By Haddon Libby

ISIS, a jihadist group headquartered in the Syria and Iraq area of the Middle East, has been garnering a lot of well-founded attention recently for its brutal combat tactics.

For those of us against this extremist group, rather than calling them ISIS (the name of an Egyptian God), IS (a great Icelandic vodka) or ISIL (Intersil Corporation and International Society for Individual Liberty), use the name that this jihadist group advises against – DA’ISH or DAESH (داعش). DAESH warns that use of this acronym will be met with punishment.

The acronym DAESH in Arabic roughly translates to The Islamic Nation of Iraq, Greater Syria and the Levant. The reason that the terrorist group punishes those using the DAESH name is because DAESH has a derogatory meaning that translates to ‘trample underfoot’, ‘crush’ or ‘felon and dust’.


This group was founded in 1999 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (d. 2006). You may remember Zarqawi from his work in Al-Qaida. Zarqawis’ original group of 150 jihadists received start-up funds of $200,000 from Osama bin Laden.

Five years later, JTJ changed their name to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). After Zarqawi’s death in 2006, they merged with other jihadist groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) that was headed by Zarqawi confidante, Abu Ayyau al-Masri (d. 2010), originally of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. After al-Masri’s death, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took the helm.

In 2013, al-Baghdadi expanded their efforts from Iraq into Syria and changed their name to the ISIL acronym. After the establishment of a new caliphate in May of this year, he shortened their name to the Islamic State (IS) in recognition of their growing influence globally. The Egyptian educational institution that specializes on Islamic teachings, Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, has advised Muslims around the world to refer to the group as ‘Al-Qaeda Separatists in Iraq and Syria’ (QSIS) because of the group’s “un-Islamic character.”

For reference, a caliphate is an Islamic state led by religious leaders and headed by a caliph who is believed to be a successor to Mohammed. Mohammed lived from 570-632 and unified the Arabian Peninsula under one religion, Islam.

Despite brutal combat tactics that include mass killings, beheadings and rape, the population in many of the areas that DAESH control, support them as DAESH provides civil order as well as sufficient food, fuel and water. For locals, this is in stark contrast to the corrupt civil and military structures in Syria and Iraq that often left people without adequate basic necessities. When DAESH takes control of an area, all people in those areas must either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy (jizya) or face death.

DAESH is well-funded with more than $2 billion at their disposal. Nearly $1.5 billion of DAESH reserves came in June of this year when DAESH captured Mosul and took the cash and gold reserves held by that city’s banking system. After DAESH establish stability in the areas that they control, they have begun selling oil and electricity to the Syrian government.

Worth noting, this group might not have reached its current powerful status if Congress had allowed the Obama Administration to bomb them in Syria last year. Now that DAESH is showing real strength, many wonder why the Obama Administration is not taking more decisive actions. The basic problem with action is the lack of a reasonable leadership alternative in those areas, the fact that DAESH troops easily melt into the general population and economic fragility here at home. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost Americans $2 trillion to date. Escalation of our activities in this region could easily derail our fragile economic recovery as well as leaving us unable to deal with the rising threats posed by Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation.