Q. What is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria?
A. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has been designated by the United States as an international terrorist organization. It operates in Iraq and Syria and has as its goal the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, or state, in the area now occupied by Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. It is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and sometimes as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.
Q. What is its relationship to al Qaida?
A. ISIS was once considered an affiliate of al Qaida, but the two groups have broken over ISIS’ role in Syria. Al Qaida has criticized ISIS for being too brutal and has complained that ISIS’ zeal to establish an Islamic state has distracted from the current push to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. Last year, al Qaida chief Ayman al Zawahiri ordered ISIS’ leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, to withdraw his forces from Syria. Baghdadi ignored the order.