The “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” is a jihadist group which controls huge swathes of land in western Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. They consider themselves as the “Islamic Caliphate”.
ISIS’ beginnings are often traced to the Second Gulf War in 2003, when the United States of America invaded Iraq and overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein with the help of a small coalition of nations. Among the various groups fighting against the coalition forces and the new Iraqi government, was the extremist islamist group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). ISIS was founded later out of this al-Qaeda affiliate and is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a Islamist who is believed to have been born in the Republic of Iraq in 1971.
ISIS took advantage of the chaos in both Iraq and Syria. By recruiting local tribe leaders and former Baathists, and taking advantage of the incompetence of Iraqi army , the Islamic State was able to capture the cities Fallujah, Tikrit and Mosul in Iraq. Their major successes in syria was the conquest of Raqqa and Palmyra.
The jihadist group claims to have around 100000 fighters – many of them foreign fighters from europe, turkey, russia and saudi arabia. It was one of the most brutal, but effective and strong forces in the region. Since the US-led coalition started supporting the kurdish forces and russia started to support the syrian government forces, ISIS lost more than 14% of their territory. Their major losses were in Tikrit, in Ramadi, the battle in Kobani and Hasakah, and the latest fall of Palmyra.