ISIS is an acronym that has become all too familiar in the past year. It stands for the “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham” (al-Sham meaning the historical Levant, including both Syria and Lebanon), and refers to the Islamist military organization, founded in 2013, and operating in Iraq and northern Syria. But events move fast in the Middle East, and it seems that ISIS has outlived its usefulness.

ISIS started life as an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq. In the early days, it called itself simply the “Islamic State of Iraq.” When its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a targeted strike by the US Air Force in June 2006, into his shoes stepped Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Zarqawi had been the most brutal of al-Qaida's leaders, responsible for a succession of mass suicide bombings and highly publicized, videoed and posted online. Baghdadi adopted the same approach in his fanatical opposition to any attempt to impose law, order and a democratic framework upon the disrupted state of Iraq.

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