Book Review: Yonah Alexander and Dean Alexander. 2015. The Islamic State: Combating the Caliphate without Borders

AuthorRobyn Cooper
Published date01 April 2017
Date01 April 2017
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 141
Yonah Alexander and Dean Alexander. 2015. The Islamic State:
Combating the Caliphate without Borders. London: Lexington Books.
336 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4985-2513-8.
DOI: 10.1177/2347797016689394
Co-authored by Yonah Alexander and Dean Alexander, The Islamic State:
Combating the Caliphate without Borders provides the reader with a contemporary
insight and analysis of the Islamic State (IS) phenomenon. It illustrates the brutal
manner in which IS has gained control of sections of Syria and Iraq and emphasizes
the threat posed to the global community. Through their ever-increasing physical
and online presence, the group has introduced the world to a growing level of
violence and brutality during their quest for expansion.
The book commences with a comprehensive overview of the emergence of IS,
which segues into an exploration of existing and proposed strategies available to
the global community when addressing this relatively new threat. It delves into
topics, such as the group’s history, their ideologies, intentions and capabilities,
group formation and structure, their involvement in different geographical
regions, the role of foreign fighters, and the strategic and policy-based options,
available to the international community.
IS’s perceived rapid rise to power has been of such a magnitude that the
group can now be considered a quasi-state actor, much to the surprise of the global
community who were seemingly caught unaware. The authors claim that this
should not have been the case, as there were ample opportunities to recognize and
evaluate the group’s growing strength over the years. Accordingly, a significant
portion of the book is dedicated to past events and turning points that serve to
illustrate the increasing momentum of the group’s development.
Chapter 1 provides the historical context detailing the emergence of IS, whose
development can be attributed to a predecessor of the former al-Qa’ida in Iraq
(AQI). This journey dates back to 1999, when the group was first formed under
the name of ‘Jama’at al Tawhid wal Jihad’, which translates as the Group of
Unification and Jihad (p. 1). In 2004, the group merged with al-Qa’ida, changing
its name to ‘Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidain’, which translates to the
Organization of the Base [al-Qa’ida] of Jihad in the Land of the Two Rivers. As a
result of this merge, the group became commonly known as AQI.
In 2006, American and Iraqi forces were tactically seeking to persuade Iraqi
Sunni tribes to abandon AQI by focusing on the non-Iraqi membership within
al-Qa’ida’s ranks. In an effort to negate these tactics and to promote their Iraqi
leadership, AQI changed their name to ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ (ISI).
A third name change was later declared in response to a leadership struggle
between ISI and Jabhat al-Nusra over al-Qa’ida forces in Syria and Iraq. Hence,
in 2013, the group became known as ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria’
(ISIS). Finally, in 2014, the group declared itself as ‘the Islamic State’ (IS), the
caliphate without modern boundaries or borders.
The chapter follows the group up until early 2015, shortly before the book’s
publication date. The authors trace the paths of key figures, such as Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who were instrumental in the formation

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT