Small Wars Journal

What’s in a Name: A Strategic Analysis of The Islamic State

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 8:06am

What’s in a Name: A Strategic Analysis of The Islamic State

Dean Shumate

“Who does not know that the first law of historical writing is the truth”

 -- Cicero


Since 2014, the international community has seen the spread of The Islamic State (IS) throughout Iraq, Syria, Libya, and parts of Afghanistan. IS has been referenced by many names, but which is correct? The current presidential candidates argue how IS grew and conquered territory the size of Israel. The Democrats state if the U.S. never invaded Iraq in 2003, there would be no IS; conversely, the Republicans argue if a residual force were left behind instead of complete withdrawal in 2011, there would be no IS. The answer is neither party understands IS. Over the past 15 years, nations and militaries have struggled to understand insurgencies and how to defeat them. Although the military must be prepared to fight a conventional state on state conflict, it is an insurgency that the United States Government (USG) is more likely to confront. The USG strayed away from lessons learned after the Vietnam War, and the author, unfortunately, feels that military leaders want to jettison any lessons learned over the past 15 years. Understanding how to confront an insurgency is important to the current and future aspects of warfare. Therefore, the author will try to respond the questions stated above while looking at a historical analysis of how the U.S. might defeat this group so the questions, do not need to be asked again. 

The Foundation of the Islamic State

Three Names

To answer any question about IS, the author believes readers must be acquainted with the origins of the different names for IS. IS has been called The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and even their Arabic name ad-Dawlah al-Islamiya fil-Iraq was-sham (DAESH). The answer is that all three names are appropriate. To understand ISIL, one must understand the term, Levant. Levant has a French origin which means to rise from the East, referring to the sun rising from the East. After The Great War, the French controlled the territories of what is now known as Lebanon and Syria which they called the Levant.[i] So when individuals use the term "Levant", they are referencing the old territory east of the Mediterranean Sea. Ad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fil-Iraq was-Sham simply means State Islamic of Iraq and Syria. Under the Ottoman Empire, the area around Damascus was called Sham. Therefore, Sham refers to modern day Syria.[ii] Thus, the name ISIS is the English translation of the Arabic name. The acronym is DAESH; DAESH in Arabic means a bigot who tramples and crushes.[iii] Many world leaders use the term DAESH to take away the legitimacy of IS. For the purpose of this paper, the author will use IS or ISIS as these names are most commonly recognized by the public. 

The Faith Campaign

The answer to whether IS came about in 2003 or 2011 is neither; they were there all along. The author contends the roots of IS was formed in 1993, and those roots sprouted in 2003 and 2011. Michel Aflaq is known as the founder of The Ba'ath Party. Aflaq would move to Baghdad in 1968 where he influenced Saddam Hussein. From 1980-1989, Iraq fought a stalemate with Iran, and in 1991, Iraq suffered another defeat in the first Gulf War. With Iraq reeling economically, militarily and politically from both these conflicts, Saddam Hussein had to shore up, socially, the faithful Sunni for which the Ba'ath represented. Believing Sunni's would fall back on Islam. Saddam implemented "The Iraqi Faith Campaign" in 1993. The Faith Campaign transformed Iraq from a secular society into more of a stringent one modeled after Salafist and Sharia law. General Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Iraqi Vice Chairman, led the campaign. The campaign forced the closure of nightclubs, and alcohol banned in public, and prostitution was prohibited could lead to beheadings. The two most significant factors in the campaign were the studying of the Quran in Iraqi education and the building of mosques all throughout Iraq. Al-Douri placed military intelligence officers into these mosques.[iv] Al-Douri had some connection to IS in 2013 until his death in April 2015.[v] The style of rule during the Iraqi Faith Campaign can be seen currently in the way IS governs.

Zarqawi Years

Ahmad Fadel al-Nazzal al-Khalayleh was a petty criminal from the town of Zarqa, Jordan.  Al-Khalayleh was his birth name, but would later go by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The name Zarqawi represents his hometown of Zarqa. It is hard to know when he changed his name, but the author spoke with journalist, Joby Warrick, who stated there are references to Zarqawi changing his name sometime during the Russia/Afghan conflict in the 1980s. Warrick said "there are interview statements from an Imam who knew him during those years that he referred to himself as "Abu Musab.”[vi] Zarqawi was sentenced to prison in Jordan for drugs and theft. During his time, he made connections with acquaintances from Lebanon and Jordan. Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi helped radicalize and transform Zarqawi into the Salafist way of thinking of Islam. Hussein bin Talal, King of Jordan passed away in February 1999 from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. His son, Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, ascended to King of Jordan. Knowing reforms were needed, King Abdullah II fixed some of the grievances that Jordan society had. One fixture offered amnesty to certain prisoners, one being Zarqawi. After his release, he traveled to Pakistan for a short time. During this duration, the 2000 Millennium Bombing plot was uncovered. Zarqawi was a co-conspirator of this plot; Jordan revoked his visa, and an arrest warrant issued. Zarqawi then traveled to Afghanistan where he met with Al-Qaeda (AQ) and Usama Bin Laden (UBL). Bin Laden stated he was too immature; however, AQ could use his connections to Lebanon and Jordan. AQ did not have extensive networks in those countries. AQ sent Zarqawi to Herat, in Western Afghanistan, where a training camp was established. 9-11 happened, and the training camp was bombed by U.S. airplanes. During a bombing incident, Zarqawi was injured and traveled out of Afghanistan to Iran, seeking treatment and planning his next move. In late 2002, the Bush administration made its case for war in Iraq. Zarqawi planned for the United States government (USG) to invade Iraq and moved to the western Kurdish area of Iraq. He embedded with Ansar Al-Islam and built the foundation for an insurgency to be used against the U.S.[vii]

The U.S. invaded Iraq and readily dispersed Saddam and the Iraqi government while installing the Coalition Provision Authority (CPA). The CPA issued two orders that dramatically altered the operational situation. The first order, titled "debaathification", which stated no Baath party members could hold government jobs and the second order disbanded the entire Iraqi military.[viii] Allowing no Baath party members to hold government jobs destroyed the fabric of Iraqi infrastructure. These were teachers, doctors, and lawyers. Disbanding the Iraqi security forces meant there was no security apparatus to prevent looting or to protect the population. These security forces members were disbanded without weapons secured, any benefits, paychecks, or pensions. This meant security details were left up to American and coalition forces; all of which they were not trained. These two orders created the insurgency the U.S. faced. 

Zarqawi and his insurgents attacked American's trying to cause over-reaction. At first, the group had no luck, but this soon changed on August 19, 2003. A massive truck bombing rocked the Canal Hotel. The attack killed 22 people, including United Nations Special Representative (UNSR) Sergio Vieira de Mello. The attack targeted the United Nations Mission in Iraq which was created less than a week earlier. The bombing resulted in the UN withdrawing all staff from Iraq over the next few weeks.[ix] In March 2004, four Blackwater security personnel were attacked and killed in Fallujah, Iraq. Their bodies hung over a bridge for the city to see. These attacks showed there was a security breakdown, so American forces started to put up blast walls and up-armored HUMVEES.[x] Zarqawi was now able to separate the Iraqi population from coalition forces. He now created a sectarian divide amongst Sunni and Shia.

Needing to add a "propaganda" component to his insurgency, Zarqawi pledged allegiance to AQ in December of 2004. Zarqawi changed the group’s name to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). This pledge allowed AQ to state that they had a presence in Iraq and were fighting the “infidels” on behalf of the Iraqi Muslim population. This alliance was nothing more than a "marriage of convenience". [xi]As Zarqawi stepped up his attacks against the Shia population, UBL informed Zarqawi that he needed to stop attacking ordinary Iraqi citizens and focus attacks against the Americans. Zarqawi did not listen and on February 22, 2006, he had his most strategic attack when the al-Askari Mosque was bombed. The golden dome and the mosque were severely damaged.[xii]Al-Askari Mosque is one of the most symbolic shrines of all Shia Muslims. The Mosque houses the remains of the 10th and 11th Imams[xiii]. Nobody was killed in the bombing, but within days, thousands of dead bodies line the streets of the main cities in Iraq.

On June 7, 2006, in the town of Baqubah, a drone followed a car to a house. Out of the house appeared an individual dressed in Zarqawi's trademark black clothing. The person matched Zarqawi's description, and coalition intelligence was certain it was him. Two F-16 fighter jets were directed towards the house and "cleared hot" to drop ordinance. Two 500 pound GBU bombs were dropped on the house, and it was destroyed. Coalition forces rushed to the scene, and Zarqawi was identified while being taken out on a stretcher to an awaiting ambulance.[xiv] On June 8, 2006, the U.S. military announced the death of Zarqawi. After the death of Zarqawi, Abu Ayyub al-Masri was named the new leader of AQI. In October of 2006, AQI established the Mujahadeen Shura Council (MSC). The MSC was supposed to unify all insurgencies, including the Baathist, into one umbrella group. Al-Masri stated AQI needed a new name for its goal of a unified Ummah, within Iraq. AQI was now called the Islamic State of Iraqi (ISI).[xv]

Post-Zarqawi Years

The U.S. hoped that Zarqawi's death would cause a psychological blow to ISI; however, attacks increased. A strategic shift came about from an unlikely ally, Iraqi tribes. Sunni tribes had been aligning themselves with insurgent groups to fight the Americans. Over time, the Sunni tribes became disenfranchised by tactics employed by AQI. AQI killed sheiks and Iraqi's who did not agree with them. AQI fighters forced marriage on tribal women which went against tribal codes. Having grown tired of these tactics, 30 tribes from Anbar province formed the Anbar Salvation Council, referred to as “The Anbar Awakening.”[xvi]

Before September 2006, the mission of the Multi-National Force was to hand over security details to the Iraqi government and withdrawal of U.S. troops as quickly as possible. Knowing a shift in strategy had to change; President Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and replaced him with Robert Gates. Gen. George Casey was reassigned and Gen. David Petraeus took command. The handing off of security over to Iraqi Security Forces was placed on hold, and the U.S. government focused on protecting the Iraqi population in hopes of giving the Iraqi government time to reconcile.[xvii] This change in strategy required five additional brigades and troop rotations were extended. The new strategy was called "The Surge" and was announced in January 2007. The concept was to "clear, hold and build" areas controlled by insurgents. This meant Iraqi, and coalition forces entered an area and cleared it of insurgents. They would then hold that area and ensure no insurgent came back while the area was built up with economic development and regular responsibilities such as sewage, water, and electricity services provided. [xviii]

At first, many U.S. politicians stated The Surge failed. These statements were rooted in the fact that in the initial months, U.S. troop causalities and deaths either climbed or remained steady. What politicians did not see was the declining casualties and deaths by Iraqi civilians. Over the course of two years, The Surge brought down Iraqi and American casualties to a manageable figure. This gave the Iraqi government time to create "right" and "meaningful" reforms for the Iraqi people. Some progress was made, but the Iraqi government had more work to do.

In 2008, the U.S was to elect a new President. President Bush signed a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq. The new SOFA extended American military mission in Iraq until December 31, 2011. When asked, why only December 2011, the administration stated it wanted to give any new administration the right to negotiate without being tied down by a long-term agreement. President Obama ran on a campaign of ending the Iraq war and bringing home "all" American troops. President Obama and his administration tried to establish a SOFA[xix]. The one factor not agreed upon was the Iraqi government insistence that Iraq could prosecute U.S. forces for any crimes. [xx]

On April 18, 2010, ISI leader al-Masri was killed in a joint raid by Iraqi and American forces. ISI named a new leader, but he too was killed shortly thereafter. ISI appointed a local Iraqi named Ibrahim Awaad Ibrahim al-Badri. Al-Badri changed his name to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[xxi] Al-Baghdadi received a Doctorate in Islamic Jurisprudence from Islamic University of Baghdad.[xxii] (The reader should note that the Islamic University of Baghdad was a Baathist-run university). On December 31, 2011, all U.S. troops left Iraq. 

Current State of Affairs


With U.S. troops withdrawing from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shia, purged the Iraqi government to one of his complete control. Maliki consolidated Iraq's independent commissions, intelligence services, Special Operation Forces, police commandoes, and judiciary with individuals loyal to him. This was contradictory to the checks and balances established by the Iraqi Constitution formed in 2005. These consolidated judges issued an arrest warrant to Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, and Vice President of Iraq. Maliki was more worried about a coup than ISI, which he thought was defeated. His suspicion was rooted in the fact that since 1958 leaders, Abd al-Karim Qasim, Ahmad Hassan al-Bark, and Saddam Hussein all came to power in a coup. Lt. Col. Joel Rayburn, in his book Iraq After America, uses “Malikiyoun” when defining individuals “driven by the acquisition and holding of power, and above all are deeply committed to keeping Prime Minister Maliki in power.” The common characteristic among all Malikiyoun’s are their power derives entirely from the association with Maliki. If he were to fall from power, none of them would have anywhere to go, and this makes them more committed to him than any ideologue could be.[xxiii]

Bin Laden and Arab Spring

On May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, 23 Navy Seals were on a mission to capture or kill Osama bin Mohammad bin Awad bin Laden. The killing of UBL put AQ into a tale-spin. There were disaffections within AQ; this was apparent when it took AQ, six weeks to name their new leader in Ayman Mohammad Rabie al-A Zawahiri. Zawahiri was not as charismatic as UBL, and many in AQ questioned whether he had the vision to lead AQ.[xxiv]Around the same time, the Arab Spring overthrew Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Joby Warrick, in his book Black Flags, informs us there was an uprising in Jordan; however, King Abdullah II made meaning and actual reforms, ending any grievances the people might have against the ruling party.[xxv] The people of Syria rose up against Bashar al-Assad because of grievances against the regime. The successful overthrow of regimes in the Maghreb showed that AQ and its vision were not true. The vision of AQ was that individuals could not overthrow any Middle Eastern regime until the United States had been defeated. UBL once stated, "we must cut the head off of the snake," the snake being the United States. AQ's vision was once the U.S. was gone; AQ could dispose of regimes and unite the Muslim under one banner, a real caliphate. This caliphate though was of a utopian vision and one that would not be seen in the short term. [xxvi]The Arab Spring, however, showed that individuals could rise against regimes and dispose of dictators and governments that were not seen as "legitimate" to ordinary citizens.

A Split Amongst Groups

AQ had a utopian version of the Ummah or Caliphate, but, ISI had an immediate vision of the Caliphate. When al-Baghdadi took command of ISI, he informed individuals to call him Caliph Ibrahim. In 2012, ISI devised a plan called "Breaking the Walls." Breaking the Walls was a year-long campaign in which ISI attacked eight different prisons in Iraq. The ultimate victory came on July 21, 2013, when ISI breached Abu Ghraib prison, freeing 500 prisoners. Caliph Ibrahim also had one other plan in store for his vision of a Caliphate. Al-Baghdadi sent Haji Bakr to the Syrian Town of Tell Rifaat. Once in Tell Rifaat, Bakr organized an insurgency that not only fought in Syria but captured territory in Syria. Haji Bakr was a former Col. in Saddam's intelligence services, thus a Baathist. ISI was now exploiting the "grievances" of Maliki in Iraq and the "grievances" in Syria.

Osama al-Absi al-Wahdi, who went by the name Abu Mohammad al-Julani, a Syrian, asked and was granted permission by al-Baghdadi to start another insurgency within Syrian. The name Julani chose references the Golan Heights, which Israel holds after it captured from Syria in 1967. Al-Julani came up with the name Jabhat al-Nusra l’Ahl as-Sham meaning Support Front for the People of the Syria (shortened to Jabhat al-Nusra). Jabhat al-Nusra gained the support of the Syrian people "as they were seen as fighting on behalf of the Syrian people". In April 2013, al-Baghdadi released an audio tape stating that Jabhat al-Nursa was under the command of ISI. Al-Julani surprised, announced the very next day that al-Nursa was a part of AQ. Differing factions mounted within both organizations and in November of 2013, AQ leader Zawahiri announced that Jabhat al-Nursa was AQ in Syria and, therefore, disbanded ISIS from the AQ organization. This led to small arms conflict between both groups.[xxvii] In 2014, James Clapper, Director of Intelligence, stated there was another insurgent group in Syria named the Khorasan Group.[xxviii] Khorasan refers to the regions of Turkmenistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Although 2014 was about the first time most people had heard of this group, Clapper stated in the Armed Services Senate Committee under testimony that the group had been active in Syria since 2012.

State Building Enterprise

With IS its own entity and stand-alone insurgency, al-Baghdadi decided the time had come for the Caliphate to be united. In early 2014, the group decided to seize territory. As Dr. John Nagl stated, the group spread like "a hot knife through butter.[xxix] The group seized towns in Syria and Iraq and implemented their version of Sharia Law. On June 29, 2014, al-Baghdadi announced a worldwide caliphate with the new name of the group being ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah, translated into English The Islamic State (IS). Renowned terrorism advisor Dr. David Kilcullen describes IS as a "state-building enterprise." The Montevideo Convention of 1933 outlined four criteria's of what defines statehood. These criteria's are a permanent population, defined territory, government exercising governance, and the capability to enter into relations with other states. Using this approach, Kilcullen argues that ISIS is a state building enterprise as it controls territory the size of Israel, controls a population,  provides governance functions such as tax, courts, schools, etc. IS sales oil and electricity to Syria; Kilcullen further argues that IS claims to be a state; they think like a state, and even fight for a state.[xxx] This brings us current on IS.

Who Lives There: How to Defeat an Insurgency

David Fitzgerald in his magnificent book Learning to Forget, informs us that foreign policy drives a military’s mission, and has always done so by a historical relationship.[xxxi] If this is true, then why has the military struggled to understand how to implement a counterinsurgency (COIN) operation effectively? An analysis of a previous COIN operation can tell us about how to defeat and diffuse an insurgency. A historical examination also provides evidence-based solutions. When reviewing a case study, one must choose a study that is relevant to a region and culture. There have been many insurgencies with various outcomes across the Middle East, but one that the author feels most appropriate is the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman from 1962-1976.

The author chose the Dhofar case study for a few distinct merits. The Dhofar insurgency started because of "true grievances" with the Sultanate of Oman, and the Sultan's Armed Forces (SAF) needed help from an outside country. According to the Encyclopedia of Geography, Oman is full of Sunni, Shiite, and Ibadi Islam. The Ibadis follow an adherence to Sharia law in public, but the characteristics of the domination have been classified as a moderate and tolerant to varying views and other religions. Three-fourths of the Ibadis live in mountainous areas while Sunni dominates the coastal villages, and the Shiites are spread throughout cities.[xxxii] An inclusive Iraq and Syria is what any coalition wants to establish. The author notes that many readers might question why "The Surge" would not be utilized in the case study. There are many lessons to be learned from The Surge, but the author argues that the final blow was never dealt because the Iraqi government did not include "inclusive" policies and, therefore, was not seen as "legitimate" to the Iraqi people. This is why ISI spread and why U.S forces were sent back in 2014. 

Case Study: Oman and Dhofar Rebellion, 1962-1976

The country of Oman is located in the Middle East, being east of Yemen and South of Saudi Arabia. Dhofar is Oman's western province. In 1962, Oman was ruled by Sultan Taimur, who wanted to enrich himself and started to build up the Dhofar region for his personal well-being.[xxxiii] The Dhofar region had always been dependent upon Oman but had its social identity within the tribes. After an arrest of a prominent local sheik, an insurgent uprising began. The capital of Dhofar is Salalah with the population being mixed with three tribes: al-Kathir, Bayt al-Rawwas, and al-Marahin.[xxxiv] Outside these tribes live two other communities with one claiming the direct lineage of the Prophet. The Dhofar region is separated by 500 miles of desert and is culturally different than the rest of Oman, which Sultan Said never comprehended the difference in tribes.[xxxv] Dhofaris have always considered themselves to be culturally different from Omanis (Jones, 2011). In the Dhofar area, it is known as the jebel for the mountains and hills with the citizens known as jabbbalis. Approximately 20,000 inhabitants lived in the coastal plains while another 10,000 were made up of the Bait Kathir and Mahra tribes.[xxxvi] Tribes in the Dhofar region were connected by bayats known as houses and led by a shaykh.[xxxvii] In 1963, Sheikh Musallim bin Nufal bin Sharfan al-Kathiri of the Bayt Kathir tribe was stopped by a civilian guard and thrown in prison.[xxxviii] This would be a prelude for the Dhofari insurgency as Kathir Muslims would attack the Sultan’s forces after Sheikh Mussalim was released from prison.

During 1965, Sultan Sa'id bin Taimur was the Sultan of Oman, and he showed the keen interest in the Dhofar region; however, this involved making improvements to his palace and establishing private estates for select individuals.[xxxix] The Sultan made his permanent residence in Salalah, the capital of Dhofar; making the area his private property. This drove ordinary Dhofaris in search of work and education to the other Gulf States.[xl] Incensed by the Sultan's actions towards citizens, rebels met and produced a united front named Dhofar Liberation Front (DLF); the mission of the DLF was Arab nationalist in nature.[xli] Most members who joined the DLF naturally joined to fight against the Sultan's government; however documents in 1971 showed that some DLF members wanted to incorporate Marxism into their beliefs, which conflicted with the role of Islam and the tribal beliefs.[xlii] The Front's goal was to unite all Arabs living in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In 1970, PFLOAG would control 80% of Dhofar.[xliii]

The Sultan seemed to think it was only a minor tribal problem and that the DLF would be defeated by his military and his punishment of those who disobeyed him. The Commander of the Sultan’s Armed Forces (CSAF) recommended that more troops be sent, supported by civil and administrative engineers, to improve the roads and other areas within Dhofar. Sultan Taimur rejected all their proposals.[xliv] Sultan Sa’id was still spending money on his luxuries while improvements to Dhofar and surrounding areas were slow. The British government knew a change in leadership was required, or Oman would fall to the insurgents.[xlv] On July 23, 1970, the Sultan was overthrown by his son Qaboos and forced to go into exile.[xlvi]

An agreement between Sultan Said ibn Taimur Al Said and the British government in 1958 led to the creation of the SAF and the promise of British assistance in military development.[xlvii] When the insurgency began, the British Army feared that the Sultan underestimated the strength of the DLF and that the Oman Army could be defeated with small rebel attacks and propaganda.[xlviii] The DLF then attacked an oil company and thus on June 9, 1965, the Dhofar Rebellion started.[xlix] The DLF attacked with only a few hundred insurgents.[l] The DLF initially had the backing not only of jabbalis, but also countries such as Yemen, Egypt, and Iraq.[li].

It was increasingly evident that the DLF threat was growing, and a more sustained response was needed. Brigadier General Tony Lewis, of Britain's military, stated the rebellion could have been put down quickly in 1966 if the armed forces had equipment and changes were made in governance.[lii] Operations against the DLF would continue, and improved training for the SAF with their British counterparts, but the British commanders started to think there was a military stalemate. [liii]Peterson argued there was a stalemate of manpower and equipment shortages, but more importantly because the Sultan refused to take the necessary political steps to defuse the insurgency. In 1970, the SAF had little to no intelligence as officers manned the intelligence staff with inadequate education.[liv]

In 1967, more support started to come in from South Yemen, and the DLF decided to change the name from DLF to the PFLOAG meaning Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Gulf, or The Front.[lv] The name reflected that Dhofar was just the first step in overthrowing the monarchies of the Gulf States. The Front had a formidable force made up of 5,000 fighters, with even its dedicated death squads named idaarat.[lvi] In 1968, weapons manufactured in the Soviet Union started to make their way into PFLOAG hands via Cuba.[lvii]  In April of 1970, the SAF was on the defensive.[lviii] Unless there was a change in strategy considered opinion was that the SAF could lose the war.[lix] In 1970, The Front established communications in Gulf newspapers and stated that their goal was to open the second insurgency in Oman.[lx]

The SAF divided the war into four phases to defeat the insurgency. These phases consisted of preventing The Front from winning over the population, preparing for offensive measures against The Front, and then offensive operations to take back territory, and finally consolidating the people into these areas while expanding governmental control and resources.[lxi] The SAS took more of a role in being embedded while assisting and advising. Civil assistance started to bear fruit in towns such as Taqah, Mirbat, and Sadh. By late 1970, the SAF had its first defectors after these rebels realized that the new government was offering freedom and opportunities. With Sultan Qaboos, the military campaign now had a political component to defeating the insurgency. The SAF created a paramilitary unit made up of locals titled firqah.[lxii] The new Sultan came up with an initiative to have fathers of insurgents visit them and try to persuade their sons that the new government was for them. This approach was a success as more Front members wanted to surrender and become part of the firqah.[lxiii] The firqah were deployed for the first time with British Advisory forces into the city of Sadh. The firqah entered the city and with British forces were able to take it back. The operation netted four prisoners who were later released. The front leader for the area, Muhammad Salim Narawt, surrendered and led the firqah and British advisors to a wadi where 140 men were waiting. After careful negotiations, all 140 men declared their allegiance to the new Sultan.[lxiv] Forty of these members were embedded into other operations on March 19, 1971. In June of 1971, the firqah started to go on operations without their British advisors, and the Sultan fixed some of the pay issues, increasing morale.[lxv]

The Sultan ordered the immediate opening of medical clinics, schools, and shopping districts. Another operation titled Operation Capricorn allowed for airlifting or extraction by the vehicle of over 1500 goats and 700 cattle to be sold in the Salahah markets for the farmers.[lxvi] Seeing the gains that were being made by SAF and British advisors, the Sultan was able to get commitments from Jordan and Iran to add Special Forces and engineers embedded into the SAF.[lxvii] In 1974, SAS opened up Radio Dhofar; dropping propaganda leaflets all over Dhofar while expanding on medical and veterinary services to the tribes.[lxviii] Intelligence reports suggested that the rebel strength had dropped from 860 to 745.[lxix] The Sultan decided it was time to take steps to end the war. He ordered any prisoner should be shown leniency and should be repatriated back into society.[lxx] In 1964, the SAF troop strength was approximately 2,200 and in 1970, it was 4,038.[lxxi] By war's end, there would be approximately 11,000 troops in the Dhofar region, 5,000 SAF, 3000 Iranians, 1200 firqahs, 1000 British, and 800 Jordanians.[lxxii] The SAF continued to grow and by late 1970s, the strength was 11,000.[lxxiii]

On November 1970, the Sultan ordered that Dhofar would not be considered a province of Oman and would receive equal standing from the government and resources.[lxxiv] The Sultan ordered an increase in troops in the Dhofar region while simultaneously ordering improvements to roads, medical care, water wells, and veterinary services by the civil government. He also ordered more civil jobs for the jabbali population.[lxxv] March 17, 1973, the Sultan announced that civil development was now the number one priority in the Jabal.[lxxvi] The end of the year brought about the permanent opening of roads between Salalah and Thumrayt, which gave direct routes to the markets. The Sultan then deployed civil action teams consisting of a leader, a teacher, medical officer, and economic officer to areas to assist the villages.[lxxvii] Most of 1975 were spent securing the gains the military had made with civilian governance. Major General Ken Perkins stated the East was secure, but it was done not by military means but by civil projects the government had undertaken.[lxxviii]


The Dhofar rebellion was started by tribes seeking independence from the repressive rule of Sultan Said ibn Taimur.[lxxix] The Sultan was ignorant of the realities of the insurgency and thought that they could be crushed by military force alone.[lxxx] Even the Sultan's military was constrained by lack of equipment, resources, and pay, and, therefore, did not perform at optimum performance during some of these conflicts.[lxxxi] Once in power, Qaboos modernized the military, which increased morale.[lxxxii]  He allowed British advisors to adopt a more effective COIN campaign that combined a civil-military approach while bringing reforms.[lxxxiii] With Sultan Qaboos addressing the needs of his population, he was able to achieve military victories, bring more recruits into the military through amnesty, and help reduce the insurgent footprint, while increasing his support from the local populace.[lxxxiv]

Application to the Islamic State


The Dhofari case study teaches scholars many lessons about a successful COIN campaign. The first is that a true "COIN" campaign has to encompass political, military, social, and economic components of a host nation. The second lesson that the Dhofari case study showed was that grievances are the reason an insurgency begins, sustains, and maintains itself. From the political component, host nations must be willing to transform themselves with policies that are inclusive of an entire society.[lxxxv] Therefore, host countries must be prepared to make "meaningful" and true "reforms" that satisfy all citizens. Governments of host nations must be seen as "legitimate" through the eyes of the people. The people are the center of gravity for the insurgent or the counterinsurgent.[lxxxvi] A successful approach encompasses a civil-military approach, not just a military. The military component showed us that if an outside military force is asked to help confront an insurgency, then the force must be embedded but kept to a small footprint. The job of these embedded forces should be to accompany, assist, and advise the indigenous forces. Any operation though must be led by locals and have a local "face" of the operation.

There must be a propaganda campaign which shows the insurgent that their fight is not worth it. This psychological propaganda component can lead to better intelligence. Better intelligence shows the counterinsurgent that people are starting to support the host nation. Any COIN campaign will have to look at repatriating moderates back into the fabric of society; this means that some individuals might have blood on their hands. In the social component, any counterinsurgency force to include "locals" must put an emphasis on language, culture, and understanding of societies; thus, a counterinsurgent force must understand "Who Lives There."  All operations must be seen as operating on behalf of the local people. Every counterinsurgent must promote social change and make society inclusive of all individuals. Stability within the economic component depends on reforms and economic development. COIN is a protracted war, and so, therefore, any invited nation's population must understand that with a prolonged war, will come an increase in cost, and, therefore, any population must be willing to stay the course. If any one of these components is not met, then the author is afraid that any deployment will be done so in vain. These lessons will now be applied to the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

Iraq and Syria

Since a genuine COIN campaign is broken down into four components consisting of political, military, social and economical, the author will break down his application into the same components. The author believes this assists the reader to understand the complexity of the situations in Iraq and Syria. The author will not offer in-depth fixtures or policies as he is not a subject matter expert, but the author does prescribe for readers what is needed to win. The actual fixtures can be left up to other scholars or, even more, hopeful the U.S., Iraqi, and Syrian diplomats.


Dr. John Nagl stated, "ISIS was able to spread like a hot knife through butter,"[lxxxvii] then any scholar must ask themselves why IS was able to spread so quickly? The answer is because of the grievances that each nation's people had against the ruling government. In Iraq, it was because the same Sunni tribes that The Surge worked so hard to bring back into the mix of society were alienated when Maliki purged his government.[lxxxviii] It is great to see that Prime Minister Maliki has been replaced with Haider al-Abadi. Al-Abadi is trying to implement reforms for the Iraqi people, and this is promising. As of November 2015, it is being reported that Iraqi leaders are quarreling over reforms that Al-Abadi needs to make.

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad must go as he is the cause of the grievances. There has been an estimated 250,000 Syrians killed in the current four-year conflict.[lxxxix] The majority of these individuals killed were not done so by the insurgencies; they were done so by the Assad regime. Following the title of this paper, it is ironic that the Arabic meaning of Assad means lion. The Assad family has been feeding on Syrian people as a lion for the better part of 30-40 years. The Assad regime opened its borders in Iraq so that insurgents could flow in to fight the Americans during Operation Iraqi Freedom. One had to think it would be a matter of time before these insurgents went back to Syria to do the same thing against the Assad regime. 

The campaign against IS has been given an operational name titled Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). Gen. (Ret.) David Petraeus recommended the headquarters of CJTF-OIR if not individual commanders should be moved to Baghdad with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Stuart Jones.[xc]This would allow for an appropriate civil-military approach with the commander and Ambassador's staff coordinating. It is recommended a separate command structure organizing a civil-military approach in Syria is established with command structure possibly at an Air Base in Turkey. This command could then report to overall CJT-OIR. The author would like to point out that this approach of different command structures combined into one was used by the Royal Thai Government (RTG) from 1965-1985 when batting the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT). Although the application in Thailand was used at the village level, the concept remained the same. Thailand did this because of the different cultures associated throughout the country and sectors.[xci]

Readers will have to understand that the current conflict with ISIS will ultimately end with a negotiated settlement and outcome. Readers must understand that even if ISIS is gone, there are still other insurgency elements separate from ISIS such as Jabhat al-Nursa and the Khorasan Group. The author believes that most of ISIS’s members will have to be killed because of the brutality, and this will be done through the military operation; however, the U.S must engage all moderate citizens in society in order to “ultimately” defeat the insurgencies and call CJTF-OIR a "success." As stated, any negotiated settlement must have Bashar al-Assad leaving Syria. The author believes that Russia would go along with al-Assad stepping down. Russia has no personal commitment to Syria, more to their own strategic interests. If Russia were allowed to keep the naval facility in Tartus and its air base in Latakia, the author believes Russia would support the removal of al-Assad. With Russia keeping its strategic military bases, any new administration would need to have favorable relations with Russia.

When it comes to Iraq, the author believes it will survive as long as al-Abadi makes meaningful reforms that can reconcile the divide that Maliki caused. Reconciliation will mean an "all inclusive" Iraq, with policies benefiting the entire Iraqi fabric of society. Syria, though the author argues is different. Bashar al-Assad will have to go, but before he leaves, there must be a stable government in place ready to transition and immediately get to work reconciling the citizens of Syria. If there is not then, Syria will look like in Libya. There was a time the author believes that a peace agreement could have been reached saving Syria but due to inaction, Syria's five-year civil war has done geopolitical damage to the Syrian territory.  With the right reforms and Assad leaving, Syria can start the road to reconciliation; however we must understand that the Syria we know now might look a lot different. Syria could be broken down into a bunch of autonomous regions with a federal administration and constitutional rights from Damascus. This type of autonomous region is similar to Iraq Kurdistan or the Federal Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan. The regions could be broken up by the tribes in the Southern, Central and Northern areas of Syria. Some of these tribes are al-Fadl, Aneza, and Shammar. Power will be shared by groups within the Syrian government but it will be decentralized. American's might ponder when Iraqi's government starts on policy reforms needed. If Iraqi officials or Syrian officials cannot send their kids to school how can one expect them to get to work on reforms and inclusive politics. Therefore, security of the population is essential.


Current reports estimate 3,500 troops are deployed for CJTF-OIR. The author will not state how many advisors are needed. The author will only focus on what the role of these troops should be (although the author believes 20,000 is a start). Whatever the proper troop level is, these forces must go outside "the wire" on operations. IS S is one of the only insurgencies that has ever held territory. Since any force will be trying to take back territory, the wire will be moving and shifting with each operation. These troops must be embedded into an indigenous Syrian and Iraqi force. These forces will have to use what the author refers to as “The AAA” option. That meaning they must accompany, advise and assist these indigenous forces; however, any operation must have a local face on it. T.E. Lawrence, maybe the most famous insurgent stated, "better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly.” These embedded forces can utilize American technology, logistics, and precision weapons as a combat force multiplier against IS.

A Human Rights Watch report stated that Bashar al-Assad’s most effective weapon used against the Syrian population is the indiscriminate barrel bombings of civilians.[xcii]  A barrel bomb is a canister filled with metal fragments and/or explosives that are dropped without guidance from helicopters.  Reports have the Syrian regime dropping up to a dozen barrel bombs a day throughout different cities in Syria; even calling the barrel bombs more dangerous than ISIS.[xciii]  Being able to stop the barrel bombs would not only protect the Syrian people but also, stem the flow of refuges into European communities.[xciv]  The United States should establish a no-fly zone in regions within Syria with stern warnings to the Assad regime that if any helicopters or airplanes are found to be in these zones that they will be shot down by coalition aircraft.  ISIS, Khorasan Group, or Jabhat al-Nusra does not have the capability to stop barrel bombings.  The U.S. and coalition does with its aircraft and helicopters.  Being able to defend the population would show the Syrian people that are airplanes are not used for bombing but also protection.  The destruction and stoppage of the barrel bombs would show the Syrian people that we are fighting on “their behalf” and deliver a psychological blow to any insurgent group since they do not have the means of protecting the population from these kinds of weapons.

When it comes to airstrikes, airstrikes must be used very conservatively. In these operations, it does any force no good to drop a bomb on one insurgent if that bomb will create 50 insurgents. The same goes for any door kicking operation or what the military terms as a direct action operation. The point in any operation is to bring the people on the side of the counterinsurgent force. The question must be asked by ALL personnel operating, will this action bring more people to the side of the government or the insurgent? If the answer is yes to the side of the government, the operation is a success, if no then it is a failure and a huge one at that.

Dr. Kilcullen in Blood Year tells us that during the Kosovo campaign in 1999, NATO airstrikes averaged 250 a day, Libya in 2011 it was 45 per day, and in Afghanistan in 2001, it was 83 per day. In the current campaign, our airstrikes are only averaging 10 per day.[xcv] This will require embedded Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACS). CJTF-OIR could use the airstrikes per day in Afghanistan against the Taliban as a model. The size of the Taliban fighting force and territory is similar to ISIS.[xcvi] General Petraeus in his Senate testimony also stated that a no-fly zone could be established to protect civilians from the Barrel bombs that the Syrian Air Force is currently using indiscriminately against all civilians.[xcvii]

There will need to be a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process done with the remaining militant wings of any Syrian opposition group. These opposition groups will need to surrender all weapons and ammunition and be reintegrated back into civilian society. Some opposition fighters could be reintegrated back into the Syrian Armed Forces. This was the goal for the Sons of Iraq campaign during The Surge. A DDR will need to be worked out during the negotiated settlement phase.  Trust is a critical factor in the DDR phase. A successful DDR campaign was done in Sierra Leone and Liberia after their civil wars. The overthrow of Gadhafi in Libya in 2011 is a failed example of a non-effective, or non-existent DDR campaign can go due to a country. Gadhafi was overthrown, and a transitional government was established; however, this was done without a DDR campaign, leaving militants with weapons continuing to fight at will.

One military aspect for which the author feels the coalition is not utilizing is the influence operations and propaganda factor within the military component. U.S. military forces could garner popular support from the Syrians and Iraqi’s through an astute propaganda campaign. This campaign would acknowledge how the ideology of IS conflicts with the autonomy of local tribes. An effective influence operation would go a long way in exploiting inconsistencies, atrocities, and lies against other Sunni Muslims within IS message. Dedicated teams comprising of Combat Camera and Public Affairs personnel could be utilized to amplify messages of positive deeds that host nations are doing to bring about “inclusive” policies. A dedicated team of military members that have a judicious understanding of Islam could analyze the Hadith, finding passages where the Hadith strictly forbids the actions of IS fighters.[xcviii] These passages could be passed to moderate clerics, imams, who could then pass along to fellow citizens, further exploiting the actions of IS. A dedicated radio station could be operated by military PsyOps group, broadcasting lies and contradictories of IS. Furthermore, these radio messages could be used to spread the word of government programs and outreach to moderate insurgents. A dedicated landline number could be established where locals can voice their opinion and grievances, even if against the government or IS. This would provide a feedback mechanism where the coalition and government could identify needs and align mission goals while giving the local populace confidence that they are being listened too. These messages could be broadcasted out to the public, showing that it is positive when citizens come forward for the better of their nation. In the end, no local citizen will be willing to rise up and fight an insurgency unless they know that they are going to be protected by coalition forces. The USG could also exploit other extremist's messages. Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (mentioned earlier in regards to Zarqawi), a Salafist, called on IS to release hostage Allen Henning, as he came to Syria to volunteer for a humanitarian organization to better the life of Muslim’s. Furthermore, Maqdisi states that Henning should not only be released but should be thanked with gratitude.[xcix] Maqdisi stated that he should be beheaded as it would bring injustice which Allah would not approve. Exploiting another Salafist against a Salafist insurgency could go a long way in delegitimizing the IS. Maqdisi’s message shows that when a government is for the people, that it can bring legitimacy to a government while discrediting an insurgency.


Another aspect of influence operations is the need to have a "local face" as the alternative to a new Syrian regime. Influence operations will need to target individuals that can speak on behalf of the local tribes and citizens. These could be a daunting task with the number of refugees that has left the country; however, the author still believes there are moderates which can assist in a transitional to the permanent government, but also assist with bringing Syrians into the fabric of a new society. One of these individuals is Mohammad Habash. Habash is a reformer who argues that Islam must accept other religions, Western ideas, and argues peaceful resistance to any foreign occupation including in 2005 where he led peaceful demonstrations against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Habash is an elected member of the Syrian Parliament and holds a doctorate degree about recitations of the Quran. This would greatly assist in countering any message by Abu Baker-al Baghdadi or other IS clergy. Ayman Abdel Nour is a former friend and classmate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nour has called for legitimate government reforms and fled the country in 2007, first to the United Arab Emirates and then the U.S. Nour runs an online bulletin titled All4Syria which is widely read. Anwar al-Bunni, is a Syrian human rights attorney who was imprisoned by al-Assad after he signed a public document calling for reforms. One final person might be Dr. Kamal al-Labwani. Labwani, is a Syrian doctor who is known as one of the more prominent individuals leading the Syrian opposition, who was once imprisoned by al-Assad. Whoever becomes the face of the leading the new Syrian regime, short-term or long-term, these individuals must represent the local Syrian communities and not just a puppet of U.S. policy. The USG must be willing to allow individuals who criticize certain policies but are still willing to work with the USG for the better of the Syrian people. The USG cannot make the same mistake it has in past conflicts, where it props up regimes that are favorable to US policy but does not include inclusive policies for all citizens.

General Petraeus called for enclaves to be established in Syria to help separate the population from the insurgencies. The author states these enclaves could be protected by a local security force, a tribal militia, or even a joint mix of the local security force and American personnel.[c] Any security force protecting these enclaves must take into account “Who Lives There”. This means that the society will be made up of individuals with a common culture and sense of identity. The population of these enclaves will have social issues, and national beliefs that affect the environment and any security force must understand these dynamic issues. Regardless these enclaves must establish security for the local population and must have a local face to it. If enclaves or encampments are set-ups, it will be significant that essential services and governance is rendered quickly. The establishment of governance can assist in bringing people to the side of the government, but if not done quickly could cause grievances forcing people to the side of the insurgents.[ci] With the establishment of enclaves, security forces will have to facilitate the return of refugees and diaspora's that want to go back to their homeland.

Moderates in all insurgencies will have to be brought over to the side of the counterinsurgent. Repatriating and bringing moderates over to the side of government can benefit in bringing others over and help diffuse an insurgency. When moderates are brought over to the side of a host nation, it shows other insurgents that the way to success is not done through the taking up of arms but through the political process. Having insurgents switch sides will bring about a strong propaganda victory and psychological blow to any insurgent group. Not every insurgent takes up arms in the name of jihad or infidels. Some are brought to fight against a military force for other reasons. Kilcullen called these individuals "Accidental Guerrillas" as they join an insurgency not necessary because they support the ideology, but, more because of such grievances against an occupying force such as indiscriminate bombing, harsh tactics, or occupation of territories.[cii] The author recognizes that ISIS and its brutality, there are probably no moderates to be brought over; however, al-Jabhat Nursa or the Khorasan Group certainly has moderates in it as these groups have been reportedly earning some legitimacy within the Syrian community.

The USG is losing the narrative campaign against the IS. There is a narrative being stated that the USG is in cahoots with IS[ciii]. The reason for this partnership is that the USG wants to divide up the Middle East for our purposes while weakening Iran. Iraqi’s believe this because they have seen airdrops of supplies, weapons, food to areas where IS fighters have picked up these airdrops. When asked about Iraqi’s perception about a partnership between IS and the USG during a press conference, U.S. Military spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, stated: "there’s clearly no one in the West who buys it, but unfortunately, this is something that a segment of the Iraqi population believes.” What Col. Warren is forgetting is that it does not matter what the West thinks, it matters what the Iraqi people think. The beliefs of the citizens that the USG has to protect must be taken into account. If the belief is that the USG is in cahoots with IS, the US must wage an immediate campaign to change this image. Putting American advisors on the ground, embedded into an indigenous force can assist with this. American JTAC's can place these drops into the hands of the intended target, thus strengthening much-needed supplies to local populations. We must remember that American troops can support the people while not supporting the ruling government. American Army personnel must assist in promoting social progress which helps bring about “true” social change.

The U.S. needs to win the narrative. American's are great at telling stories. Listen to loved one's describing their wedding. Visit some Vietnam veterans and one will hear similarities in their stories about the war. We are losing the narrative against the IS on many fronts. The paragraph above brought a local reality to the fight. Other ways we are losing the narrative is by looking at all the foreign fighters that are going over to the Middle East to join the rank and file of IS. If there is not a narrative that resonates with local people on the ground and if the USG cannot tell a story that locals believe in then we lose to the war against not just IS but all insurgencies. The US drops precision weapons at an alarming rate with most hitting legitimate targets. There are however other call for fires where bombs either go array or targets is misidentified. How many weddings have been accidentally bombed in Afghanistan? We call this collateral damage, what does an individual who just lost families call it? The master narrative is that Islam or tribal affiliation is under attack by the West, and it is the duty of a Muslim or this individual to defend his religion or his honor. Everyone has seen the brutality of IS by the beheadings, setting individuals on fire, or throwing them off buildings. Has anyone seen the brutality of what a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) or a Hellfire Missile can do when dropped from a high altitude? Go back to what the United States might call collateral damage even if the attended target was destroyed? When IS commits brutality, they stick around to tell a tale of the individual being an apostate, a spy, a murderer. The USG will cause brutality in the eyes of locals and then not be around to try to tell the narrative. Again, boots on the ground assists with this, but the point is that the USG must start winning the narrative. As retired Green Beret, Lt. Col Scott Mann stated, “narratives are essential in mobilizing local actions to defeat violent extremists.”[civ]

Locals must believe that American and coalition are fighting on behalf of Syrian and Iraqi people, not America’s interest. American and coalition countries need to “stay the course” to protect the populations of Syria and Iraq, no matter how long it takes. Middle Eastern individuals are rightly skeptical of the USG because of the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011, nonintervention in the early stages of Syrian war in May of 2011, and finally August of 2013, when Syria used Sarin gas against Syrian citizens calling the “Red-Line Bluff” of the USG. Once the people believe the USG is fighting for their “true” grievances, then the Syrian and Iraqi people will “slowly” start to come to the side of coalition forces. USG and its coalition partners need to realize that the war against IS is a protracted war and that no partnership can rush to failure. 


 The author does not proclaim to be an authoritative subject matter expert on economic issues or economies of the two countries. So what is laid out is general and the author understands that in practice (operational) is harder than in theory (writing). Economic development will be the highest priority for the Government of Iraq, and any follow-on the government in Syria. To truly diffuse and defeat an insurgency, host nation governments must develop policies and development that are "inclusive" of the entire society. If a government is seen as legitimate to the citizens of that nation, then the most powerful weapon for the insurgent is removed- this being the people and any perception of grievances.[cv]

Before “The Surge”, Col. Sean McFarland had undertaken measures to revive the city of Ramadi. He coordinated sewer, water, electricity, and trash (SWET) to be collected so that Ramadi residents would have a sense of normalcy around them.[cvi] This would help eliminate some of the grievances against the U.S and help keep some citizens from turning to insurgent movements. The author would like to note that Gen. McFarland is now the commander of CJTF-OIR and that is positive. The nations of Iraq and Syria will need to provide immediate services to residents in towns and cities. SWET can be extended to include places of academia, medical treatment facilities/clinics, power grids, and roads. By focusing on infrastructure projects, a host nation and coalition can take away propaganda from an insurgent and strengthen the perception of a government that is seen as legitimate and operating on behalf of its citizens.[cvii]

Ninety percent of Iraq's revenue comes from oil.[cviii] With the recent drop is the price of oil, the U.S. and coalition nations will need to assist Iraq in diversifying its economy.  This reduction in prices could have an adverse impact on the nation's budget but would immediately affect any perceptions of grievances against a government. If Iraq and Syria can reform its friction in politics, then both countries might be able to attract foreign investment. This is a daunting task, but a benefit is the large populations that both countries have. These citizens provide for skilled labor which then can provide essential services.  Iraq and Syria have a vast array of wheat, corn, rice, dates, and livestock which could be utilized for long term investment, training, and machinery.  With the history of the Syria and Iraq, tourism could bring profits, but this is based upon security and political stability which in the short term does not seem viable. Both countries have many rivers and Iraq in the southern region has access to the Gulf, which could provide for maritime and fishing exploration. A report in 2011 stated that mineral production in Iraq is expected to increase. With this increase, comes the possibility of production of limestone, sulfur, phosphate rock, and limestone.[cix] With proper training, machinery, and policies, this production could help further economic development projects with the countries and even export possibilities.


The seeds of IS was planted in 1993, and those roots grew from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the withdrawal of troops in 2011. Any reader must understand that it was the actions of the Iraqi government for why IS was able to reconstitute itself back into an insurgency group. It is the grievances of the Syrian and Iraqi people for why IS was able to spread through the region like a hot knife through butter.

That leaves the U.S. and the region with a daunting task of defeating this insurgent group, but as General Petraeus states, “hard is not hopeless.”[cx] Since IS grew from the grievances of the people, it will take fixing these grievances with “meaningful and inclusive” policies to “truly” defeat IS. This conflict against IS will be a protracted conflict. In 2003, the U.S. fought with a conventional mindset for which it took four years to understand how to fight a counterinsurgency campaign. In the current conflict against IS, we are not truly fighting the right way. Most counterinsurgents tend to start off fighting the wrong way and have ground to be made up. The current conflict is the same. The war against IS and AQ for that matter will be a protracted conflict. The author argues that a residual security force of advisors should be left in the region for many decades to come. If the ground is important for American blood to be spilled, then it is important to continue to station American forces on that ground, so the threat does not emerge again.  The American people will need to stay the course and not rush for failure.       

Utilizing all of our PMSE components, the host nations of Iraq and Syria can once again be legitimate governments to their citizens. This paper asked three central questions- 1) what is the correct name of IS 2) how did IS come about and 3) how do we defeat IS. Shakespeare wrote: “what’s in a name-that which we call a rose. By any other name would be as sweet”. The Oxford Dictionary states that the definition of Baath means resurrection. So understanding "What's in a Name," our actions helped defeat Sadaam Hussein and the Ba'ath party but in 2011, our actions also brought back the Ba'ath party. When the grievances of the people are fixed, both Iraq and Syria can tell a propaganda tale of IS "by any other name would be as sweet that name being a sovereign government called Iraq and Syria that is inclusive of all citizens."

The views expressed are those of the researcher and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Air Force, Department of Defense, or the US Government.


Arango, T. Top Saddam Hussein Aide Reported Killed in Northern Iraq. April 17, 2015. New York Times,

Barrett, R. (August, 2011). Oman: The Present in the Context of a Fractured Past. Retrieved from

Devore, M. (February, 2011). The United Kingdom’s Last Hot war of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75. Retrieved from www.

Fitzgerald, D. Learning to Forget: US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Practice from Vietnam to Iraq. Stanford, CA. Stanford University Press (2013).

Gordon, M & Trainor, B. The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. New York, NY. Random House (2012).

Green, R. “Key Considerations for Irregular Security Forces in Counterinsurgency.” Master’s thesis, U.S Army War College, 2011.

Guthrie, Alice. Decoding DAESH: Why is the New Name for ISIS so Hard to Understand? Free World Centre Blog, February 19, 2015,

Jones, C. (2011). Military intelligence, tribes, and Britain’s war in Dhofar, 1970-1976. Middle East Journal. Vol, 65, No.4, p.557-574.

Kaplan, F. The insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. New York, NY. Simon & Schuster Publishing (2013).

Kilcullen, D. Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. New York, NY. Oxford Printing Press (2009).

Kilcullen, D. Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State. Collingwood Australia, Blackinc Books (2015).

Maqdisi, A. Alan Henning: Open letter from Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Shari’ah ruling and an appeal from a revert sister, September 22, 2014.

Mazzetti, M, Schmidt, M., & Hubbard, B. U.S Suspects More Direct Threats Beyond ISIS. September 20, 2014,

McChrystal, S. My Share of the Task: A Memoir. New York, NY. Penguin Press (2013).

McCants, W. The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic sSate. New York, NY. St. Martin Press (2015).

Nagl, J. Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice. New York, NY. Penguin Press (2014)

Peterson, J.E. Oman’s Insurgencies: The Sultanate’s Struggle for Supremacy. London, United Kingdom. Sarqi Books (2008).

Petraeus, D. Senate Armed Services Committee-U.S. Policy in the Middle East. Filmed [September 201]. C-SPAN video, 2:52:36, Posted [September 2015].

Powers, S. Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World. New York, NY. The Penguin Press (2008).

Rayburn, J. Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance. Stanford, CA. Hoover Institution Press (2014).

Roth, K. To Stem the Flow of Syrian Refugees, Stop the Barrel Bombs, September 23, 2015.

Roth, K. Barrel Bombs, Not ISIS, Are the Greatest Threat to Syrians, August 5, 2015.

Shumate, D. “Who Lives There: The Role of Embedded Troops in Counter-Insurgency Operations.” Doctoral dissertation, Creighton University, 2015.

Sly, L. Iraqis think the U.S. is in Cahoots with the Islamic State, and it is Hurting the War, December 1, 2015.

Stern, J. & Berger, J.M. ISIS: The State of Terror. New York, NY. Harper Collins Publishing (2015).

Taib, M. The Mineral Industry of Iraq, April 2013.

Unknown Author. Iraq’s Economy: An Empty Chest. The Economist Magazine, March 2015.

Warf, B. Encyclopedia of Geography, Country of Oman. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Printing Press (2015).

Warrick, J. Black Flags: The Rrise of ISIS. New York, NY. Penguin Random House (2015).

Zenko, M. Counting the Dead in Syria, The Atlantic Magazine, September 2015.

End Notes

[i] G.L. Lamborn, email message to author, January 4, 2016

[ii] G.L. Lamborn, email message to author, January 4, 2016

[iii] Alice Guthrie, Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand? February 19, 2015

[iv] Joel Rayburn, Iraq after America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance (Stanford, 2014), Kindle Edition

[v] Tim Arango, Top Saddam Hussein Aid Reported Killed in Northern Iraq, New York Times, April 17, 2015

[vi] Joby Warrick, email message to author, January 19, 2016

[vii] Joby Warrick, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (New York: Penguin Random House, 2015), Kindle Edition

[viii] Michael Gordon & Bernard Trainor, The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq from George W. Bush to Barack Obama (New York: Random House, 2012), Kindle Edition

[ix] Samantha Power, Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), Kindle Edition

[x] Gordon & Trainor, The Endgame

[xi] Jessica Stern & J.M Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror (New York: Harper Collins,  2015), Kindle Edition

[xii] Gordon & Trainor, The Endgame

[xiii] In Shia there are 12 Imams, with the 12th being the Mahdi; which Shia doctrine states the 12th Imam will return with Jesus Christ and restore the governance of Islam across the entire earth

[xiv] Stanley McChrystal, My Share of the Task: A Memoir (New York: Penguin Publishing, 2013) Kindle Edition

[xv] William McCants: The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vison of the Islamic State (New York: St. Martin Press,  2015), Kindle Edition

[xvi] Fred Kaplan, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013), Kindle Edition

[xvii] Kaplan, The Insurgents

[xviii] Kaplan, The Insurgents

[xix] It should be noted that the U.S. currently has 3,500 troops in Iraq with no SOFA established

[xx] Gordon & Trainor, The Endgame

[xxi] McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse

[xxii] McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse

[xxiii] Rayburn, Iraq after America

[xxiv] David Kilcullen, Quarterly Essay: Blood Year, (Collingwood, Australia: Black Inc. Publishing, 2015), Kindle Edition

[xxv] Warrick, Black Flags

[xxvi] Kilcullen, Blood Year

[xxvii] Stern, The Rise of ISIS

[xxviii] Mark Mazzetti, Michael Schmidt, and Ben Hubbard, U.S. Suspects More Direct Threats Beyond ISIS, New York Times, September 20, 2014.

[xxix]" John Nagl, Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice (New York: Penguin Publishing, 2014), Kindle Edition

[xxx] Kilcullen

[xxxi] David Fitzgerald, Learning to Forget: US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Practice from Vietnam to Iraq (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013), Kindle Edition

[xxxii] Barney Warf, Encyclopedia of Geography (Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2015)

[xxxiii] J.E. Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies: The Sultanate’s Struggle for Supremacy (London, United Kingdom: Saqi Publishing, 2008), Kindle Edition

[xxxiv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xxxv] Marc Devore, The United Kingdoms’s Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75 Routledge Journal (2011)

[xxxvi] Peterson, Oman Insurgencies

[xxxvii] Clive Jones, Military intelligence, tribes, and Britain’s war in Dhofar, 1970-1976, Middle East Journal Vol. 65. No.4 (2011).

[xxxviii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xxxix] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xl] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xli] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xlii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xliii] Devore, The United Kingdoms’s Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75

[xliv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xlv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xlvi] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xlvii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[xlviii] Roby Barrett, Oman: The Present in the Context of a Fractured Past, Joint Special Operations University Special Report 11-5, (2011), (Accessed on January 22, 2016)

[xlix] Barrett, Oman: The Present in the Context of a Fractured Past

[l] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[li] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lii] Devore, The United Kingdoms’ Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75

[liii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[liv] Clive Jones, Military intelligence, tribes, and Britain’s war in Dhofar, 1970-1976

[lv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lvi] Robert Green, Key Considerations for Irregular Security Forces in Counterinsurgency, (Accessed on January 22, 2016)

[lvii] Peterson, Oman Insurgencies

[lviii] Devore, The United Kingdom’s Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75

[lix] Devore, The United Kingdoms’s Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75

[lx] Devore, The United Kingdoms’s Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75

[lxi] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxiii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxiv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxvi] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxvii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxviii] Devore, The United Kingdoms’s Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75

[lxix] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxx] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxi] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxii] Devore, The United Kingdoms’s Last Hot War of the Cold War: Oman, 1963-75

[lxxiii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxiv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxvi] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxvii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxviii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxix] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxx] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxxi] Roby Barrett, Oman: The Present in the Context of a Fractured Past

[lxxxii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxxiii] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxxiv] Peterson, Oman’s Insurgencies

[lxxxv] Shumate, Who Lives There: The Role of Embedded Troops in Counter-Insurgency Operations (EdD Dissertation, Creighton University, December 11, 2015)

[lxxxvi] Shumate, Who Lives There

[lxxxvii] Nagl, Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice

[lxxxviii] Rayburn, Iraq after America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance

[lxxxix] Micah Zenko, Counting the Dead in Syria, The Atlantic, September 15, 2015

[xc] David Petraeus, Testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Policy in the Middle East, (accessed on January 14, 2016)

[xci] Shumate, Who Lives There

[xcii] Kenneth Roth, To Stem the Flow of Syrian Refugees, Stop the Barrel Bombs, Human Rights Watch, September 23, 2015 (accessed from on January 24, 2016)

[xciii] Kenneth Roth, Barrel Bombs, Not ISIS, Greatest Threat to Syrians, August 5, 2015 (accessed from on January 24, 2016)

[xciv] Roth, To Stem the Flow of Syrian Refugees, Stop the Barrel Bombs

[xcv] Kilcullen, Blood Year

[xcvi] Kilcullen, Blood Year

[xcvii] Petraeus, U.S. Policy in the Middle East

[xcviii] Note: The Hadith are a collection of reports purportedly verbatim statements from the Prophet. The Hadith's have been transcribed and reread over centuries. Therefore, many scriptures might contradict each other. Finding Hadiths' that contradict IS would bring a psychological advantage.  

[xcix] Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Alan Henning: Open letter from Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Shari’ah ruling and appeal from a revert sister, (Accessed on February 11, 2016)

[c] Shumate, Who Lives There

[ci] Shumate, Who Lives There

[cii] David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)

[ciii] Liz Sly, Iraqis think that the U.S. in cahoots with the Islamic State, and it is hurting the war, The Washington Post, December 1, 2015

[civ] Scott Mann, Game Changers: Going Local to Defeat Violent Extremists (Tribal Analysis Center, 2015), Kindle Edition

[cv] Shumate, Who Lives There

[cvi] Kaplan, The Insurgents

[cvii] Shumate, Who Lives There

[cviii] Author Unknown, An Empty Chest, The Economist, May 21, 2015

[cix] Mowafa Taib, The Mineral Industry of Iraq, United States Geological Survey, 2011 Minerals Yearbook, Iraq (accessed on January 22, 2016)

[cx] David Petraeus, phone call to author, December 14, 2015


About the Author(s)

Dr. Dean Shumate is a warrior-scholar who studies insurgencies and conflicts. His doctoral dissertation was a historical comparative case study of 8 insurgencies over 70 years titled Who Lives There: The Role of Embedded Troops in Counter-Insurgency Operations. He serves as a Policy and Procurement Advisor with the Department of Energy located at Argonne National Laboratory. He has over 17 years of military service within the Armed Forces Reserve/National Guard; serving in a variety of positions from Aero-Medical Evacuation, the Joint Communications Support Element, and the Air Force Academy Prep School.