ISIS a fanatical force – with a weakness

Editor’s Note: Charles Lister is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, where his work focuses particularly on terrorism and insurgency in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. He is writing a book on the jihadist insurgency in Syria. Follow him on Twitter @Charles_Lister. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

Charles Lister: ISIS gaining recruits, cash and weapons in inevitable offensive in Iraq

Lister: ISIS gains from what has become a Sunni uprising, but its ties to Iraq's Sunnis unstable

He says once ISIS brutality starts, support may change and ISIS will be forced back

Lister: ISIS a formidable, fanatical force bent on rapid results but may fail in long term

CNN  — 

Last week, Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul fell to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. In a few hours, the city’s security forces had dropped their weapons and uniforms and fled. Since then, the militants introduced a political charter in Mosul and marched south, seizing additional towns en route to the capital, Baghdad.

In taking Mosul alone, ISIS gained as much as $425 million in cash, an unspecified quantity of gold bullion, huge amounts of light and heavy weaponry (mostly U.S.-made) and probably hundreds of new recruits from three main detention centers, all which were overrun.

Charles Lister

This Iraq-based offensive has been coming for at least two years. After the last American military personnel withdrew from Iraq on December 31, 2011, the then-Islamic State in Iraq began its gradual but determined recovery – befitting the organization’s mantra of baqiya wa tatamadad (“lasting and expanding”). The strategy was meticulousl