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The Difference Between ISIS and ISIL



The US invasion of Iraq brought tremendous instability to the Middle Eastern region, and inspired the creation of terrorist groups which aim to reclaim lands that were lost to Western invaders over several wars in the 20th century. Of all these groups, there are none that have caused more destruction to the region than ISIS, which is also known as ISIL. The term ISIS refers to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, while the term ISIL refers to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Kerry, 2014). These two terms are interchangeably used to refer to the same terrorist group.

Is there a Difference Between ISIL and ISIS?

ISIS was only able to come into existence because of the favorable conditions that were created in the Middle East by Al-Qaeda, which is yet another terrorist group that operates in Iraq. While Al-Qaeda primarily operated in Iraq, ISIS has been able to expand operations in neighboring nations due to Syria’s civil war. The former leader of ISIS, the late Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, gave the group its official name in 2013 (Terrorist Profiles, 2015). By giving the group the moniker, ‘the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’, Al-Baghdadi was indicating the growth of the group into an international force which aims to consolidate all Muslims (Knights, 2014). The new name for al-Baghdadi’s terrorist group can be translated as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Flood, 2013).

The worldwide ignorance of different terrorist groups in the Middle East is somewhat understandable as few journalists volunteer to venture into Iraq and Syria to learn more about terrorist operations. The terrorist group ISIS has, in the recent past, beheaded numerous foreign journalists and then filmed these activities for the world to see (Flood, 2013). The lack of information from certified journalists leaves people to speculate about the group and its activities. Even though the late al-Baghdadi only granted an interview once, the terrorist group still uses his address to recruit new followers.

Even the regional governments fighting for control in Syria and Iraq were caught by surprise by the group’s rapid spread (Knights, 2014). This means that these regional governments remain as misinformed about the daily operations and progress of the group as the rest of the world. Even today, the regional and governmental forces in Syria and Iraq are still unable to contain the group which has capitalized on the power vacuum that followed the departure of American forces from Iraq. Moreover, ISIS would seem to encourage the spread of erroneous beliefs about the existence of two factions named ISIS and ISIL (Knights, 2014). The thought that there could be two terrorist groups brutally dealing with innocent populations and beheading those who do not adhere to the strictest interpretation of the Sharia law naturally enlarges the group’s image in the minds of many global citizens, and triggers collective fear.


The acronyms ISIS and ISIL refer to the same terrorist group. This group, which mainly operates in Syria and Iraq, has also sought to expand into Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia. Even though national governments worldwide have called for quick action to stem the growth of this group, there is still no course of action that has been determined in regards to ending its rule of terror in Iraq and Syria.

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References :

[0]Flood, D. H. (2013, Oct. 4). Kirkuk’s Multidimensional Security Crisis. Combating Terrorism Sector. Retrieved from https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/kirkuks-multidimensional-security-crisis

[1]Kerry, J. (2014, Aug. 29). To Defeat Terror, We Need the World’s Help. DIPNOTE. Retrieved from http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/08/29/defeat-terror-we-need-world-s-help

[2]Knights, M. (2014, Aug. 27). ISIL’s Political-Military Power in Iraq. Combating Terrorism Sector. Retrieved from https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/isils-political-military-power-in-iraq

[3]Terrorist Profiles. (2015). Counter-Terrorism Guide. Retrieved from http://www.nctc.gov/site/profiles/abu_baqr_al_baghdadi.html


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