ISIS, the radical terrorist group that has seized massive portions of Iraq and also Syria, is apparently looking to expand its territory as far as the East coast of North Africa and all the way into South East Asia, with Malaysia and Indonesia in its sights (or perhaps dreams would be a more appropriate term). This is all according to a map that has been circulating Twitter. See Below:
At the moment, the veracity of this map has not been confirmed. Still, it does appear to fit with statements made by ISIS members elsewhere. The map shows an Islamic empire stretching the Muslim world that spans across Africa, the Middle East, and South and South East Asia. Even a few countries were Muslims are not a majority, such as India, appear to be the target of ISIS ambitions.
#ISIS releases it’s 5 year territorial expansion plan. I’m surprised they don’t want to reclaim southern Spain #Iraq pic.twitter.com/EBEl0NDXIN
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) June 22, 2014
Plans founded in Islam itself
As mentioned, while the veracity of the map attributed to ISIS remains unconfirmed, the map itself makes sense within the context of Islamic religion. The Prophet Mohamed had intended for the entire Islamic faith to be ruled by a state entity called the caliphate and ruled by a single caliph. This empire would extend everywhere that Islam was the dominant religion and essentially the entire Muslim community would thus be united under one ruling government.
This state, or Ummah, was founded within the Charter of Medina. First laid out to stop in-fighting between Jews, Christians, Pagans, and Muslims, the Charter of Medina also laid the foundations for an Islamic state. Indeed, after the death of the Prophet Mohamed the Islamic world was ruled by a succession of caliphates that wielded immense influence over the entire Islamic world.
As history marched on, however, the caliphate began to fracture into smaller nation states. The Ottoman Empire claimed that it was Islam’s caliphate and for several centuries it did wield a massive amount of influence in the Islamic world. After the Empire’s collapse following World War I, the Islamic world was left without anything resembling a caliphate. Now ISIS wants to reestablish this caliphate.
Any potential to realize empire?
ISIS has proven to be a shockingly effective organization. So far ISIS troops in Syria have been able to end off both Syrian rebels from more moderate groups and also Assad’s government. In Iraq the organization has defeated the country’s $25 billion dollar army that numbers more than 150,000 troops, and it did so with only a few thousand troops, at most.
On top of that, it’s believed that ISIS troops seized about a half billion dollars worth of money from Iraqi treasuries. This instantly made the ISIS organization one of the richest terrorist organizations in the world. The once cashed strapped organization will now have plenty of cash to attract new recruits and purchase additional equipment.
Within its territories in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has evolved into a government-like entity, providing Sharia courts, civil administration, and other services. ISIS has been evolving to resemble an organization more like the Taliban, rather than its former parent Al Qaeda. This adds legitimacy to the organization and would support any attempts to establish a caliphate.
Perhaps not global empire, but instead global network?
While ISIS troops have proven to be effective on the battlefield and have indeed established themselves as a powerful regional force, they still lack the capacity to realize any global ambitions. While ISIS will almost certainly expand its power in Syria, Iraq, and other nearby territories, it will not be able to break out of the region.
With Iran to the East, Egypt to the west, Saudi Arabia to the South and Turkey to the north, ISIS is sandwiched between a number of powerful countries that won’t be defeated as easily as Iraq’s army. ISIS’s injection of cash, however, may drive the evolution of a global terrorist network, similar to Al Qaeda. This network, however, would never be able to develop into a true nation-state, at least not on a global scale.
So while ISIS may not be establishing a global nation-state, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see ISIS expand its terrorist activities to Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere. The hundreds of millions of dollars now held by the organization could soon be fueling conflicts and terrorist attacks across the globe. ISIS terrorists may soon be launching operations in Indonesia and aiding Islamic rebels in Africa.
UPDATE: 7:50PM EST: ISIS has just (reportedly) released a slightly different map of their five year plan, although ABC claims its valid, the claim seems rather dubious to us. Anyway, although the new map does not include (all of India) India and parts of South East Asia, it DOES include Spain, the Balkans, Cyprus, Crete, the Caucus and even more of Africa, and more. Check out the full map below.