In addition to attacks on government and military targets, the group has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. Despite significant setbacks to the group during the latter stages of the Coalition’s presence in Iraq, by late 2012 the group was thought to have renewed its strength and more than doubled its number of members to about 2,500.
A letter and later an audio recording by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, was leaked to Al Jazeera in 2013, disbanding the Syrian faction of the Islamic State. However, the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadihas made it clear that he contested this ruling on the basis of Islamic jurisprudence, and the group has since continued to operate in Syria. Starting in April 2013, the group made rapid military gains to control large parts of Northern Syria, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described them as “the strongest group”.
Following large scale offensives into Iraq, ISIS is reported to have seized control over most of Mosul, the second most populous city in Iraq and its surrounding Nineveh province in addition to Fallujah. ISIS has also taken control of Tikrit, the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate.”
“The term was coined in 2004 by King Abdullah II of Jordan at a time when Iran was reportedly interfering inIraq in the run-up to the January 2005 parliamentary elections. This was in the context of a threatened, later realised, boycott of the elections by Sunnis in Iraq potentially leading to a Shia-dominated government and the assumption that a Shia Iraq might fall under the influence of Shia Iran. The suggestion was that the common religion gives good potential for cooperation between Iran, Iraq, Alawite-dominated Syria and the politically powerful Shia militia Hezbollah in Lebanon; as well, the suggestion was that these others would be proxies for Iran in a regional power play.
The term has developed since to encompass other Shia areas of the Middle East. The nations where Shia Muslims form a dominant majority are Iran and Iraq. Shias also represent a large majority in Azerbaijan, however it is constitutionally a secular state. Those who are actual practicing adherents are much lower, which has led to them generally being excluded from the crescent. Shia are also the majority of citizens inBahrain, however the government is largely Sunni.
Large Shia minorities also exist in Lebanon, Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indiaand to a lesser extent, UAE. Excepting Lebanon, where the weak central government structure of Lebanon has allowed Hezbollah to become involved in the Syrian civil war, these are not usually described as part of the crescent.”