ISIS has announced that the territory it controls is a caliphate, or Islamic empire, and has changed its name to the Islamic State (IS). The Telegraph reports:
Fresh from their victories over the Iraqi army and on the first night of the holy month of Ramadan, the jihadist group Isis has declared its captive territories an “Islamic Caliphate” and demanded all Muslims declare obedience to its leader.
In a recorded audio statement, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said the new caliphate ran from Aleppo to Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad, and was expanding every day. […]
By making the statement, the group is laying claim to the mantle of the great Muslim empires of the past, ruled by caliphs based in Baghdad, Damascus and Istanbul.
By proclaiming a caliphate, ISIS is declaring all existing governments, and especially all existing Muslim governments, illegitimate. This is a declaration of war, not just against the Shia in Iraq and the Alawites in Syria, but also against Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states.It’s also a bid for leadership of the jihadi world. Al-Qaeda drove ISIS out of Iraq, and now ISIS is back, with a message for al-Qaeda: submit to us or lose your standing. The argument for proclaiming the caliphate tells us something about the past military strategy: Possession of a sufficient chunk of territory in the Islamic heartland a necessary qualification. This is not something that al-Qaeda or any other jihadi group has been able to claim. IS, as the entity wished to be known, has had dramatically more success than any of its predecessors or ideological rivals, and it is rubbing the salt in the wounds. But the dazzling offensive that caught the Shia Iraq army (and Washington’s $50 billion-a-year intelligence behemoth) by surprise this spring was not just expansion for the sake of expansion. Rather, it looks like a step in a careful plan.Meanwhile, will other jihadi groups accept the authority of the ‘caliph’? Will volunteers and arms flow his way? Most alarmingly, will people in the defense establishments and government structures of other Arab and Muslim states begin to feel the tug of the caliphate’s appeal?