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Leading Think Tank Publishes Islamic State Dossier

December 7, 2014

Iraq ISIS fighters

The Brookings Institution just released a two-part report on ISIS. Authored by Charles Lister, a Brookings visiting fellow at the think tank’s Doha Center, each report offers detailed information on ISIS as a highly organized terrorist group.

Both are free downloads.

Profiling the Islamic State is a concise 57-page history with 17 pages of end notes. Lister’s writing was informed by piecing together as many details from open sources, i.e. the mainstream news, as well as consulting scholars in the Middle East.

Its companion piece, Who’s Who of the Islamic State Leadership, is a nine-page list of names and aliases. With Who’s Who, there are three points worth noting.

First, the author Lister confirms that ex-Ba’athists have gained prominence in ISIS. A former Lieutenant Colonel named Fadl Ahmad Abdullah al-Hiyali and a former Major General with roots in Anbar province are ranked below Ibrahim al-Sammarai, a.k.a Abubakr al-Baghdadi.

The connection between Ba’athists and ISIS is highlighted once more in page 19 of Profiling the Islamic State.

In it, Lister shares how ISIS’ former leader (now deceased) actively recruited Ba’athists to lay the ground work for the capture of Mosul in June this year.

“Haji Bakr…purged the organization of most of its non-Iraqi senior leadership, replacing it with experienced former Ba’athist security officials.”

Second, of the 43 individuals named in the Who’s Who, 17 have no background information and no photographs. This underscores the profound lack of publicly available knowledge about ISIS’ inner workings.

Third, in connection with the second point, Lister cites a chart published by the UK’s The Independent newspaper in 2014, which is remarkable for its detail.

The 57-page Profiling the Islamic State is the real jackpot, however. Divided into three parts, Lister uses each to trace ISIS’ history, its capabilities, and concludes by suggesting how to defeat the terrorist group.

According to Lister, these options are: Disrupt ISIS’ revenue stream from extortion and oil smuggling, inhibit ISIS’ cross-border mobility, assassinate its leadership, curb its social media presence, and–if quite far fetched–consider options to “stabilize” Syria and Iraq.

The Brookings Institution is a 98-year-old think tank whose main office is along Embassy Row, Washington, D.C.

Operating on a strictly non-profit and non-partisan basis,the Brookings Institution’s reason for being is to examine every type of public policy connected with the US government.

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