Radical militants based in Iraq and Syria have today announced the founding of an Islamic “caliphate”. Referring to themselves as “The Islamic State”, their declared intention is to redraw the map of the Middle East and establish their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the rightful caliph of all Muslims. The group, which was expelled from Al-Qaeda earlier this year, has been accused of perpetrating atrocities and massacres in its territory.

Analysts predict the move by the hard-line jihadist organisation, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS / ISIL), will struggle to gain support from other militants. Already, rival Islamist groups have criticised the announcement as “delusional” and accused al-Baghdadi of “living in a fantasy world”.

Nevertheless, despite its core group consisting of only a few thousand militants, Isis has quickly become the richest and best-equipped jihadist organisation in the world. It controls vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, with a budget measured in billions of dollars, revenue from captured oil wells and access to tanks, surface-to-air missiles and possibly even planes and helicopters.

How will this conflict affect Europeans? Worryingly, videos have been emerging of EU citizens who have traveled to Syria from Britain, the Netherlands and other countries to take part in the conflict. Recently, a French citizen who had spent more than a year fighting in Syria was arrested on charges of carrying out a deadly shooting attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

Last month, we interviewed Martin Lidegaard, the Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs. We had a comment sent in by Emmanuel, arguing that the key to any political solution to the Syrian civil war (which contributed greatly to the rise of Isis) would be Russian President Vladimir Putin. As EU-Russian relations have been worsening recently, will this make it more difficult to negotiate a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict?

We also spoke to Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. We had a comment sent in by Bart, arguing that it was up to neighbouring countries in the region to work together to find a solution to the conflict in Syria (and now Iraq). How would Jamie Shea respond?

Why should European citizens care what happens in Iraq and Syria? Should EU leaders stay out of the conflict and let the Syrian and Iraqi governments resolve their own problems? Or will that lead to a deteriorating security situation across the region, including greater threats to Europe? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Freedom House

45 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Alex Tselentis

    The EU should stop assisiting these “rebel” groups, they should slap sanctions on Turkey and Saudi Arabia for arming these maniacs, as for the thousands of “Europeans” citizens fighting with these terrorists, they should all be jailed upon returning to Europe, if they ever do.

    • avatar

      Come on man, at least look for answers. Russia helps Syria because they have ports ans are friends with them

  2. avatar
    James McManama

    Martin Sheen – the heavier weapons (including tanks, anti-air weapons, etc.) they looted from the Syrian and Iraqi armies, including from armories in Mosul and other cities they have captured.

  3. avatar
    Viktor Haddad

    Got more then 80 nationals from syrian rebels who EU and USA support against Bashar. The answer is there ! STOP ARM those rebels !

  4. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    what is happening in Syria and Ukranie is a second cold war… so please put an order to caputre obama and putin… .this can be done by Europe!… and of course, put in prison the europeans that send weapons to the “rebels”…ouch!… of cours i dont expect this to ocurrs.

  5. avatar
    James McManama

    Viktor Haddad, Alex Tselentis – It’s too late! The Saudis maybe supported ISIL initially, but not anymore. And Assad also supported them by opening the jails and strategically refusing to bomb ISIL held territories. But now nobody is supporting them. The head of the Saudi intelligence was fired for supporting them because now Saudi Arabia is scared of ISIL. They now own one-third of the territory of Iraq, have billions of dollars and tanks, planes, helicopters, anti-air weapons, etc.

  6. avatar
    Deniz Ender Ümit

    Eu should acknowledge that Assad is not an ideal leader but unfortunately the best Syrians can choose given the conditions. Turkey deserves a punishment for the open border to terrorists, turkish syrian border is more open than ue internal borders !

    • avatar
      Scott Alexander

      So Assad killing 200,000+ of his own citizens somehow makes him a better candidate for running a nation than ISIS who have killed roughly 2000?

    • avatar
      Anna Rita

      Alexander…it’s soooo sad but unfortunatly it’s like this! eu is put in front of a “choice” and the less worst is Assad. #nochoice #terrible

  7. avatar
    Yamina Berrezzeg

    Maybe the EU should start with acknowledging and do something about the Palestinian conflict instead of burying our heads in the sand

    • avatar

      Dear Yamina Berrezzeg,

      Indeed. It is time for Israel to see it rightfull territories returned.



    • avatar
      Scott Alexander


      In what sense are any territories rightfully Israel’s?

  8. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    Who pays for murderous barbarian fake “chalifatee”? They crusifie people and mass media hide it.Who gave them arms and support.Let them organize a state and will be worst than Talibans.Establish peace in Syria and Irak stopsupporting barbarians immediately.

  9. avatar
    Ioannis Bois

    They think that Alllah was a fanatic jihadist!

    • avatar
      Scott Alexander

      Well… no, they don’t.

  10. avatar

    How should Europe respond to the crisis in Iraq and Syria?

    Doin’ nothin’. It’s not Europe’s business anyway, unless Europe is looking for trouble.

  11. avatar
    Hélder Vieira

    I don’t see why should Europe move a finger… The muslim world has a lot of questions to solve, on the issue of political organization. The caliphate is a central point in the religious fabric, so… The caliphate is there, with a caliph on top. It’s a unique opportunity for the muslim world to deal with it. Without any excuses.

    • avatar
      Mujahid Mujahid

      Across all these are the result of world crusade; after long term crucifying of Muslims in their homelands I think now is the time for all Muslims to join up to create the safe context for revenge and drop from the world cross. It’s better for the policy makers in the world to think and understand that now is the time for them to assimilate their total way of life or get prepared for paying taxes(Jizzya) or provide their heads to the rising peace and rightful calphate. The best language which Muslims can talk disbelievers and reach the fixed solution is SWORDS (PMK,AK47 etc) CRUSADE IS CANCER; JIHAD IS ANSWER

  12. avatar
    Pedro Jesus

    EU should have tough about this before supporting USA war against Iraq and Lybia. Duro Barroso and his mates bring this fate to all of us.

  13. avatar

    Q: Should EU leaders stay out of this conflict?

    A: Yes- and only act in conjunction with the UN. The Jihadist organizations being proven fanatic & radical believers are a threat to world peace, be it in Asia, Africa or Europe. It is a new global danger & similar to the former cold war race between the east & west (just deadlier) by Communism’s declared aim to dominate the world. At least Karl Marx & Co. did not promise a dozen of virgins as heroic reward in the afterlife. The West & East- referring to the Saudis, Russia & other major Muslim role players- would be essential partners and many need to bury their “tomahawk” first.

    Accordingly, it would need a global effort & willing cooperation by all “none radical religious nations” to address this global threat through the UN. No country on its own is strong or wise enough or has the right connections or solutions! The UN should appoint a new group of powerful & suitable “Allies” to manage this threat on their behalf. And definitely no more US/GB/Nato “shooting from the hip” or a Franky boy Sinatra’s “I done it my way” approach in future!

    Which EU member country will be the first one in line- when somebody declares the 1st EU caliphate? Why not have a good guess?

    • avatar

      For all intents and purposes, the EU is a ‘caliphate’, just see how ‘unbelievers’ are treated by the pro-EU crowd, with contempt and scorn and marginalization.

    • avatar
      Scott Alexander

      Marcel… what do you think the word caliphate means?

    • avatar
      Mujahid Mujahid

      UN or center of Crusaders and hypocrites? Time has come all scars of the crusade will be recovered soon inshaALLAH

  14. avatar

    There is no doubt whatsoever that the government of Saudi Arabia is actively funding and directing these people.

    Why can’t Brussels or Washington grasp this? Because we ‘need’ oil and can’t afford to ‘offend’ Saudi Arabia? Time to put up or shut up, either you believe in human rights, or you believe in importing oil from Saudi Arabia. The two are mutually exclusive.

  15. avatar
    Dim Zev

    to organize one GAY PRIDE in Baghdad !!!
    Or send femen to Riyadh !!!

    • avatar
      Mujahid Mujahid


  16. avatar
    Mikko Karjalainen

    So this is what we get when UN is being made unable to declare anything. A Islamic caliphate? Any suggestions how to resolve this (when sh*t hit the fan) situation, Putin?

  17. avatar
    catherine benning

    There are three plausible moves Europe should take. The first is, not to have any interaction with any faction involved. It is a war between the peoples of this area and faith and has been simmering beneath the surface for hundreds of years. It is their ‘rites to passage’ and only the peoples of that region can decide what it is they want to do about it. It’s the old story of top enders and bottom enders, or, Sunni’s and Shi ite. Not something we can fully understand or relate to other than through Catholic and Protestant.

    This situation was exacerbated by US/GB UN and NATO, it is there the EU should question and ask why it wants to be associated with extremists who took actions against the people of those lands the way criminal leaders inf the West did. And those leaders should face the Hague.

    On a practical level, any person who leaves the European continent to fight in any of these jihads must have their passports removed, along with their nationalisation, whether born within European borders or outside of it. And, their immediate family must lose the right to reside. They must apply for nationalisation in the country they are willing to die for or any other country they feel bonded to with their life. They are a danger to the peoples of Europe and will bring their civil war within our borders on their return.

    The first duty of leaders in a democracy is to ensure the safety of the citizens they rule. Mr Rigby was recently decapitated by two of these fanatical freedom fighters in a London street in broad daylight this action will undoubtedly will be emulated by more fanatics of this kind once or when they return.

    • avatar
      Mujahid Mujahid

      If Democracy is really applicable then why George Bush, Rumsfield, Tony Blair and their allies still free up to now? Hahahah this is a time NO SWORD AND STRUGGLE NO TRUE PEACE AND EQUALITY.I think is the time for crusaders to give up and let the IS try the opportunity to build world peace. Just think my dear once you flee innocent families just because one of the member joined up with IS is it fairs. Peoples perception and ideologies can differs although they belong to the same family. I think that is crusader’s based thoughts. Try to check out what Israel is doing who took action? Instead they are supported by almost all crusaders countries. I hope Islamic countries should now chair and think how to support the IS; at least to school the UN how true peace is being created and maintained rather than be damned into voiceless and miseries of crusaders.

    • avatar
      Scott Alexander

      So… us then?

      Who drew these boundaries the locals are all so angry about, I wonder?

  18. avatar

    Easy.Stay at the side watching how they all kill each other and when they re done,make economical ties with the winners.

  19. avatar

    I don’t think it is down to the EU to respond in any way, as this part of world is non-European. However, the incoming refugees have to be dealt with in some way.

  20. avatar
    Laszlo Nagy

    Maybe the approach to the Middle-East should be simplified. For a time, western countries tried to interfere into the internal world of these lands that have a different culture, and apart from not reaching their wants, they also made the tensions more apparent.
    We should take positions as outsiders, as we are, and just try to get our basic wants from the locals. (Reliable oil transports, maybe protection to the local Christians etc.)

    • avatar
      Scott Alexander

      And we should care about the local Christians more than the local Muslims and Jews because…?

  21. avatar

    Eu should do the same as it did in former Yugoslavia when it armed Milosevic and then enforced an arms emargo on the victims so they can not defend themselfs.Then the EU should blame all sides and delay Nato airstrikes for 4 years.And then when genocide is commited the EU should do everything in their power to hide the crimes like it did for Slobodan Milosevic.

  22. avatar

    Do “realpolitik”.Assad migth be an autocrat,but at least he s a predictable laizist.Well i m not sure this isis dudes would be a nice alternative.In diffrent words”why should we care that he s an autocrat as long as it doesn t effect europe?”.We should just do what ist good for us europeans and that s about it.
    Also that s what i think when merkel goes to china and talks about human rigths making a moron of herself and embarressing her country …Just go get their money,make business,creat jobs and be rational not this sissy human rigths crap…
    In a world that is about challenge and survival the one who cares for others and is sentimental will end up in last spot

  23. avatar

    Western allies need to examine why they refuse to admit their role in causing ISIS,Daesh,ISIL,Al Queda, Hamas, Boka Haram,others. I can name more! Do any of you leaders in America, EU, all countries, read dabiq? Do you understand the Calaphate is not about doing business and western values, trading and diplomacy, or anything you all believe. Do you understand it is not a sin to lie to infadels? Why do you think very young children are indocranized, taught hate and lies about western values? You will not change that view with any love. It is their belief that we are evil and never to be trusted. Allowing humans to suffer, starve, be gassed, die, homeland destroyed and left without help from slaughtering, rape, all forms of Hell! Well I know Obama and allies did nothing. Our leaders are to blame. Do you think Turkey did enough with the refugees? I think not. Either did the allies. Money is always to be made, even with the most vulnerable. Time was not important or acted upon. All different groups, which are many, were willing to fight alongside each other a long time ago. They were abandoned, overrun, dispersed, ill equipped, killed, hungry. Dispair. Everything. You have funding to Palistinians by Hamas, the land was taken from Iran with help from the allies, our promises weren’t kept, the brotherhood was not viewed as radical in Egypt or turkey or anywhere. Leaders allowed refugees to drown and die with refusing rights to work and nowhere to live. No plan. Never. Little kids left and were selling their bodies for money to help family to leave. I could write about every country, the history and years of America and all our trading partners, wars, alliances with countries that didn’t like us, trading and allowing dictatorship then getting rid of, overthrowing leaders. Now, all the Elites know they have a real problem but still don’t want to do what is necessary. Globalization, banking, trade, everything is all intertwined. But theirs a global economic problem out of control too. Putin and China have taken advantage of western weakness and the whole world can see through media bull, and no one believes any political party. It’s too late. Good night. I do have answers. Many outsiders do.

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