Author:Xingang, Wang

The Islamic State is a Sunnite Islamic Jihad Salafist military organization. It originated from an Iraqi military branch loyal to al-Qaeda and has developed into a vital, regional military force in the area of Syria and Iraq since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The Islamic State is a new form of a religious, extremist organization whose existence and development are supported by the armed forces, the economic base, and other related factors. The ideology of the Islamic State was derived from Jihad Salafism in Islamic political thought. To achieve its political objectives, it tailors its global strategy to local circumstances. In the future, the political identity of the Islamic State will be shrinking, but its organizational identity will not disappear any time soon. The influence of the rise of the Islamic State on Chinese "One Belt, One Road" will probably center on national security, trade investment, and cooperation on energies. After five years of chaos in the Middle East, there is a growing desire for stability there. The Chinese word for crisis connotes both risk and opportunity. The current circumstances present more opportunities than risks for China to get involved in the Middle East.


The Islamic State is a Sunnite, Islamic Salafi, Jihadist military organization pursuing Islamic Fundamentalism. Originating from an Iraqi military branch loyal to al-Qaeda in 1999, it joined the anti-Western uprisings in Iraq after 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq. After 2006, this organization became stronger and it has become, within a few short years, a very important military force. It has been led by Abu Bakr Baghdadi in Syria and Iraq since 2011 when the civil war in Syria broke out. In June 2014, it declared itself a universal caliphate and its head, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the caliph. (2) The Islamic State also claimed that the caliphate holds the religious, political, and military power over all Muslims across the world. The legitimacy of adopting "Islamic State" as its national title was questioned, and the title was rejected by many sides, including the United Nations, most governments, and many Muslims in different regions of the world. Until December 2015, the Islamic State had been controlling vast territories in eastern Syria and western Iraq, where approximately two million Iraqis and eight million Syrians resided. (3) This organization imposed sharia law on the population in the areas it controlled. Currently, branches of the Islamic State have spread to many countries, including Libya, Nigeria, and Afghanistan; and its influence has reached areas in North America and South Asia, among other places in the world.


The survival as well as the development of the Islamic State, a new type of religious extremist organization, is supported by its military forces, economic foundations, and other related factors. First of all, the military forces, comprised of personnel and equipment, are the indispensable means for the Islamic State to survive and to attain its political objectives that pose the biggest threats to the international community. To begin with, the number of military personnel of the Islamic State is far bigger than that of other terrorist organizations, though the estimates vary among different countries or agencies. After having assessed the collective data from different sources, including the United Nations, the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) reported in 2015 that about 30,000 armed individuals from more than 100 countries were fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. (4) They came from all over the world, far beyond the Middle East, not only including countries such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Jordon, but also European nations such as France, Russia, and Germany, and countries in South Asia, Northeast Asia, and Central Asia. The global nature of its recruitment is attributable to the convenient transportation system and easy access to popular websites made possible by new media technology. Meanwhile, the Islamic State is in possession of powerful military equipment, hence its capacity to fight against the governments of Syria and Iraq as well as other anti-government forces. The equipment is comprised of conventional and unconventional weapons; the former were mainly captured during the uprisings in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 and during the Syrian civil war, including armored vehicles, guns, ground-to-air missiles, and helicopters; (5) the latter include car bombs, suicide bombing attacks, and improvised explosive devices. Some international organizations have even accused the Islamic State of using chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria. In September 2015, the United States officially announced that the Islamic State used sulfide in Syria and Iraq. (6) The indiscriminate nature of these "unconventional" and brutal attacks has resulted in massive civilian deaths; they have been perpetrated against humanity, not to mention violating international norms.

Second, the Islamic State carries out its strategy of maneuvering and organizing its personnel by making use of social media, with the internet serving as a very important front for its propaganda. In recent years, the development of media technology has quickened the pace of globalization, and the world is connected more closely than ever before. The Islamic State has taken full advantage of the internet technology and social networking platforms to spread its terrorist ideology and recruit those individuals who, for one reason or another, find the concept of the so-called "caliph state" appealing. One can easily access on relatively popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and video web station YouTube, religious extremist information publicized by the Islamic State, whose propaganda has become far-reaching yet elusive, because so far there has been no effective means of dealing with it. In addition, the so-called "Life" Media Center (al-Hayat Media Center) of the Islamic State broadcasts very intricate video programs to disgruntled young people in western countries in the languages of English, French, and German, among others, to attract and recruit them. (7) This organization even has a global digital journal called Dabiq magazine to facilitate its propaganda and recruitment efforts. The lack of a global internet monitoring system has made it possible for all terrorist organizations to spread their messages throughout cyberspace and across borders, and the Islamic State has done so very effectively.

Third, the ability to collect funds from multiple channels has enabled the Islamic State to accumulate a great deal of resources, which in turn provide the necessary financial support for its military forces, weapon purchases, and global terrorist attacks. According to a research report by the Finance Action Task Force in 2015, the funding sources of the Islamic State included incomes from occupied areas, blackmailing, ransoms from kidnappings, civil sponsors in the Gulf regions, foreign support and donations, and global financial monetary incomes. (8) It is difficult to give a precise statistic or assessment of the wealth of the Islamic State, but according to a report issued by the intelligence department of the Iraqi government in 2014, it possessed around twenty billion US dollars, making it probably the wealthiest Jihad Salafist organization in the world. (9)

This paper classifies the income of the Islamist State into six categories. First is oil income, because the Islamic State has occupied the most important oil area in the northwestern part of Iraq, which has around 200 to 300 Iraqi oil wells, thus making the production and sale of oil an easy undertaking. According to the 2014 statistics of foreign media, the Islamic State was selling about 50,000-60,000 barrels of crude oil, which brings about 2.5 million dollars of profit every day. (10) The second source of income comes from reselling the ancient relics and artwork of Iraq and Syria. Large parts of the area occupied by the Islamic State contain historically rich treasures of ancient Middle East civilizations such as Nimrud, the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire. Reselling the ancient relics has brought this organization over ten million to a hundred million dollars. They resold many invaluable antiques and artworks to buyers in Turkey or Jordan through black markets, resulting in huge profits.

A third source of income derives from collecting taxes and from extortion. The Islamic State restored the ancient Islamic tax, "Jizya," which means a "poll tax" for non-Muslims. In addition, this organization used all kinds of extortion in the occupied areas. For example, it...

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