ISIS: A Rumpus Roundup


The Islamic State of Iraq in Syria, known better as ISIS, has operated in Syria and Iraq since 2003 as an offshoot of al-Qaeda—at least until al-Qaeda disavowed any connection. The military organization is neither a political party nor religious group, though membership primarily consists of Sunni Muslims, the “orthodox” branch of Islam and the religion’s largest sect (Baghdad’s government contains mostly Shiite Muslims).

ISIS began exerting authority in April by imposing Sharia law, like burning cigarettes and setting up “Dignity Checkpoints.” By mid-May, ISIS was worrying westerners with threats of terrorism. The bombing of the Brussels Jewish Museum was linked to a Syrian believed to be a member of ISIS.

In some ISIS-controlled cities, life goes on peacefully. But in most places, ISIS is a brutal organization that has crucified opponents, executed babies, and leaves behind a trail of headless bodies. ISIS is flush with cash, mostly by siphoning money from Syrian oil fields and robbing a Mosul bank. They are also technologically savvy, actively using Twitter to launch propaganda campaigns.

Shiite forces have promised to defend Baghdad, but the government might have already suffered a mortal blow. Baghdad has also accused Saudi Arabia of trying to destabilize the region, and some observers believe its all just part of a larger Saudi-Iranian conflict. Iran, home to many Shiite Muslims, wants to stop ISIS and has promised its support to Iraq.

Since the U.S. fully withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011, unrest has been gestating. President Obama blames the Iraqi government. Republicans, obviously, blame Obama. But its probably not Obama’s fault. Or it is Obama’s fault, because of how he handled Syria. In either case, Tony Blair wants everyone to know its definitely not his fault.

On Friday, Obama insisted he wouldn’t send troops back to Iraq. On Tuesday, Obama sent troops back to Iraq. Despite a mutual interest in defeating ISIS, the U.S. ruled out an alliance with Iran—and yet, the U.S. is now considering allying with Iran, reminding us once more that war is peace.

TL;DR? Jon Stewart breaks it down for you in these clips from last night’s Daily Show:


Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →