ISIS, ISIL, Daesh – What’s In A Name?
This week President Obama addressed the nation in a rare Oval Office speech. The intent was to assuage concerns that the government isn’t doing enough to protect us from radicalized jihadists, like the couple in San Bernardino last week. But the speech may have raised more questions and apprehensions than provided answers or assurances. And perhaps the largest is in the language used to describe the threat.
The speech made reference to ISIL sixteen times. This is itself significant. ISIL is one of the retired acronyms the organization that prefers to be referred to as the Islamic State has used. The original acronym they employed was ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIL, however, has much more broad regional significance, for it stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Levant includes some historically significant territory, including not just Syria, but the region referred to in Biblical times as Palestine. So ISIL includes the entire Fertile Crescent from the Persian Gulf through southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and northern Egypt. In other words, the entire region from the Taurus Mountains of Turkey in the North, the Mediterranean Sea on the west, the Tigris-Euphrates river system on the East.
Our Secretary of State uses a different term to identify the group. Since late last year Secretary John Kerry habitually has referred to them as Daesh. Perhaps just as incendiary as the president’s insistence on using the ISIL acronym, Daesh refers to the Arabic name of the group, ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām. The Arabic version implies that the Islamic State is a worldwide caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph. As a caliphate, it claims “religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, and that the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the khilāfah’s [caliphate’s] authority and arrival of its troops to their areas,” according to Washington Post foreign affairs writer, Ishaan Tharoor.