Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate

In This Review

Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate
By Abdel Bari Atwan
University of California Press, 2015
256 pp.

Like most other informed observers, Atwan takes the threat posed by the Islamic State, or ISIS, very seriously. It is a highly sophisticated movement that exerts control over some six million people, boasts around 200,000 armed fighters, and last year sold around 80,000 barrels of oil every day, on average. Atwan oscillates between attributing ISISemergence to the historical and recent blunders of Western powers and ascribing it to the poor judgment of local authorities,such as former Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki. Atwan emphasizes that even many Muslims who could become victims of ISIS’ violence feel a grudging sympathy for the group. He also shows how through its mastery of digital communications, ISIS has mobilized Muslim youths all over the world. Atwan agrees with many other experts who see Saudi Arabia as the major source of support for jihadist movements; the irony is that from ISIS’ perspective, no prize could be greater than capturing the Saudi kingdom. Atwan argues that ISIS will not be defeated by a campaign of drones strikes and aerial bombardment but that putting Western boots on the ground would play right into the group’s hands.

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