WASHINGTON, D.C. - If you think of the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) as an unorganized, untrained band of militants roaming through Syria and Iraq and striking without strategy, you’re wrong.
Think corporate structure.
Think annual reports.
Think media strategy.
The Islamic State would have to be organized and focused to pull off what it has in the past few weeks. To begin with, it has gone from relative obscurity to the topic of a full-on media frenzy.
And no wonder – the group’s media mastery has revealed itself in two shocking videos of beheadings of American journalists, active propaganda promoting its plans to establish a Caliphate over many parts of the Middle East, and it launched a Twitter app with advertisers, which Twitter subsequently took down.
And don’t forget that the Islamic State now controls about 1/3 of Iraq and Syria, with thousands of people now subject to the group’s extreme interpretation of Islamic law.
No group can accomplish all that without a stated mission, determined management and lots of money. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Isis already was extorting taxes from businesses in Mosul before the city’s takeover, netting perhaps as much as $8 million a month.
Theodore Karasik, research director at Dubai-based think tank INEGMA, was quoted by Syria Deeply, a news start-up covering Syria, as saying that ISIS takes in $1 million per day in Iraq in oil profits. Also, The Guardian reported cash assets of $2 billion from bank robberies.
Much of its organization and methods are outlined in corporate-like annual reports. The reports lay out precisely where the Islamic State has attacked and the methods it used, plus other details reflecting a high-degree of organization.
The size of ISIS is more difficult to determine. The Telegraph ran an article in July that stated that “25,000 men in Iraq have sworn allegiance” to the organization, and The Guardian puts the total number of militants somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000, although it’s unclear how many of those are in Syria.
ISIS is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who earlier this summer declared himself the leader of all Muslims.
Abu Bakr is both a military leader, according to a New York Times profile, and a “radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago. He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army.”
Given the focus on the Islamic State, and, now, on how best to confront and stop it, we became curious about how sophisticated the Islamic State’s organization is – about its org chart and leaders.
There are reportedly approximately 1000 medium and top level field commanders, who all have technical, military and security experience. Salaries range from $300 to $2000 per month depending on the job post according to Ruth Sherlock, a reporter for The Telegraph.
The graphic above from the British newspaper The Telegraph breaks down ISIS's corporate hierarchy. Here's some details we gathered about several members of that team.
Abu Ali al-Anbari
- Second in command according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Manages operations in Islamic State controlled parts of Syria, according to The Telegraph.
- Former Iraqi army officer under Saddam Hussein according to the Wall Street Journal.
- From the northern Iraqi province of Mosul, according to The Telegraph.
Fadel Ahmed Abdullah al-Hiyali
- Nome de guerre Abu Muslim Al Turkmani according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Former general in the Iraqi military’s intelligence, according to The Telegraph and spent time as a special forces officer.
- Decommissioned from the Iraqi army after U.S. forces arrived, he joined Sunni Muslim insurgents to fight the Americans, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Real name Muafaq Mustafa Mohammed al-Karmoush, according to The Telegraph.
- Responsible for managing the finances of various Iraqi provinces, according to The Telegraph.
- Formal general under Saddam Hussein according to the Wall Street Journal.
- A former lieutenant colonel under Saddam Hussein who now heads the group’s military council according to the New York Times.
Adnan Ismail Najm
- Known as Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Bilawi al-Anbari, was killed in June fighting in Iraq, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
- Worked closely with the former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to AP.
Rosa D. Kim contributed to this article.
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