Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, painted portrait.
After a major defeat in Mosul, Islamic State seems to have suffered a blow that could end its goal of establishing a cross-border caliphate in the Middle East.
ISIS fighters celebrating in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014. Criminological studies suggest terrorists would use diverse tactics to neutralise feelings of guilt.
Do ISIS fighters feel guilty about the violence they perpetrate? Not likely, according to criminological research, which suggests terrorists "neutralise" their guilt, just as many other criminals do.
Without the perfect-storm conditions of post-invasion insurgency, this most potent expression of al-Qaedaism yet would never have risen to dominate both the Middle East and the world in the way that it does.
The final article of our series on the historical roots of Islamic State examines the role recent Western intervention in the Middle East played in the group's inexorable rise.
The century since the first world war is littered with the broken promises of Muslim rulers to bring about a transition to more representative forms of government.
The rise of Islamic State and its declaration of the caliphate can be read as part of a wider story that has unfolded since the formation of modern nation states in the Muslim world.
Map of the Sykes–Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia, and areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French in May 1916.
Royal Geographical Society via Wikimedia Commons
The leaders of Islamic State do not see their caliphate as an exercise in theocracy for its own sake, but as an attempt at post-colonial emancipation.
Islamic State fighters on a tank take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province.
Despite what we're told, religion isn't inherently peaceful. People kill in the name of their religion, just as they love in its name.
Pages from a copy of the Koran dated back to 1284, displayed at an exhibition in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.
What makes Islamic State different to traditional Islam isn't necessarily the religious texts the group uses.
A flag-waving Islamic State fighter takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province.
How far back in history does one have to go to find the roots of the so-called Islamic State? The first article in our series on the genesis of the terrorist outfit considers some fundamentals.
Refugees walk through a frozen field after crossing the border from Macedonia, near the village of Miratovac, Serbia.
In contrast to what we have been taught - or teach our students - we are living in an increasingly hybrid world.
Assad meets French delegates in Damascus following the Paris atrocities.
The Paris atrocities came just as Assad's military position was improving. Can the dictator harness international fury at Islamic State to strengthen his position in Syria?
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as self-declared caliph, seeks to exploit the historical resonance of the caliphate for a brutal present-day cause.
The Caliphate has inspired disputes among Muslims for centuries, but attempts at revival in modern times are unlikely to succeed. Most of the world's Muslims would not accept its authority over them.
At its core, Islamic State’s runaway success is not down to its military capability. Rather, it is due to Iraq’s political circumstances.
There are three key reasons why success for the West hasn’t followed. Together, these reasons point towards an urgent need to shift strategy to avoid a stalemate.
Destruction from an early battle between IS and Iraqi forces in July 2014.
By exploiting weaknesses and divisions, the extremist group has been able to establish a brutal regime in just 12 months.
When Australians hear about Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s dire warnings and counter-terrorism raids, they could lose historical perspective on the threat posed by Islamic State.
Dire government warnings and counter-terrorism raids in our suburbs paint a picture of the worst threat Western nations have ever faced. A little historical perspective is in order.
Families cross the Euphrates River seeking the relative safety of Baghdad as Islamic State fighters advance with the goal of creating such violence that people turn from the government to any force capable of restoring peace.
Islamic State is a project built on solid foundations by jihadist theorists with decades of experience. The savagery of terrorism precedes the next stage of a caliphate that delivers longed-for order.
The Ottoman Chief Eunuch was an influential figure. In this and other caliphates, eunuchs supervised the harem, the princes, the financial affairs of the palace and the mosques, as well as controlling access to the ruler.
Photo postcard 1912
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed Islamic State (IS) as a Muslim caliphate on June 29, 2014, with himself as caliph, a term reserved for a successor to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). His would be the newest…
Political Islam: Muslim brotherhood supporters in Cairo.
The rapid rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to global notoriety has taken observers of Middle East politics by surprise. All of a sudden, a new Islamist political movement has stunningly upstaged…
Iraqi forces have retaken Tikrit but now face a united enemy.
After the death of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011, the global jihadist movement seemed to have become fragmented and considerably weakened. This happened for various reasons. First, the coincidence of the…
Prince Faisal and his party (including T E Lawrence) at Versailles, 1919.
The sweeping advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has given rise to a lively debate about who should bear ultimate responsibility for the disintegration of Iraq and Syria. On one hand…