (that is, proponents of other religions), which is an important part of Islamic doctrine. What practical conclusions are drawn by Muslims from that part of the doctrine is a question of religious interpretation given by a particular school of Islamic theology. The interpretation chosen by ISIL deprives all cultures and religions alien to the Islam of the right to exist. When they hear the word “culture”, new Caliphate supporters grasp not only their guns but also their bulldozers.

However, ISIL does not stop at that. Belonging to the radical Sunni groups, ISIL declares the need to eliminate deviations from the purity of the early Islam. And it should be admitted that ISIL activities in this direction, are unparalleled in the Islamic world.

Both the leaders of ISIL and today’s Islamic radical preachers get down in earnest to revising the activities of the early Muslims, to revising the estimated the value of monuments of their own — Islamic — religion. This approach is illustrated by the statement made in March 2015 by a Kuwaiti preacher Ibrahim al-Kendari. He said, “The fact that early Muslims who were among Prophet Mohammed’s followers did not destroy the pharaohs’ monuments upon entering the Egyptian soil, does not mean that we shouldn’t do it now. These artifacts had long remained buried under a layer of sand and were rediscovered only two centuries ago.”

Of course, such a statement can still be explained by the desire to continue the work of the early Muslims who fought against paganism. But even in this case we are talking about a rather peculiar way to continue it. However, the “purification” carried out by the ISIL militants in Mosul is related directly to the history of the Muslim religion itself. So what is happening?

In the spring of 2015, by order of the leaders of ISIL in Mosul began the destruction of any ornaments, frescoes and inscriptions on the walls and vaults of all mosques (including the ancient ones) — as not Sharia-compliant. Note that these inscriptions were excerpts from the Quran. Even the verses of Quran mentioning the name of Allah were removed from the walls. One of the mosques of Mosul, which was over 170 years, was blown up. The imam of another mosque, al-Mufti, who refused to obey orders, was executed on the central square of the city (it seems that the point the author of the article is making is this: a Muslim would never violate the Quran and the name of Allah, therefore ISIL are not Muslims, they are pagans pretending to be Muslims, bent on exterminating Christians and real Muslims alike – Editor).

The shrine of Imam Yahya Abu al-Qasim of religious monuments in the city of Mosul before explosion by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Omar Siddeeq Yousif, CC BY-SA 4.0

The shrine of Imam Yahya Abu al-Qasim, a religious monument in the city of Mosul which was later exploded by ISIL. Photo by Omar Siddeeq Yousif, CC BY-SA 4.0

As it can be seen from the above, ISIL is aggressively pursuing a policy of destruction of cultural, historical, religious and socio-political relations of Mosul with the outside world. Obviously, ISIL aims to turn Mosul into the experimental life arrangement area and to create a model for the “new Caliphate”. Large-scale experiments with similar objectives Boko Haram conducts in Nigeria in an effort to erase the memory of the past from the minds of hundreds of their captives. After liberation by the government forces, these prisoners don’t remember their names.

Alas, ISIL does not stop at these actions of unprecedented ferocity. We will continue to discuss it in the next issue of the Essence of Time newspaper.

(To be continued)

Source (for copy):


This is the translation of an article (first published in “Essence of Time” newspaper issue 126 on May 6, 2015) by Maria Podkopayeva of a series on rebuilding of Middle East and Africa by the West. This rebuilding was launched to give rise to the most violent and bloody regime, such as IS “caliphate”, which is supposed to eventually attack and conquer Russia, China and Europe.


We encourage republishing of our translations and articles, but ONLY with mentioning the original article page at (link above).
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