The Making of IS: U.S. Contributions to the Development of the Islamic State

Ruble, Peyton, Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, University of Virginia
Hueckstedt, Robert, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia

The paper puts forth a timeline of the organization known today as the Islamic State (IS,) from its founding by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq to its current territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, focusing on the involvement of the United States as a contributor to the expansion of the organization. Beginning with Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the U.S. disrupted the fabric of Iraqi society to the extent that IS was capable of attracting followers and gaining territory in the country. The willful ignorance of a developing insurgency coupled with the de-Ba’athification program contributed to the success of al-Zarqawi’s organization, and it continued to operate openly in Iraq until 2007. After the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, it continued to affect the development of IS by ignoring its resurgence in Syria. Aware of IS’s increasing role in the Syrian Revolution, the U.S. withheld aid from moderate rebel groups, allowing IS to expand its influence in the region. Finally, the paper assesses the future of U.S. policy toward IS given the recent election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

MA (Master of Arts)
Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Iraq 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom, de-Ba'athification, Syrian Arab Spring, Sons of Iraq, Sahwa militias, Nouri al-Maliki
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