It’s official: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has declared that it’s now a nation.
The collective dream of restoring the Islamic caliphate – an Arabic word meaning “succession” – is being realized.
The caliphate is the historic ideal in Sunni Islam, and it denotes an Islamic state directed by a single leader who controls both the religious and political decisions in a nation, where church and state are one united entity under Sharia law.
In fact, the Caliph is literally the successor to Muhammad, who was head of both state and religion in his empire.
In the Middle Ages, a number of Muslim empires were known as caliphates. Then, when the Ottoman Empire fell 100 years ago, the idea of a united Islamic world once again became the rallying cry of Islamic radicals who sought an end to the era of foreign domination.
Today, ISIS has built its mercenary army with Islamic fighters from around the world, each dedicated to the restoration of Sharia law and the establishment of a Pan-Arab Islamic state. And its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has nurtured and built the movement with ruthless precision.
A Powerful Enemy Arises
While other radical Islamic leaders were bogged down in a war of attrition against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Baghdadi pivoted ISIS into the Sunni provinces of northern Iraq.
Oil-rich, but oppressed by the Shiite majority in Bagdad, ISIS found tribal leaders who easily converted to the cause. And after making quick work of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army, ISIS now finds itself flush with oil and a vast supply of American armaments.
According to reports on the ground, the ISIS military is being led by veterans who’ve faced U.S. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. On top of all that, they’ve also looted nearly $1 billion in cash and gold from the towns they’ve “liberated.”
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That makes ISIS one of the most lethal militaries in the entire Middle East… one that’s created a toxic brew of religious fanaticism, powerful weapons and hardened military leaders.
The only question, now, is where will Baghdadi and his forces turn next?
Does he continue his stalled drive against Iraq’s Shiite government? Will he attempt to renew his campaign against the forces of al-Assad and the regime in Damascus? Or does he turn away from both and spend time consolidating control over his newly gained territory?
Perhaps none of the above. You see, some early reports suggest Baghdadi may have a new target: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which is ruled from nearby Amman.
Jordan is considered a constitutional monarchy, but King Abdullah II has the power to appoint 75 members of the Parliament directly. He also has the power to pass laws himself, and he is the head of both the state and the military.
But while Abdullah II has all of the power, he doesn’t have strong support amongst the people. You see, Jordan has been the recipient of many refugees in recent decades, and the country is now brimming with Arabs from both Palestine and Syria.
These people feel oppressed by the small, but controlling, Hashemite tribe… and that could spell trouble. Abdullah would be supported by his military and the United States, but not his Sunni Muslim population, which would likely be sympathetic to ISIS.
On top of that, if ISIS controlled Jordan, it could surround Damascus, which is just 100 short miles north of Amman. In that regard, Jordan could be the key to winning in Syria.
Only time will tell what the violent Baghdadi has in store next. But one thing is certain: Barack Obama can’t continue to ignore this very real threat.
Your eyes on the Hill,