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 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. 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 He was reported as captured on March 9, 2007, but that claim was retracted on March 10.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.