On this day— October 13th
2006: The Islamic State of Iraq is declared.
The subject of “when” the Islamic State (ISIS) was founded has been a go-to method of scoring political points since the emergence of the group as a violent worldwide threat. President Trump and other Trump administration figures have recently said that Trump has done more against ISIS in eight months than President Obama did in eight years, a claim that was quickly seized upon by those who say the group only emerged in 2014, when it seized whole swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. And who could forget the peak of Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential run, when a young woman confronted him at a rally and accused his brother, George W. Bush, of creating ISIS.
The point is, it doesn’t really matter “when” ISIS was founded, because ISIS was always an amorphous organization strung together by linking radical groups during the U.S. occupation in Iraq. What started as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, morphed into an umbrella organization known as the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in 2006. The MSC included a number of Sunni jihadist groups located in the Sunni areas of Iraq, and was led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. The group’s debut coincided with a grand announcement in Ramadi, where six militants dressed in white emerged in the streets to announce:
We call on all the mujahideen, scholars, tribal elders and dignitaries to join hands with their brothers in the coalition to implement God’s sharia, expel the occupiers and bring victory to God’s oppressed people… We swear by God to do our utmost to free our prisoners and to rid Sunnis from the oppression of the rejectionists (Shi’ite Muslims) and the crusader occupiers…”
While not much changed for the various Sunni jihadist groups in terms of their fight against the United States and the Iraqi government, what changed was when the MSC began forming a larger Sunni terror alliance by linking with other Sunni groups to form the “Mutayibeen Coalition.” This merger had been in the works for a long time, even before Zarqawi’s death earlier that summer.
On October 13th, 2006, messages appeared on the internet declaring the establishment of the “Islamic State in Iraq (ISI)” on behalf of the MSC. This new Islamic State supposedly consisted of six largely Sunni provinces, but it did not actually control these territories. The Islamic State of Iraq group was led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi until his death alongside Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri in a coalition raid in 2010. It was at this time that a familiar name took control of ISI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who eventually announced the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in 2013, and who still runs the organization to this day.
Image is logo of MSC, via Wikipedia