A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

BAAD - Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) - 2012


Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)

The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) was originally created in 2004 under the name al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) through a partnership between Salafi-Sunni leader Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and Al-Qa’ida Core leadership.[1] ISIS initially drew support from the marginalized Sunni population in Iraq, focusing their rhetoric on opposition to the coalition government and United States military operations.[2] Al-Zarqawi worked quickly to expand membership, amassing an estimated 1,000 militants by 2005, and to consolidate power for himself, shirking the leadership of Al-Qa’ida who wished to maintain a high degre of oversight.[3] In January 2006, al-Zarqawi established an umbrella organization, the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC), in collaboration with five other Sunni Islamist groups.[4] This organization represented the broadening of ISIS’s goals toward increased Sunni collaboration and desire to transition from insurgency toward creating an Islamic State. On June 7, 2006, al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike, and in October 2006 Abu Omar al Baghdadi assumed leadership, announcing a new coalition under the name Islamic State of Iraq.[5] From 2007 to 2010, ISIS faltered, losing ground, membership, and two leaders, against a surge of U.S. troops and opposing Sunni Awakening forces.[6]  

A turning point for ISIS occurred in May 2010 when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gained control of the dwindling ISIS force and begin rebuilding the organization into the insurgency it is today.[7] Following this leadership change, ISIS turned increasingly to Syria, on the brink of civil war, and embraced the goal of establishing a cross-national caliphate, an Islamic government, under the command of Baghdadi.[8] Toward this end, ISIS developed a detailed governmental and administrative structure, isolated and eventually broke ties with Al-Qa’ida Core and affiliates, launched an extensive social media campaign to attract foreign adherents, and employed increasingly brutal tactics to captivate international attention.[9] ISIS made crucial territorial gains in the summer of 2014, taking over cities such as Mosul, Tikrit, Fallujah and Al-Qaim.[10] The estimation of the actual amount of territory under ISIS’s control varies; however, it is believed to be between 15,000 and 35,000 square miles.[11] Along with taking over large areas of Iraqi territory in June, the group announced their intention for a caliphate that would surpass borders and claim authority over Muslims worldwide.[12] To finance their operations ISIS uses a variety of techniques including extortion, kidnap for ransom, theft, sales of government equipment, trade, granaries, and ship refinements.[13] The groups’ most serious form of funding comes from selling the oil of oil reserves that it has captured.[14] ISIS threatens ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, as well as other Islamic sects.[15] The group typically uses beheadings, public executions, crucifixions, and mass shootings against their targets.[16] View full narrative

Quick Facts for 2012


6171 (Total of 1998 through 2012)



Territorial Control:
Controls Territory (1)

Funding through Drug Trafficking:

Sorry, but there are no organizational details available for this group at this time.


Primary Ideology

  • Ag = Anti-Globalization
  • An = Anarchist
  • En = Ethnic
  • Ev = Environmental
  • Le = Leftist
  • Re = Religious
  • Ri = Rightist
  • Se = Separatist
  • Su = Supremacist
  • Vi = Vigilante


  •  Ally
  •  Suspected Ally
  •  Rival
  •  Violence
  •  Mixed Relations


  •  Blue 0 - 1479 fatalities
  •  Green 1479 - 2958 fatalities
  •  Yellow 2958 - 4437 fatalities
  •  Orange 4437 - 5916 fatalities
  •  Red 5916 - 7396 fatalities

Lethality is calculated as the total number of fatalities from 1998-2012.


Icon sizes depict approximate relative sizes of the organizations.

  • Smallest 0 - 10 members
  •   11 - 100 members
  •   101 - 1000 members
  •   1001 - 10000 members
  • Largest > 10000 members

Other Notes

Icons with no color coding or ideology icon have no detailed data at this time, and are provided as relationship information only.