Who Is ISIS? – An open source investigation

by | Sep 7, 2014 | Articles | 49 comments

isis-army-700x430by James Corbett
September 6, 2014

The hysteria over the supposed threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) is now undeniable. Every day new stories emerge focusing on the group’s brutality, its resources, its capabilities and its intention to strike out at the West. The US Defense Secretary, Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ranking Senators have all delivered somber assessments of the group’s evil aims in recent weeks, and have they been joined in that effort by a host of counterparts in foreign nations. The mainstream media, for their part, report these pronouncements without question, and with only a bare minimum of context to help their audience understand the group.

An open source investigation is desperately needed to sort through the hype to determine the facts behind this shadowy terror group. In this article we will examine the background, current status and future aims of the group, as well as the numerous facts that have been carefully omitted from the officially-sanctioned narrative of the group. In the comments section below, Corbett Report members are encouraged to contribute links, analysis and questions to further expand our understanding of the current situation and whether we are in fact heading toward a new false flag provocation like the September 11 attacks. [Not a Corbett Report member? Sign up today.]

Background – History of ISIS

The Islamic State is a caliphate established by a jihadist Islamic group in June 2014. Their expressed goal is to establish Salafist government over the Levant region of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and Southern Turkey. The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been declared caliph and “leader for Muslims everywhere.”

The Islamic State has gone through numerous name changes since its founding in Iraq in 1999. originally known as Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād (JTJ), (“The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad”), it changed to Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn (“The Organization of Jihad’s Base in the Country of the Two Rivers”) in 2004 after the group swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden. During this period it was popularly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In 2006 it became the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), but changed again in 2013 after expanding into Syria. At that point it became Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Its latest moniker, the “Islamic State,” came about after the proclamation of a new caliphate on June 29, 2014.

zarqawiThe group was founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 1999. Zarqawi, a Sunni militant from Jordan, enjoyed a remarkable career that involved numerous imprisonments, escapes, evacuations, deaths and resurrections. Meeting Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan at the tail end of the Soviet-Afghan war, Zarqawi was imprisoned in Jordan for six years for attempting to overthrow the Jordanian government. Released in 1999, he made his way to Afghanistan where he ran a militant training camp before making his way to Iraq, allegedly via Iran. During his time in Iraq, he was killed in a bombing raid in April of 2003; miraculously resurrected to be arrested in Fallujah in 2004; re-arrested in Baakuba in January of 2005; evacuated from Iraq in May of 2005; killed in fighting in June of 2005; and once again resurrected to be killed once again (presumably for good) in 2006. But before he was killed off, the Washington Post reported that “internal military documents” proved that the Pentagon was engaged in a propaganda campaign to specifically play up the role of Zarqawi and AQI in Iraq, even quoting an internal briefing document produced by US military headquarters in Iraq revealing that US military chief spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt believed “The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date.” Subsequent reporting revealed that as part of that program, the Pentagon had ‘leaked’ a letter purported to be written by Zarqawi that was dutifully covered by the New York Times even though there were serious questions about whether the letter was real at all.

The group was taken over by Abu Omar al-Badhdadi (Hamid Dawud Mohamed Khalil al Zawi, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi and Abu Hamza al-Baghdadi). Baghdadi, exactly like Zarqawi before him, enjoyed an interesting career of imprisonments, deaths and resurrections, as well as questions as to his very existence. He was reported as captured on March 9, 2007, but that claim was retracted on March 10. In May 2007 the Iraqi Interior Ministry reported he had been killed, but the very next month the US military proclaimed he had never existed, citing information from a detainee who said that recordings of Baghdadi were actually recordings of an Iraqi actor hired to put a local face to what was in fact a foreign-run terror campaign, a claim subsequently echoed by Hamas-Iraq. However Baghdadi was reported as arrested on April 23, 2009, a claim that was denied by ISI the next month. The group continued to release recordings of Baghdadi throughout 2009 and 2010 that were authenticated by the (highly suspect) SITE Institute. He was reported as killed once again in April 2010 after a rocket attack on the home he was hiding.

The group was then taken over by Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai, better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This Baghdadi, too, has an uncertain background constructed from conflicting reports. Alleged to have been born in Samarra, Iraq, in 1971, an unverifiable internet biography claims he attained a PhD in Islamic studies at the Islamic University of Baghdad, and unidentified reports suggest he may have been a cleric at a mosque in Samarra during the American invasion in 2003. He was then captured and held as a civilian detainee by US Forces-Iraq at Camp Bucca before being granted an unconditional release on a recommendation from the Combined Review and Release Board. The Defense Department officially proclaims he was detained from February to December 2004, but Army Col. Kenneth King, the former commander of Camp Bucca, insists he was at the camp until 2009, when he was turned over to the Iraqi justice system after the camp’s closure. He was announced as leader of the ISI in May 2010 and reported captured in December 2012, a claim that was immediately denied. He oversaw the expansion of the group into Syria in 2013 and was rumoured to have been killed in June 2014, but a rare video of him delivering a sermon at a mosque in Mosul appeared less than 24 hours later to quash the rumor. He was proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim and leader of all Muslims upon the establishment of the Islamic State caliphate on June 29, 2014.

isis-iraqThe New Face of the War on Terror

The group sprang to the attention of those in the West this year when the group launched an incursion into Iraq that saw them repel the Iraqi army and capture Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, as well as parts of Salahuddin and Ninevheh Provinces, and the cities of Fallujah and Tikrit. According to reports, the group seized as much as $429 million dollars from Mosul’s central bank after taking over the city. With anywhere from 4,000 to 80,000 fighters, the group possesses convoys of identical Toyota trucks, and an arsenal most countries in the region would be envious of, including Stinger missiles, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank weapons, Blackhawk helicopters and cargo planes, and even a Scud missile. The group also allegedly gained possession of nuclear materials from Mosul University, but the IAEA believes the material is not of sufficient quality to be dangerous in nuclear terrorism.

A stream of increasingly hysterical reports about the group and its supposed existential threat to the region and the world in general has included a joint press conference by US Secretary of Defense Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Dempsey in which they laid out ISIS’ “End-of-Days” vision and stressed that the group is “beyond anything that we’ve seen.” Senator James Inhofe has joined the fray, insisting that the group is working on plans to “blow up” an American city, and numerous outlets have now suggested that city may be Chicago. The hysteria increased with the release of the (now admittedly fake) beheading video of American journalist James Foley and the similarly suspicious video of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff.

In August, President Obama ordered airstrikes over northern Iraq to combat the ISIS threat, warning Americans that the bombing would be a “long-term project.” The airstrikes have been endorsed by Pope Francis, and after Secretary of State Kerry announced that a “worldwide coalition” would be required to defeat the Islamic State, the US has since declared the formation of just such a “core coalition” which includes NATO powers such as the UK.

Alternative Accounts

The group and its leaders have been shrouded in myth and mystery since its inception, as documented above. Even the US government has declared that the Islamic State’s second leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, never existed. The current leader, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, is so elusive that there are only two known photographs and one video recording of him in existence, leading security “experts” to declare: “They know physically who this guy is, but his backstory is just myth.” This has led many to speculate on the group’s possible founding and backing by Western intelligence as a front for foreign policy goals such as the sectarian division of Iraq or as an excuse to keep the west militarily involved in the region. As far back as 2006 the UK Telegraph reported that prominent Sunni insurgent leaders in Iraq were claiming that the group’s founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was “”an American, Israeli and Iranian agent who is trying to keep our country unstable so that the Sunnis will keep facing occupation.” This sentiment is echoed to the present day, with Saudi scholar Consultative Assembly member Dr. Aissa Al-Ghaith claiming that the Islamic State is backed by America, Israel and Iran. This sentiment is bolstered by the revelation earlier this year that ISIS fighters were trained by the US military at a camp in Jordan in 2012.

There are many questions surrounding the group’s online PR activities and its unlikely facility with various forms of media, a phenomenon that even the New York Times has noted. Although much has been made of the rounds of photos claiming to show the group’s brutal execution and treatment of its prisoners, at least some of these photos appear to have been recycled from other countries at other times. There is still no answer as to who staged the beheading video of James Foley or why it was faked, but many point to the fact that British authorities warned that merely looking at the video might qualify as terrorism as a sign of the video’s true nature and origins. This continues a tradition of suspicious ISIS media releases dating back to the recordings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi that were released during the 2009-2010 period after the US government had declared him a fictitious character and Iraqi authorities reported that he was under arrest.

mccainterrorAn image of US Senator John McCain in Syria in April 2013 has generated controversy for claims that it pictures him with ISIS member Mohammad Nour and even ISIS leader Baghdadi himself. Some have cast doubt on whether the man in the photograph is Baghdadi, but the man does bear an uncanny resemblance to the official picture of Baghdadi on the State Department “Rewards for Justice” website.


  1. Allow me to get the ball rolling. I’m looking specifically to expand our understanding of Western intelligence links to ISIS and its members. I’d be grateful for whatever hard links you guys can dig up on this subject.

  2. No hard links on individuals, but I read this article on ISIS footsoldiers, who are mainly young radicalized western Muslims. Many of them became disillusioned by fighting other Muslim factions instead of fighting oppressors. But they feel unable to return home because they are threatened with jail sentences, so they have no other choice but to keep fighting.


    Here I notice a distinct pattern. When all these boys were leaving to fight Assad in Syria, there was nobody stopping them. Some politicians and media mouthpieces even praised them for ‘fighting for democracy and against oppression’, still dwelling on the ‘Arab Spring’ narrative. Nobody stopped the Saudi-sponsored Salafi imams from brainwashing the western Muslim youth with Jihad propaganda. The west was openly supporting and arming the ‘non-radical’ groups in Syria.

    Now that the ISIS army numbers in the thousands the image is shifted. A repatriated jihadi kills 3 people in the Jewish museum in Brussels and of course he is caught days later with an ISIS flag wrapped around his machine gun. Fake beheading video’s appear in the MSM (even though there are many real video’s of decapitations in Syria). All of a sudden politicians are tough on jihadism and threaten returning jihadist with lifetime jail sentences or worse. In Holland the youth protection agency (a bunch of pedophiles) took the children of a Muslim family because members of the family were supposedly thinking (!) about joining the Jihad.

    So, it looks like these jihadist were lured into a trap. They were brainwashed, allowed to join foreign armed groups, they were equipped and trained, send into combat and finally the trap is closed by making it impossible for them to repent and return home. These poor bastards are meant to die in the desert and if they don’t they can be used for further incitement and agitprop in their respective homelands.

    This makes me think that ISIS is just created as a temporary distraction and a motive to arm other factions in the region, like the Kurds. Also ISIS seems to be used for religious cleansing of the region, driving Christian and Shiite minorities out and destroying their cultural heritage as they go along. This could be instrumental in creating a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ type scenario. Most likely the ISIS Caliphate is not going to be a long term player in the region, but is purely used to set things in motion for the next steps in the game.

  3. Thanks for the rundown, AoC. You’ll notice that points 1, 3, and 4 are all in the article, but 2, 5 and 6 are new.

  4. Thanks for the tip. I believe this is the same SITE that was found to be uploading videos with their watermark in the same video layer as the Al Qaeda watermark back in the day, but didn’t get to it. I will update the article with more on SITE and their history.

    EDIT: My mistake. That scandal involved IntelCenter, a separate group:


    • James, can you comment on what the sort of motivations Iran has in helping the same powers fight against ISIS, the same powers that threatened to destabilize (and still do) its country? Is this merely an agreement of convenience, or do they have no choice? I can’t seem to synthesize Iran’s about face on this. Highly “wild card”-like.

      Iran has more to fear in the immediate short term and for historical/cultural reasons from the pack of rabid Salafists setting up a Sunni caliphate on their doorstep (one seeking to kill all Shia infidels) than they do the machinations of the US at this point.

  5. I fully sympathize. It is absolutely meant to be bewildering. I hope my forthcoming podcast will shine a little light on the subject.

  6. The ISIS/Caucus/Chechnya link is the most interesting angle for me because of the tie-ins with what we assume are current US geopol ambitions:

    Rising Star of ISIS has Chechen Background

    Sundry information on this character

    Secret Battles between US Forces and Chechen terrorists

    ISIS an ‘Incredible’ Fighting Force, US Special Ops Sources Say

    • Further


      GREENE: Hahn told us that Omar al-Shishani grew up a shepherd boy, encountering rebel fighters as they passed through the Pankisi Gorge.

      GORDAN HAHN: He eventually joined the Georgian Army and became an expert in various weaponry and was trained under the U.S. train and equip program to prepare Georgian military for counterinsurgency operations and counterterrorist tactics. And then in 2010, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, kicked out of the Army. Eventually he got arrested for illegally storing weapons and was sentenced to three years in prison. And right after prison, he pledged to leave Georgia and go fight jihad.

      GREENE: I just want to make sure I understand what you just said. This is a man – the number two in ISIS now – who was in the Georgian army and receiving anti-terrorism training from the United States?

      HAHN: That’s exactly right (laughter).

  7. Thanks for the input. I realize there is some debate as to whether the man in the background is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Ibrahim al-Badri):


    or Abu Youssef:


    But every source that I can find identifies this man:


    as “Muahmmad Noor” (or “Nour”), a photographer for the Northern Storm kidnappers:


    If you have any other identification of those two men I’d be interested to see any links.

  8. One’s must be blind not to see the similarity between the ISIS and the Greater Israel maps:

    ISIS: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/isis-borders.jpg

    Greater Israel: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6d/Greater_israel.jpg

    If there is any strategy behind this, I think it would be wise to recall the Sheikh Imran Hosein prediction of Arab Spring, because in this very same speech he made (back in 2003!) the prediction unfolds up to the the Greater Israel, and this seems to fit the current events and story telling (he even says in this video “They must be hating me now for revealing their secrets!”, and despite his repeated calls for peace he is in the US no-fly list like a terrorist, why?): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nR7-Cmszpo

    However, I think that the US would have everything to loose in this strategy, Israel would become self sustainable for the first time since his creation, in terms of energy (it would have its hands on the tap of the world’s first oil-hub) and vital space. So the US would loose their hegemony on oil and their ally Israel would no longer need them.

    If this is the strategy being played, the US are being fooled. So, whether the US are stupid, stuck in corruption spiral playing against their interests, or this is not the strategy.

  9. What do you think of the possibility of the next 9/11-like false flag being perpetrated in Tel Aviv and blamed on ISIS?

  10. Mehdi Nemmouche, author of the spree killing that took place the 24th of May in the Jewish Museum of Brussels (2 Mossad agents among the 4 victims) appears to be one of the jailers of James Foley: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=fr&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Flesmoutonsenrages.fr%2F2014%2F09%2F07%2Fmehdi-nemmouche-lauteur-presume-de-la-tuerie-du-musee-juif-de-bruxelles-etait-le-geolier-james-foley-lotage-decapite-par-leiil%2F&edit-text=

    Mehdi Nemmouche was known by the French DGSI (Directorate of Homeland Intelligence) as shown in this sample of my Open Source documented interview of Jacob Cohen (at 7m40s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiiCNYu8WRI&list=PLzHtFW-mC6vGvXNqFcGU2cxa_1pieWOvh&index=39

    This spree killing that took place at the eve of Belgian and European elections was used by the MSM and politics to:

    – Influence the European vote (associating the rising extreme left and right parties with anti-semitism).
    – Ban a conference of Gilad Atzmon and Soral (see the documentary sample).
    – Ban Dieudonné’s show and Youtube videos (see the documentary sample).
    – Influence the vote against the Belgian MP Laurent Louis (see for example why the establishment doesn’t like him http://youtu.be/aQJ73vtakkM?t=5m38s), with success!

  11. Some observers noticed that within the globalists’ frame of creating continental unions (European Union, North American Union, ASEAN, UNASUR, etc.) used as high level blocks for the upcoming World Government’s pyramid, a Caliphate under globalists’ control would be a very useful glue to create the Middle-East block.

    – Sheikh Imran Hosein describes it as a Yankee Caliphate (I think in this conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_Vkvypi-C8&list=UU3Xlgbc8gq3NOMmdEUAlfGg)
    – The French professor of African history Bernard Lugan explains it in this interview as well (in French, I can translate if needed): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhNlsB060c0&t=3m24s

  12. I’ve been looking into the handsome fellow in the top right photo on this page, the one at the apex of the little pyramid of men in black. His name is Shaker Wahib al-Fahdawi, also known as Abu Waheeb and he is supposedly an ISIS field commander in the Anbar province. He also managed to ‘escape’ from Camp Bucca, just like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

    This guy is an important propaganda instrument of ISIS. He was the one shooting the truck drivers, after questioning them to determine their sectarian background. He isn’t covering his face and he appears in many ISIS propaganda video’s and photo’s, creating the archetypal jihadist image.

    Here’s more info and video’s of Abu Waheeb:

    It was mentioned earlier in this tread, but I guess Camp Bucca was very instrumental in creating ISIS. Prisons can be used for ideological incitement and brainwashing. Prisons are good places to fight turf wars and install leaders in gang-like structures. Camp Cropper is also rumored to have been a hotbed for ISIS recruitment, although I couldn’t find any ISIS leaders that were detained there.

    P.S. I know ‘Abu’ is a very common name in Arabic, meaning ‘father’, but it seems *all* these ISIS leaders are named Abu for some reason. Is this just a coincidence?

    • Thanks for the info, Bart. I wouldn’t read too much into the names. They are admittedly mostly noms de guerre.

  13. It seems to me that the world has lost sight of some very simple common sense. We debate the hypocrisy of the US and others providing funding and training (if not outright ‘creation’) of terrorist groups at the same time as we debate what steps Nato/US etc are best to take to deal with the problem they created.

    What is wrong with the world that we are not tackling the core of the problem by recognizing and penalizing the countries that create and/or fund the terrorist groups. Isn’t it glaringly obvious that they are the enemies of world peace, that they are the terrorist?

    Why aren’t we all screaming ‘FOUL’? What is wrong with us?

  14. Thanks for the comment, AndyIB. If you look up in the article (or use CTRL+F to search “toyota”) you’ll find a link to an interesting article and radio interview about the Toyotas.

  15. Are we witnessing the groundwork for ISIS control of the “northern route” opium pipeline if they take hold in Afghanistan?

    Afghanistan hitting record high opium production in 2014.

    The Northern Route

    * Northern Route estimated demand: 90 tons of Afghan heroin to lucrative East-Europe & Russian market. (pg. 20)

    * 80% of estimated Afghan heroin moved through Tajikistan in 2010. (pg. 46, Table 10)

    UN: Tajikistan is the gateway to the Northern Route. (pg.9)

    Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) controlled 70% of Northern route
    heroin distribution in 2000. (pg. 8)

    A Foothold…

    Return of IMU in Tajikistan

    ISIS looks for foothold in Central Asia

    Pentagon admits ISIS In Afghanistan

    ISIS steps up recruitment in Afghanistan

    Laying the Groundwork?

    * IMU group pledges allegiance to ISIS *

    Russia readys $1.2b to fight ISIS in Tajikistan

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