ISIS or the Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIL or its Arab acronym, Da’esch, dominated the headlines for 2015. The year saw the terror group spread its hateful and vitriolic ideology beyond the borders of its “caliphate,” which encompasses large swathes of Iraq and Syria, as well as “provinces” in several Mideast and African countries.
With millions of dollars in their pockets, and the Internet as their main channel to propagate evil, ISIS went “global” – with trained militants as well as radicalized individuals and groups carrying out the group’s mission to spread terror. Their targets ranged from a newspaper office, to a museum, from a concert hall to mosques, from military convoys to civilian planes. The toll: nearly a thousand people, from Paris to Beirut to San Bernardino.
The spread of ISIS has further complicated the already twisted state of affairs in strife-torn Syria, already entering its fifth year in a civil war. World powers, in their attempt to untangle the mess and to gain influence in the region, bicker over which to tackle first: Bashar al-Assad, the iron-fisted dictator whose violent regime in many ways ignited the current conflict, or the terror group. Assad’s allies (namely Russia and Iran) are trying to have him stay put, while the US-led coalition wants him out.
The year saw military movements from every side, with airstrikes targeting ISIS strongholds – and some say legitimate Syrian opposition groups. Countries around Syria and Iraq are also on their toes, with some nations such as Turkey serving as launch areas for military operations.
Amid the mess, the peace process is still in the cards, despite several attempts to convene all sides in the past few months that yielded little results. Thanks to a landmark 18-month plan endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, the UN is preparing for another round of talks starting January 25, 2016.