I expectedfrom this book, when I read it It it bring anything new about Isis. If one were to read one book to gain an understanding of how the Islamic State ISIS was able to conquer a land mass that is as big as Israel and Lebanon, it should be Joby Warrick s new monograph, BLACK FLAGS THE RISE OF ISIS Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Washington Post writes in a clear style that allows the reader to gain insight and understanding of the many important points he makes What separates Warrick s effort from the myriad of works on ISIS that have appeared If one were to read one book to gain an understanding of how the Islamic State ISIS was able to conquer a land mass that is as big as Israel and Lebanon, it should be Joby Warrick s new monograph, BLACK FLAGS THE RISE OF ISIS Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Washington Post writes in a clear style that allows the reader to gain insight and understanding of the many important points he makes What separates Warrick s effort from the myriad of works on ISIS that have appeared in the last year is the perspective he brings A major part of the book presents the rise of ISIS from the Jordanian point of view Concentrating on King Abdullah II of Jordan, the reader is exposed to the inner workings of the Hashemite Kingdom as they try to cope with what is occurring on two sides of their border The book opens with attempts to negotiate the release of the downed Jordanian pilot Muath al Kasabeh with ISIS, and the plight of Sajida Rishawi, a convicted ISIS terrorist who is facing execution for trying to unleash a horrendous attack in Amman In the end al Kasabeh is burned alive, creating revulsion throughout the Muslim world, and Rishawi is executed.In addition to being led inside the Jordanian national security bureaucracy through the work of Abu Haytham, a senior officer in the Jordanian counterterrorism division the author concentrates on the role of American Ambassador to Syria, Robert S Ford and Mouazi Moustafa, a Syrian immigrant who became a veteran Capitol Hill staffer who lobbied hard to assist the Syrian people and arm moderate elements who were opposed to Syrian president, Bashir el Assad in explaining events and policies that evolved before and after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 Apart from discussing policy decisions as ISIS develops, Warrick spends the first two thirds of the book presenting a biography of Abu Mus ab al Zarqawi who is credited with creating the foundation of the Islamic State We meet an uneducated street thug who fought in Afghanistan and was eventually imprisoned in Jordan Warrick and others point to Zarqawi s imprisonment as attending Jihadi University as many like minded individuals came together and became radicalized Further, after the United States invaded Iraq it set up Camp Bucca which will become another branch of the Jihadi University as over 26,000 prisoners lived in communal tents according to their own sectarian identification The result is that the camp created the nucleus of the ISIS leadership as men like the future self proclaimed Caliph, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was also in residence.The author explores the developing story that culminated in Vice President Dick Cheney s charge that Zarqawi met with Saddam Hussein to discuss access to chemical weapons which was false, but was used as one of the excuses to invade Iraq Further, Warrick does an excellent job synthesizing the information that reflects the head in the sand approach taken by the Bush administration in dealing with post invasion Iraq After declaring victory on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush faced a developing insurgency by the end of August, 2003 that his administration refused to face up to This lack of accepting the reality of events in Iraq left a vacuum that allowed Zarqawi to take advantage of and fill Warrick describes Zarqawi s approach to the insurgency and his disagreements with Osama Bin Ladin nicely, and what emerges is a ruthless individual who justifies his murderous action with the cover of his own Koranic interpretation.Another important perspective that Warrick presents is the analysis offered by Nada Bakos, a CIA operative who became the agencies targeter whose function was to concentrate on Zarqawi until the United States killed him Bakos takes us inside the CIA as they try to develop a coherent strategy to deal with the Sheik of Slaughterers as he referred to himself Warrick also exposes one of the most disturbing aspects of American actions in Iraq Warrick describes the arrogance and incompetence of Paul Bremer III, the Bush appointed head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004 King Abdullah II had warned the U.S repeatedly against the invasion of Iraq as well as deBathification of the army, intelligence, and government agencies which were in charge of the country s infrastructure once the invasion took place After detailing Zarqawi s massive plot to set off what would have been a dirty bomb in Amman in March, 2004, Abdullah II met with Bremer as Warrick reports, to appeal once again not to deBathize Iraq Bremer s reply was brusque, I know what I am doing There s going to be some sort of compensation I ve got it all in hand, thank you very much 148 The last third of the book is devoted to the disintegration of Syria and the opportunity those events presented for ISIS Warrick dissects Assad s reaction to the Arab Spring of 2011 and how he hoped to manipulate the rebellion against him by releasing jihadis from Syrian prisons to enhance the revolution against him This was done to show the west that he was fighting an Islamic insurgency, rather than a civil war Warrick examines the approach taken by the Obama administration in dealing with Syria and the rise of ISIS His analysis is not very complementary as he discusses the schisms within the administration as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and CIA head David Petraeus tried to convince the president to providethan humanitarian aid to moderate elements opposing Assad Finally, when Assad employs chemical weapons against the rebels, Obama launches an air campaign that is ongoing The effectiveness of this campaign has been hotly debated and with the Russian entrance into the war to prop up its ally with cruise missiles and bombing runs the situation is growingprecarious each day Warrick does explain Obama s thinking throughout the period as he is sorely limited in terms of options with Iran and Russia providing money and weapons to Assad, and the United Nations not an option because of Moscow s opposition.Warrick has written an important work as he synthesizes much of the material dealing with Zarqawi and how the Islamic State declared itself a Caliphate in July, 2014 It is clearly written for the lay person and should enhance any reader s understanding of what is probably the most dangerous situation American foreign policy has faced in decades After reading this book the reader will wonder what the United States could have done differently based on events, not the partisan harangues that emanate from Congress It is important for all to pay attention to what is occurring as people in the region wait for the next shoe to drop One can only feel trepidation for King Abdullah of Jordan as he tries to maneuver his way in a region that is a tinderbox OH ISIS I thought they were saying Icees, as inWell, now that I m up to speed on radical Islamic terrorism, who wants to invite me over to their bbq, so I can be the life of the party Cuz nothing says FUN like bringing up politics and religion at a social gathering Just look how enjoyable Facebook is these days.All silliness aside, Black Flags is a solid way to understand how ISIS came to be A good number of pages are also spent on Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, but the real focus is Abu Musab OH ISIS I thought they were saying Icees, as inWell, now that I m up to speed on radical Islamic terrorism, who wants to invite me over to their bbq, so I can be the life of the party Cuz nothing says FUN like bringing up politics and religion at a social gathering Just look how enjoyable Facebook is these days.All silliness aside, Black Flags is a solid way to understand how ISIS came to be A good number of pages are also spent on Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, but the real focus is Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the thug turned religious zealot and leader of a violent fundamentalist movement.Joby Warrick gives the reader plenty of details on Zarqawi s past and what made him who he eventually became It s not an in depth character study that a psychologist could publish a paper on, but I certainly know the man much better now than I ever have But do I know the real story I mean, what s Warrick s bias He s certainly not kind to the Bush administration s handling of terrorism for most of this book and seems to sidewith the CIA And what does Warrick know He worked for the Washington Post and as far as journalists go he seems to be the one most well connected to what happened after 9 11 However, even the most well connected journalist generally isn t going to have intel on the government s secrets and what went on behind the scenes.As an average joe know nothing, us readers will just have to be satisfied with what we can glean from folks like Warrick That s not a terrible problem, because this was an enjoyable read and I m looking forward to moving on to Warrick s next book The Triple Agent The al Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA If you are a general reader and want to read one book on the origin of ISIS, look no further In telling the story through individuals the book contrasts to others like ISIS The State of Terror or Inside Syria The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect that arethorough and focuson politics and policies Joby Warrick s approach, focusing on the key personnel, holds your attention throughout This book is heavy on the founder, Abu Musab Zarqawi and its beginnings If you are a general reader and want to read one book on the origin of ISIS, look no further In telling the story through individuals the book contrasts to others like ISIS The State of Terror or Inside Syria The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect that arethorough and focuson politics and policies Joby Warrick s approach, focusing on the key personnel, holds your attention throughout This book is heavy on the founder, Abu Musab Zarqawi and its beginnings as part of Al Qaeda, where the others focuson the group as ISIS filling the power vacuum in Syria.Zarqawi is shown through the lens of Jordan s security agency, Mukhabarat, and Nada Bakos his targeter for the US You see him imprisoned for crimes and terrorist activities He is interrogated, often, by Mukhabarat The chaos in Iraq was a perfect opportunity for him but his first operations were directed at Jordan the Embassy in Iraq, the foiled bombing of Mukhabarat, the wedding in Amman and the UN While there were leadership changes, you come to understand the significance of the 2015 capture of Jordan s pilot.Jordan s King Abdullah is shown to have great courage and foresight He has kept his country free of training camps and Arab Springs He and Mukhabarat not only helped to foil the Millennium Plot, you read of how they stopped a large bombing plan for Amman and how they interrogate effectively You also appreciate the work of Gen Stanley McCrystal.There is a lot on ISIS as a Sunni organization showing how its hatred of the Shia equals that of its hatred of the infidel The relationship of this group and al Qaeda is clearly shown through excerpts of letters from its highest leadership.Besides Zarqawi and King Abdullah, there are good portraits of Abu Mohammad Maqdisi Islamic scholar who tutored Zarqawi in prison , Robert Ford State Dept employee who served for at time as Ambassador to Syria , and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi current ISIS leader and others such as Zaydan a tribal leader Warrick doesn t drop them, he follows them through each phase up to the present.The Epilogue offers some hope It covers the reaction to the torture, specifically, the burning of the body of the Jordanian pilot, Murah al Kasasbeh It outraged even the Wahabi Burning is an abominable crime rejected by Islamic law Only god punishes by fire At al Azhar in Cairo the grand imam expelled clerics who advocated violence Egyptian s president General, Abdel Fattah el Sisi, was applauded by al Azhar s clerics when he called for a rethinking of ideas sanctified over the course of centuries to the point that challenging them becomes very difficult and called on the grand imam to revolutionize our religion pp 311 312 The book begins with a who s who list, but the text is so clear, you don t need it There are photos of most key players The index worked for me, but again, text is so clear, I hardly needed it This book is a real find for a lay person Stripped of the details of treaties, conferences and position papers and loaded with human interest you see this organization and how it grew This book describes the rise of ISIS It is in three sequential parts The first is the background of Abu Musab al Zarqawi who was born in Jordan At first he was just a common thug and not religious He was arrested and in prison fell under the spell of Islam and became radicalized He was released as part of a prisoner exchange, something that happens with regularity in the Middle East.From there he journeyed to Iraq this becomes the second part of the book During the U.S led invasion of I This book describes the rise of ISIS It is in three sequential parts The first is the background of Abu Musab al Zarqawi who was born in Jordan At first he was just a common thug and not religious He was arrested and in prison fell under the spell of Islam and became radicalized He was released as part of a prisoner exchange, something that happens with regularity in the Middle East.From there he journeyed to Iraq this becomes the second part of the book During the U.S led invasion of Iraq he became the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq Zarqawi became a very adept organizer and carried out violent terrorist activities in both Iraq and Jordan you have only to read of the tragic fate of Nick Berg to see how personally sadistic Zarqawi could be We also learn much in this book of the intelligence networks of both Jordan and U.S CIA and how they tracked down terrorist groups It also appears that thepeople terrorists they kill in the Middle East theterrorists they create.The focus on intelligence groups and there methodology of information gathering was a fault I found in the book in that we are getting a view from the outside We are not provided with much insight into the recruitment methods of ISIS except that they are very good at internet advertising It is still a big question mark as to how their very violent methods very visible on YouTube, but I would never look at this are an allure to young men and some young women the world over.The third part is about Abu Bakr al Baghdadi who eventually attained the helm of ISIS in Iraq Syria after the U.S succeeded in killing Zarqawi He is attempting to establish a caliphate a pure Islamic society not only there but across the world He is different from bin Laden who was looking to the future Baghdadi is putting into place an Islamic caliphate now in his occupied areas Baghdadi is also of a different stripe than Zarqawi, he is a student of the Koran and uses it to justify the violence acts and extreme misogyny that is occurring across ISIS held territory This is a depressing book particularly when one reads of the vast private donations of money page 268 69 that have poured into Bagdadi s caliphate from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates It is evident too that this would never have developed without the U.S invasion of Iraq which took power away from a dictator, leaving nothing but a vacuum in which tribal and religious hatreds Sunni, Shiite, Kurds are now bent on destroying each other with the victors expanding into adjacent territory For the caliphate death and destruction are justified by citing ancient religious texts interpreted by men who want to return to a life of hundreds of years past Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, explores the origins of ISIS Beginning in the 1990 s he chronicles the rise of Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq and ends with the Syrian war and the rise of Baghdadi and ISIS Warrick is a skilled writer making his account very readable and easy to digest Most of us will remember the major events described Warrick adds value by connecting them, filling in the gaps, giving us a continuous narrative We see the stunning appearance of ISIS running rampan Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, explores the origins of ISIS Beginning in the 1990 s he chronicles the rise of Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq and ends with the Syrian war and the rise of Baghdadi and ISIS Warrick is a skilled writer making his account very readable and easy to digest Most of us will remember the major events described Warrick adds value by connecting them, filling in the gaps, giving us a continuous narrative We see the stunning appearance of ISIS running rampant over Iraq not as a mysterious force arising from nowhere, but a logical and predictable continuation of the prior decade of terrorist activity ISIS s rise was fueled by sectarian division It was aided by miscalculations and political expediency by American and Arab administrations alike Below are my notes Abu Musab al Zarqawi grew up in Jordan as a local tough, a common criminal Hoping to change his direction his mother encouraged him to attend an Islamist mosque He adopted extremist beliefs with fervor He went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the spring of 1989 arriving just as the Soviet troops left Instead he fought the Russian backed Afghan government Gaining four years of combat experience, he became a mujahid or holy warrior He returned to Jordan in 1993 where he was imprisoned after joining in an aborted terror attack in 1994 After release in 1999 he went back to Afghanistan where he ran a training camp for Al Qaeda and was seriously injured by an American bomb In 2001 he set up a new training camp separate from Al Qaeda in Iraq Warrick notes Zarqawi s rough character had been thrice remolded By war, by prison, and by responsibilities of command at the helm of his own Afghan training camp He had come to regard himself as a leader and a man with a destiny Zarqawi soon found his presence in Iraq elevated by the Bush administration In their politically driven insistence to link Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein they pointed to Zarqawi as the connection Colin Powell and administration spokespeople singled him out making him famous and a magnet for terrorists from every corner of the Muslim world In fact, he had been simply lying low in a remote part of Iraq following his injury in Afghanistan The Iraqi intelligence service had monitored Zarqawi just like the Americans did but the Iraqis would never cooperate with him The secular Iraqi government considered Muslim extremists including Zarqawi enemies to be eliminated But the Bush administration only developed facts that fit their political narrative Once Saddam was defeated, the Bush administration s complete lack of planning for governing and security afterwards made Iraq fertile ground for an emboldened Zarqawi and his many new recruits.Zarqawi captured Nicholas Evan Berg, an innocent American, and personally cut off his head on a video released in May 2004 He made himself a terrorist leader second in fame only to Osama bin Laden Again notoriety brought him many new recruits Now Zarqawi became a prime target of the intelligence agencies In September 2004 after widespread attacks, killings and violence led by Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden endorsed him in a video broadcast over Arabian TV stations proclaiming Zarqawi the emir of the al Qaeda for Jihad Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers But there was a serious disagreement Bin Laden thought it a mistake to go after Shiites, believing Sunni Muslims would not approve of killing and brutalizing fellow Muslims Zarqawi was not deterred, a narcissist, he was building his own organization, an al Qaeda 2.0 In November 2005 Zarqawi finally went too far in a massive bombing of three prominent Jordanian hotels killing scores of innocent Muslims including women and children Jordanians and many other Sunnis were outraged This senseless attack led immediately to increased cooperation between Jordan and the U.S which would eventually result in Zarqawi s death But first in February 2006 Zarqawi would bomb an important Shiite monument in Samarra The bombing led to intense Sunni Shiite conflict killing over thirteen hundred in the next few days and rekindling widespread sectarian violence Finally in June 2006 with Jordanian help, the U S Special Forces located his safe house, bombed it and killed him In the first year after Zarqawi s death terrorist acts increased in Iraq but then steeply declined through 2010 as beefed up US Special Forces went all out relentlessly pursuing insurgents decimating their ranks, disrupting their plans and diminishing their stature US forces left Iraq in December 2011 but regime threatening protests in Syria that year created a new crisis Syrian president Assad decided to create a diversion intended to make Syrians see his administration as necessary to preserve order He emptied his jails of common criminals excluding protesters but including terrorists The hardcore insurgents in that release included former members of Zarqawi s organization and other jihadist groups They would coalesce around a nascent terrorist organization, ISIS, which already had a new leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi Baghdadi had risen as a religious leader of the Islamic State of Iraq which had been formed by Zarqawi s cohorts following his death As the Syrian protests devolved into violence and civil war, ISIS saw an opportunity ISIS assigned a group named the al Nusra Front to fight Assad alongside the rebels, except these were jihadists Other jihadists joined in Now car bombs, IED s and suicide bombers were deployed with regularity Assad s enemies, many rich and powerful in other Arab countries, financed these Islamic extremists Extremist groups attracted recruits from Europe and across the Muslim world posing a threat to their home countries when they returned In April 2013 Baghdadi formally announced on video the formation of ISIS crediting the deceased Zarqawi as the original founder Like Zarqawi he rebuked al Qaeda Baghdadi like Zarqawi demanded extreme violence from his organization which was seen as counterproductive by al Qaeda He split from al Qaeda Al Nusra had becomeindependent and stayed with al Qaeda splitting from ISIS Baghdadi had bold plans for Iraq and Syria He began by attacking prisons freeing many terrorists who then joined ISIS ISIS took over city after city making Raqqa in Syria its headquarters in the summer of 2013 ISIS quickly grew to 10,000 fighters Its success attractedandrecruits from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa President Obama believed American involvement would make matters worse This decision left non Islamist groups fighting Assad with no hope of significant outside support ISIS was further strengthened as the only viable alternative Baghdadi began his push into the Iraqi heartland in 2014 capturing Falluja, a city that had cost the US dearly to retake from Zarqawi a decade earlier ISIS exploited the Sunni Shiite division receiving significant support from Sunni tribes disgusted with the Shiite led Iraqi government Iraqi Sunni tribes believed they could trust Baghdadi who also was an Iraqi Sunni Zarqawi as a Jordanian never elicited that trust These tribes soon found out their mistake suffering under the brutal excesses of ISIS rule ISIS went on to take Mosul routing the Iraqi army and threatening Baghdad ISIS captured vast stores of military equipment, banks filled with cash and revenue producing oil wells ISIS adopted formal government structures ISIS in essence now had the caliphate Baghdadi sought to establish Warrick s book was published in 2015 so he leaves us with ISIS at its peak What would prove to be a major turning point in ISIS s fate was the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot in a cage The professionally produced video was seen worldwide, but its impact was greatest in the Islamic world, where it was denounced by all Now Islamic states turned their guns on ISIS with worldwide support Just as Zarqawi had gone too far in the Amman, Jordan hotel bombings, so too had Baghdadi with this horrific display of cruelty Excellent history on the rise of ISIS and the US involvement in Iraq Terrific narrator for the audiobook.5 out of 5 stars. While I give it props for being written almost as political thriller, I, personally, look for information in my non fiction reads, while here those information could be easily packed on 150 pages The rest is a dramatised vision of events in Middle East since 1999 till 2015 I liked it, don t get me wrong but I would so muchprefer it wasanalysis of political and social factors, rather than simply giving me the rambo narration of those events. Editing my number of stars in light of Patrick Cockburn s The Jihadis Return ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, only discovered after the comment thread on this review I cannot recall Warrick even mentioning Saudi or Pakistani involvement either in the ISIS movement beginning after the U.S invasion of Iraq on which he spent an enormous amount of our time , or after Zarqawi was killed in 2006 He said nothing significantly different from newspaper reporting in the U.S the past 15 years, though Editing my number of stars in light of Patrick Cockburn s The Jihadis Return ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, only discovered after the comment thread on this review I cannot recall Warrick even mentioning Saudi or Pakistani involvement either in the ISIS movement beginning after the U.S invasion of Iraq on which he spent an enormous amount of our time , or after Zarqawi was killed in 2006 He said nothing significantly different from newspaper reporting in the U.S the past 15 years, though he gave enormous credit to the CIA, whose analysis by the way, he did not share with us except in an impressionistic way.I was already familiar with what the newspapers had reported, and found his account rehashed old ground Cockburn s analysis, on the other hand, rips open ME politics and exposes U.S blunders and resultant difficulties The information I was getting in newspapers about ISIS in Syria confused me, which is why I needed somethingin depth This book probably is not going to answer your questions I am furious that we don t have the kind of journalism about the Middle East that they apparently have in Europe Perhaps our journalists are trying too hard to protect their government sources and American business interests Can it be I leave this at three stars simply because I would never have gotten to, nor understood as well, Cockburn s far better material without slogging through Warrick s introductory material and discussing it with others Warrick undoubtedly knows Cockburn Why the heck couldn t he have included and credited some of Cockburn s information in his analysis Warrick bookends his narrative nonfiction describing the origins of ISIS Islamic State in Iraq and Syria with the story of the failed suicide bomber, Sajida al Rishawi, who was executed in Jordan just this year, shortly after ISIS put to death by burning the downed Jordanian air pilot, First Lieutenant Muadh al Kasasbeh in Syria in January This bookending is entirely appropriate for it links the Jordanian thug turned radical Abu Musad al Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq AQI with the later leader of ISIS, Iraqi Islamic scholar Abu Bakr al Baghdadi Just this week Oct 2015 we learned that al Baghdadi was targeted in an air strike as he convoyed to a meeting of senior ISIS leaders in western Iraq It is not known if he has been wounded or killed.I would be happy never to hear or read the name Zarqawi again, but here he is in the pages of this book Abu Musad al Zarqawi was the Jordanian national who created and led AQI during the Iraq War He gained credibility and became a household name the world over when American forces labelled him a threat in 2003, just before the American invasion of Iraq Warrick carefully traces the path of Zarqawi s radicalism, beginning while he was in a Jordanian jail from 1993 99, through his contact with and split from Osama bin Laden s al Qaeda organization, through to his death in by American airstrike in 2006 After his death his organization, which had attracted many followers amongst the Sunni minority in Iraq, lost its thrust and seemed on the point of disintegration The American withdrawal from Iraq gave the remnants of Zarqawi s groupfreedom to operate They continued to consolidate, now with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi gradually rising to third in the leadership in charge of Sharia law by 2010 In 2010 an airstrike took out the other two top leaders, leaving Baghdadi to step into the vacuum and impose his own vision on the men under his command He announced ISIS involvement in Syria in 2011 with a carefully shot and edited quarter hour video heralded on Islamic websites for days before its release Warrick shows us how the radical insurgent movement could have begun, given impetus through a combination of American bombs and Arab prisons Western ideology and invasion is an undeniable spur to Islamists of any sort, who resist any foreign influence and incursion into their lands, whether or not bombing was meant to help Warrick adds Arab jails because this is where Zarqawi got his instruction and indoctrination Inmates were segregated by creed, and the Islamists lived by Sharia law Jails became, in effect, jihadi universities which helped extremists inculcate moderates, and fueled the insurgency inside the wire Like Arab jails, the American military system of corralling all insurgents together as bad guys was dysfunctional and counterproductive , in Warrick s opinion Baghdadi survived and thrived in prison He was picked up in a sweep in early 2004 and sent to the American administered jail called Camp Bucca His academic expertise as a conservative, educated religious scholar gave him stature He both taught and spoke classical Arabic and led religious prayers When he was released in 2004 after ten months in prison, he finished earning his doctorate in Islamic studies and gravitated to the militants operating outside the major cities By 2010 he was third in the leadership of radicals in charge of Sharia law and when an American airstrike took out two of the top leaders in late 2010, al Baghdadi stepped up.Now ISIS has Sunni, Shia, as well as Western governments and Russia, all seeking their demise One reason is that the predominantly Sunni ISIS organization burned the Jordanian Sunni air pilot flying over Syria rather than behead him Death by burning is something forbidden in the Koran a retribution something only Allah can presume There must be a reason an Islamic scholar would order such a death, but the effect was galvanizing In the film posted online of the burning death, Warrick tells us the voice of Abu Musad al Zarqawi intones a voiceover Lo and behold, the spark has been ignited in Iraq and its fires shall only get bigger drawing a clear connection between the former AQI under Zarqawi and the renamed ISIS under Baghdadi We can only hope that fire will consume them in the end.It was not this book alone, but my concurrent reading of a book of essays by Mohsin Hamid called Discontent and Its Civilizations that started the beginnings of a breakthrough in the development of my own opinion about American power in the world Hamid s essays discuss the American war in Afghanistan from the point of view of Pakistan America cooperated with Pakistan, in a manner of speaking, for a time My thinking runs something like this if a situation in one s own country gets so bad one thinks one wants to call upon the strength of the American army to save one, think again Calling upon their superior forces may just wipe out what you were hoping to save American military power is a blunt instrument, no matter what they say about precision strikes Add to that American reluctance to involve their own blood or treasure in a fight they do not perceive as their own The tool one wishes would save one s country or one s faction may come so late after the bitter wrangling in U.S Congress that one no longer really cares about war s outcome and only wishes the fighting to stop before everyone is dead Better not to wish for American military might, for that way lies destruction Why must we learn this lesson again and again Because the wise are dead, I suspect It is painful to contemplate the future when one has no faith in discourse, arms, or aid I listened to the Penguin Random House audio production of this book, read by Sunil Malhotra Malhotra reads slowly enough for us to grasp the complicated connections he relates, and reads the Arabic names with comprehension and precision Great job on narration Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Joby Warrick reveals how the strain of militant Islam now raising its banner across Iraq and Syria spread from a remote Jordanian prison with the unwitting aid of American military intervention When he succeeded his father in , King Abdullah of Jordan released a batch of political prisoners in the hopes of smoothing his transition to power Little did he know that among those released was Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a man who would go on to become a terrorist mastermind too dangerous even for al Qaeda and give rise to an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East Zarqawi began by directing hotel bombings and assassinations in Jordan from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion of that country inthat catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency By identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, the CIA inadvertently created a monster Like minded radicals saw him as a hero resisting the infidel occupiers and rallied to his cause Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings continued for years until Jordanian intelligence provided the Americans with the crucial intelligence needed to eliminate Zarqawi in aairstrike But his movement endured, first called al Qaeda in Iraq, then renamed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seeking refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq Syria border And as the Syrian civil war broke out in , ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi s dream of a sweeping, ultra conservative Islamic caliphate Drawing on unique access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Joby Warrick weaves together heart pounding, moment by moment operational details with overarching historical perspectives to reveal the long trajectory of today s most dangerous Islamic extremist threat From the Hardcover edition