ISIS is a “revolutionary” organization in a way that al-Qaeda and other like-minded extremist groups never were, and never really wanted to be. The “caliphate” — the historical political entity governed by Islamic law and tradition — might have been an inspiration as well as an aspiration, but it wasn’t actually going to happen in real life.
To answer this question, one has to go back to the roots of this organization. ISIS did not come from a vacuum, and it is not this shadowy bunch of militants that mysteriously managed to control large areas of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been around for a very long time, and its roots go deeper than its current military achievements.
The centenary of the capture of Basra offers an opportunity to reflect on the nature and impact of the first Western military intervention in Iraq, nine decades before the city once again became the focal point of British activity in the country between 2003 and 2009.
In response to the arc of crisis burning across the Middle East, European governments seem to have reverted to traditional perspectives on stability and counter-terrorism. Their policies now exhibit many salient features from the pre-Arab spring period.
How rapidly does medical knowledge advance? Very quickly if you read modern newspapers, but rather slowly if you study history. Nowhere is this more true than in the fields of neurology and psychiatry. It was believed that studies of common disorders of the nervous system began with Greco-Roman Medicine, for example, epilepsy, “The sacred disease” (Hippocrates) or “melancholia”, now called depression.
Britain and the United States have been suffering from intervention fatigue. The reason is obvious: our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven far more costly and their results far more mixed and uncertain than we had hoped. This fatigue manifested itself in almost exactly a year ago, when Britain’s Parliament refused to let the Government offer military support to the U.S. and France in threatening punitive strikes against Syria’s Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons.
With turmoil in the Middle East, from Egypt’s changing government to the emergence of the Isalmic State, we recently sat down with Shadi Hamid, author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East, to discuss about his research before and during the Arab Spring, working with Islamists across the Middle East, and his thoughts on the future of the region.
Refugee identity is often shrouded in suspicion, speculation and rumour. Of course everyone wants to protect “real” refugees, but it often seems – upon reading the papers – that the real challenge is to find them among the interlopers: the “bogus asylum seekers”, the “queue jumpers”, the “illegals”. Yet these distinctions and definitions shatter the moment we subject them to critical scrutiny.
Recently the jihadist insurgent group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) underwent a re-branding of sorts when one of its leaders, known by the sobriquet Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was proclaimed caliph by the group’s members. In keeping with the horizonless pretentions that such a title theoretically conveys, the group dropped their geographical focus and embraced a more universalist outlook, settling for the name of the ‘Islamic State’.
This March we celebrate Women’s History Month, commemorating the lives, legacies, and contributions of women around the world. We’ve compiled a brief reading list that demonstrates the diversity of women’s lives and achievements.
By Catriona Drew
A decade after Iraq, the chemical weapons attacks against Syrian civilians in Eastern Damascus on 21 August 2013 sparked a political and public debate in the United Kingdom about the legality of military intervention. For international-law veterans of Kosovo and Iraq, the central question was familiar.
By Amanda Podany
As an undergraduate, long before I chose to become an ancient historian, I took a course on ancient art history. I remember sitting in the darkened auditorium in the first weeks of the term, looking at images of prehistoric art and scribbling down notes as the professor paced the stage and pointed out features of each slide. Then came an image that took my breath away: a white marble face of a woman, almost life-size (though blown up to about six feet tall on the screen).
By Michael Hunt
Critics of the Obama administration’s Syrian policy have lamented its failure to take into account regional realities. With surprising speed those realities have put the brakes on US intervention. The anti-regime forces in Syria have remained deeply divided — indeed turned violently against each other — and resistant to outside guidance.
By Trevor Bryce
I have long been fascinated with Syria. Like other Middle Eastern regions, it has many layers of civilization and has seen many conquerors and raiders tramp and gallop through its lands over the centuries. That of course has been the fate of lots of countries, ancient and modern.
Twenty-five years ago today, Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first female head of government in a Muslim country. T.V. Paul, author of The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, joins us to discuss her legacy, the role of women in Pakistani politics today, and the changing shape of political parties in Pakistan.
Despite a strong field of contenders for the Oxford Atlas Place of the Year 2013, Syria emerged as the clear winner, owing to its central role in global events this year.