Experienced journalist and author Patrick Cockburn has written a timely book which serves as a useful primer to the IS phenomenon. Whilst not focusing too much on the complicated evolution of what is currently IS, the strength of Cockburn’s book lies in clearly explaining the geo-political conjuncture which has provided the opportunity for the IS to seize and hold an area the size of Britain. The slow-motion catastrophe in Syria provided the perfect staging ground for IS’ re-emergence in Iraq during a time of deepening sectarian crisis. The success of IS in Iraq needs is based on the support of the majority Sunni population who have in parts, and not uncritically sided with IS against the Shia dominated Iraqi state. That IS’s success must be attributed to wider forces including the resistance of certain sections of the Sunni population to the violent Shia dominance of the Iraqi state is a key to understanding the IS phenomenon.

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