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A History
Fawaz A. Gerges

Hardcover | 2016 | $27.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691170008
384 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400880362 |
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A Q&A with the author

The Islamic State has stunned the world with its savagery, destructiveness, and military and recruiting successes. What explains the rise of ISIS and what does it portend for the future of the Middle East? In this book, one of the world's leading authorities on political Islam and jihadism sheds new light on these questions as he provides a unique history of the rise and growth of ISIS. Moving beyond journalistic accounts, Fawaz Gerges provides a clear and compelling account of the deeper conditions that fuel ISIS.

The book describes how ISIS emerged in the chaos of Iraq following the 2003 U.S. invasion, how the group was strengthened by the suppression of the Arab Spring and by the war in Syria, and how ISIS seized leadership of the jihadist movement from Al Qaeda. Part of a militant Sunni revival, ISIS claims its goals are to resurrect a caliphate and rid "Islamic lands" of all Shia and other minorities. In contrast to Al Qaeda, ISIS initially focused on the "near enemy"—Shia, the Iraqi and Syrian regimes, and secular, pro-Western states in the Middle East. But in a tactical shift ISIS has now taken responsibility for spectacular attacks in Europe and other places beyond the Middle East, making it clear that the group is increasingly interested in targeting the “far enemy” as well. Ultimately, the book shows how decades of dictatorship, poverty, and rising sectarianism in the Middle East, exacerbated by foreign intervention, led to the rise of ISIS—and why addressing those problems is the only way to ensure its end.

An authoritative introduction to arguably the most important conflict in the world today, this is an essential book for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the social turmoil and political violence ravaging the Arab-Islamic world.

Fawaz A. Gerges is professor of international relations and Emirates Professor in Contemporary Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His many books include The New Middle East, Obama and the Middle East, and The Far Enemy. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.


"A specific, timely, well-rendered exegesis of the unfolding global threat."--Kirkus (starred review)

"This timely history gives a clear-sighted account of the ascent of the so-called Islamic State (IS)--one with far-reaching implications. The book’s findings and conclusions have profound relevance not just for the future of IS in Iraq and Syria, but also for salafi jihadism, regional security in the Middle East and North Africa and international peace and security. . . . Written and edited with pellucid clarity, ISIS: A History is an important book that will have broad appeal beyond academic, diplomatic and policymaking circles."--Chris Harmer, LSE Review of Books

"[Written] with energy and clarity, and out of uncommonly extensive knowledge."--Robert Fulford, National Post


"Not just timely but unlikely ever to be bettered, this is an indispensable guide to the evolution of the Arab world's leading terrorist organization by a global expert. Fawaz Gerges’s book is judicious, well argued, and based on a close personal acquaintance with conditions in Iraq and Syria. It is unrivaled in its ability to unravel the ideological and political power struggles among ISIS leaders. And it is an often shocking indictment of Western missteps in dealing with the organization's growing capacity to harm foreign interests."--Roger Owen, author of The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life

"Fawaz Gerges, long one of the most perceptive writers about the Middle East, has written a lucid and erudite account of the rise of ISIS that will be read with great profit by both specialists and the general public."--Peter Bergen, author of United States of Jihad, Manhunt, and The Longest War

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Down the Rabbit Hole and into the History of ISIS 1
1 The World According to ISIS 23
2 Where ISIS Came From: Zarqawi to Baghdadi 50
3 How Broken Iraqi Politics Fueled the Revival of ISIS 98
4 Baghdadi’s Evolution: From Invisible to Infamous 129
5 Baathists and ISIS Jihadists: Who Converted Whom? 144
6 How the Syrian War Empowered ISIS 170
7 Misappropriating the Arab Spring Uprisings 202
8 ISIS versus Al Qaeda: Redefi ning Jihad and the Transition from the Global to the Local 222
Conclusion: The Future of ISIS 260
Notes 295
Index 353

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