Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

Losing Syria and Iraq to Jihadists

Faysal Itani

June 2014

Atlantic Council


Jihadists in Iraq and Syria, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) are capturing cities, energy assets, and military hardware daily. They now control a territory the size of Jordan and are building a state from which they aspire and are increasingly able to attack US regional interests, allies, and the United States itself.

In a new Atlantic Council Issue in Focus, "Losing Syria and Iraq to Jihadists," Resident Fellow Faysal Itani outlines the roots and nature of the threat ISIS poses to US interests and security. He refutes the arguments that Bashar al-Assad and Nouri al-Maliki could be allies against jihadists; that extremist groups in Syria and Iraq should simply be left to fight one another; or that a narrow counterterrorism approach can eliminate the ISIS threat. Itani argues instead that the deepening sectarian extremism in Syria and Iraq is the product of fundamentally dysfunctional political orders and the weakness of ISIS’ opponents.