Review-The Rise of Islamic State: A short but concise summary of the rise of ISIS and how it was possible

The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the new Sunni revolution
Patrick Cockburn
Verso 2015

This book provides a good introduction and account of how ISIS emerged and lead a Blitzkrieg style advance throughout Iraq and Syria. Though short, the author covers many facts often ignored in the traditional media outlets and even points out how they give little coverage to the group initially and paid little attention until it potentially threatened Baghdad. It also indicates that, once halted, the group had very limited hopes of recovering and had managed to unify nations that traditionally oppose each other (e.g. Iran and the USA).

The author also provides a good explanation for how conditions emerged which enabled the emergence of a group as evil as ISIS and the failures of the Iraqi army to oppose its advance, often abandoning lots of US made gear to flee and in doing so, better equipping the enemy. Furthermore, the book discusses some of the wider influences supporting the emergence of ISIS, in particular Saudi Arabia, and their later attempts to withdraw their support only after the group had emerged as a serious and destabilising force in the region.

The author does however seem to absolve the US and Britain of any major role in the conflict, despite the fact that without the invasion of Iraq, it is virtually certain that ISIS wouldn’t have emerged. In failing to discuss how the US and UK helped create the catastrophe, he is ignoring the single largest cause of issues in the Middle East today (great power interference) and instead implying that it is more of a regional problem.

In conclusion, the book is a solid analysis of the rise of ISIS and the circumstances which enabled it. The author also puts the events in some regional context, albeit limiting criticism of the major western actors in the region.


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