It was neither the longest nor the bloodiest of the long succession of ISIS wars (2014-2047) that dominated the first half of the twenty-first century. With the benefit of hindsight, however, it was clearly the most important. Great wars invariably produce equally violent progeny. The First ISIS War (2014-2019) was no exception. What was unusual about the Second ISIS War (2015-2024) was that it began before the first one had even ended. Indeed, few even realized it had begun until its most notable victories had already been achieved.
It began quietly enough: in the chaos that was post-Qaddafi Libya and the multi-generational turmoil that was Afghanistan. Both failed states of little intrinsic importance, or so if was first thought. Their strategic value to the growing ISIS/Islamic State Empire, however, would become apparent soon enough. Afghanistan would prove to be particularly significant. It was there, in the shadow of the Hindu Kush, that ISIS finally defeated its historic nemesis al-Qaeda.
The public beheading of Ayman al-Zawahiri, in 2018, streamed live across the Internet and via satellite transmission may have brought a certain amount of satisfaction to Western leaders, but it also marked the undisputed emergence of ISIS as the global commander of international jihadism. In the end, Zawahiri was not without a certain pathos. Many would note that he showed far more dignity in his death than the scores of Western leaders who would eventually prostrate themselves to the Islamic State's caliph in hope of securing a more favorable deal for their constituents.
ISIS's triumph in Afghanistan had another unforeseen consequence. It brought ISIS to the border of Iran. The subsequent Iranian-ISIS war, also known as the Third ISIS War (2020-2025) would shatter the Shia revival that had begun with the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979 and settle once and for all the Sunni dominance that had resulted from the defeat of Hussein ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD/61AH (For convenience's sake, I am continuing to use the now discarded Gregorian or Christian calendar rather than the new, Islamic State mandated calendar). The fact that ISIS showed as much zeal in killing Shias as it did Christians and Westerners would, in the end, be of little comfort.
Even the successful testing of a nuclear weapon in 2021 by the Iran-Iraq Federation proved to have little effect on the final outcome of that war. Not surprisingly, the war did see the first use of nuclear-armed suicide bombers--a logical and inevitable evolution of the twenty-first century transformation of the suicide bomber into a true weapon of mass destruction. What was truly ironic in the end, was the fact that it was Israeli technical assistance that finally showed the Iranians how to perfect the nuclear bomb vest. This was one of the more obvious outcomes of the Israel-Iran Reconciliation Treaty of 2020 negotiated by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Iranian President Soleimani.
The Pakistani Civil War, which pitted Pakistan's minority Shias against its majority Sunnis, was the second inevitable outcome of ISIS's Afghan victory. Pakistan's Shia community, the second largest in the Muslim world, had succeeded, a few notable incidents notwithstanding, in coexisting with the Sunni majority. In the face of ISIS's virulent anti-Shia ideology, however, that relative peace was quickly shattered. The bitterly fought civil war, 2018-2024, destroyed what vestige of authority the Pakistani civilian government had been able to retain. When the Pakistani Army command followed the lead of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency and threw its lot in with ISIS, there was not much else that the government in Karachi could do except resign.
The Pakistani hoard of atomic weapons and nuclear armed missiles transformed ISIS, bringing it into the junior ranks of the world's nuclear powers. The threat of nuclear armed jihadism proved to be a potent persuader as one Sunni Arab kingdom after another found common cause with ISIS and joined the ever growing caliphate. When Wahhabi extremists overthrew the Saudi monarchy in 2026 and petitioned to join the Caliphate, ISIS's nuclear capability was further enhanced by its direct control of 35% of the world's petroleum reserves. By 2030, all of the Muslim nations of North Africa had joined the Islamic State Union as tributary members, creating an empire than ran from the Atlas mountains to the western flank of the Himalayas.
Leaders in the West remained adamant that ISIS would never actually use its newly acquired nuclear arsenal and even suggested not only recognizing the Islamic State but also possibly offering it a seat on the UN Security Council (without veto power of course). The European Community's belief that ISIS could be "tamed" and that it was possible, in the famous words of the last EU president (before the division of the EU into a Northern and Southern Federation in February 2024), "to do business with the Islamic State Caliphate" proved to be naïve however.
Three months later ISIS responded to the Iranian's Mullahs' determined defiance by launching three Shaheen-III intermediate range ballistic missiles against Tehran. It was overkill. The death toll exceeded six million, and the carnage that followed across the Iran-Iraq Federation was even greater. Historians still debate whether it was the destruction of the Imam Husain Shrine in Karbala or the expulsion of Bahrain's Shia community from the Arabian Peninsula that marked the final death throes of the Shia revival.
For Europe, however, it was ISIS's takeover of Libya that would prove its undoing. The Libyan Civil War lasted for seven years, from 2011 through 2018. By the time it was over, Libya's oil industry had been largely destroyed and the country shattered. By then, Libya's oil was of little importance to a world awash in petroleum. ISIS's Mediterranean beachhead, on the other hand, would prove to have far reaching consequences. The "Mediterranean Refugee Crisis," an ongoing problem largely aggravated and sustained by ISIS as a way of lining its own coffers, garnered the jihadist group upwards of a billion dollars a year in revenue, allowed it to place its jihadists in strategic locations, and taxed Europe to its limits dealing with a yearly deluge of between half a million and a million refugees.
The first to go were the Mediterranean islands. Lampedusa and Pantelleria were quickly overrun. They were followed by Crete and the Balearics. The islands of the eastern Aegean, caught in a vise between Islamic State forces expanding from Anatolia and from Crete, went next. Finally, on January 31, 2022, in what would come to be called the Third Great Siege, Valletta fell. What the Ottomans and the Axis had failed to do, ISIS had achieved. Malta was the first European country to be restored to the Caliphate. As the Emir, Mohammed II proclaimed, "the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 had finally been avenged." It had taken almost half a millennium, "but in the end the sword had triumphed over the cross."
ISIS's ongoing war against Mediterranean tourism in general, and the cruise industry in particular, proved to be remarkably effective. The tourism industry directly generated around 400 billion dollars in turnover in the Mediterranean and employed over eight million people. Including indirect contributions, tourism, broadly defined, was one of the top three industries along the Mediterranean borderlands generating close to a trillion dollars in economic activity and providing employment to 20 million people. The economic chaos that followed the virtual disappearance of Mediterranean tourism after 2020 would prove to be devastating to the already economically crippled countries of the European Community's Mediterranean fringe.
The subsequent simultaneous invasion of Spain, Italy and Greece by Islamic State jihadists in December 2023, proved to be the final straw. When leaders of the Mediterranean Economic Alliance met with government leaders of the North Europe Economic Community in Munich in March 2024 to seek yet another financial bailout (Italy's third, Spain's second, Greece's sixth) the leaders of northern Europe announced they were through with supporting their indolent neighbors in the south. "Let them pay for their own dolce vita," declared Horst Mueller, the newly elected German Chancellor and head of the German Aryan People's Party.
At what came to be called "Second Munich," Europe's leaders agreed to cede the Mediterranean fringe to the Islamic State in return for an immediate cessation of jihadist inspired terrorist violence in Europe. "It is not a perfect peace," declared Germany's new chancellor, "but it is a tolerable peace, one that preserves the European way of life and insures peace for our time." In the end the Peace of Second Munich would prove to be short lived. The Fourth ISIS War would last from 2026 through 2038 and see much of Europe fall to Islamic State. Only in Norway and New Scotland, would a determined resistance continue.
One by one, the nations of Europe would seek their own peace with the Islamic State Caliphate. Forced to choose between the promise of a benign, politically correct, multicultural coexistence and the never ending sacrifice of a determined resistance, Europe chose to abandon its historic culture in favor of a multicultural oblivion. The European way of life was preserved, argued its supporters. At least, the six weeks of yearly vacations and paid extended maternity leave were preserved, but culturally, politically, socially, Europe stopped being Europe. When, in 2036, the newly appointed Emir Mohammed III declared that Michelangelo's David would be destroyed as a sign that Europe was abandoning its decadent, pagan roots, tens of thousands showed up in Florence's Piazza della Signoria to cheer. The spectacle was broadcast live to a worldwide audience of over three billion people.
The transformation of Seville Cathedral, the largest church in Europe following the destruction of St. Peter's in Rome in 2025, into the al-Baghdadi Mosque, took less than two years. It was the Bin Laden Mosque however, built around and incorporating the former Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, that would boast the tallest minarets in Europe. The French adjusted rapidly, with Louis Vuitton prayer rugs quickly becoming fashionable. The champagne industry, however, never fully recovered. Connoisseurs to this day still debate the merits of "French Pol Roger" with "Oregon Pol Roger." Unfortunately, you just couldn't duplicate Champagne's 200 foot thick layer of chalk. But one ISIS contribution, the restoration of slavery, quickly put down roots in Europe. Although officially discouraged, a thriving, although surreptitious, slave trade rapidly took hold.
In the end, Second Munich would prove to be the undoing of northern Europe just as it had been the undoing of southern Europe. This time, no one came forward to inspire and lead a unified Europe, no twenty-first century Churchill emerged to declare resolutely that, "we shall never surrender." Europe died, without fanfare, without fuss without even a whimper, while Washington dithered. The Poles hung on the longest. The siege of Warsaw in 2036 lasted for nearly a year. But the invasion by the Khanate of Moscow from the East proved too much. The Polish Government in exile continues on in Los Angeles, but it has little prospect of ever reclaiming its birthright.
The ISIS war in North America, the Fifth ISIS War (2037-2047) still rages, the Peace of Cape Cod (a misnomer since the agreement had actually been negotiated during a presidential vacation in the Hamptons) notwithstanding. This most recent ISIS war, a struggle for the heart and soul of North America shows no sign of ending any time soon. U.S. military forces, reduced by successive cuts to just fewer than 100,000 soldiers, were initially overwhelmed. They have managed to hold the line against ISIS forces only with the help of the European Volunteer Brigades and the rapidly growing American People's Militias. There is even talk of reviving the United States Marine Corp, dissolved by the Sanity in Military Spending Act of 2022, as a fighting force.
In a war that has shown no shortage of heroes, two in particular, the Los Angeles Armenian Volunteer Battalion and the Minnesota Eagle Scout Brigade both distinguished themselves in the defense of Sault Ste. Marie. So too did the American Black Watch and the Kurdish-American Defense League in the ultimately unsuccessful defense of Detroit. At the memorial to the Battle of Sault Ste. Marie unveiled last month, Tom Evans, Commander of the Minnesota Eagle Scout Brigade and a former Eagle Scout, observed that, "the misguided political and economic policies of the last 50 years did not just take away our children's future, they took away their childhood too."
In the end, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that it was the West's unwillingness to resolutely confront the monstrosity that is the Islamic State in the First ISIS War that would precipitate the catastrophe that would follow. By the time the Second ISIS war started, the inability of the Western World to destroy a rapidly metastasizing ISIS or to recognize it for the unspeakable and barbarous evil that it was, would ultimately prove its undoing. The willingness of the West to stand by while ISIS spread and grew stronger has never, to this day, been satisfactorily explained. In retrospect, it is obvious that by failing to destroy ISIS in its early years, the West defeated itself. No doubt, that was the reason that the Islamic State's current Emir, Mohammed III, made a point of setting up his North American Headquarters in the former Obama Presidential Library in Chicago.
As the twenty-first century approaches its halfway mark, the horror that is the Islamic State shows no sign of abating. If only if...