The precise point at which Islamic State – or ISIS, or Daesh, or simply IS – emerged as an organisation in its own right presents a complicated yet important question. Although its backstory is frequently traced to 2003 and the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq, the moment at which Islamic State definitively split from its apparent progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, is often less precisely drawn. This is understandable: human institutions and organisations seldom have a single, uncontested, point of origins to which their existence might be traced.
Questions such as these are undoubtedly important to historians and others with an interest in the rise and decline of so-called ‘terrorist’ groups. Indeed, the temporal or historical rhythms of terrorism have become a productive research area within scholarship on terrorism in recent years: witness the pervasiveness of claims around terrorism’s ‘waves’, ‘cycles’ or ‘old’ and ‘new’ manifestations.
These questions also matter, however, in a very real and immediate sense to those tasked with arresting the terrorist threat. Continue reading Forbidden Friends, Delivered to your Enemies: Proscription, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State