PBS FRONTLINE: The Rise of ISIS

The Rise of ISIS

A year ago, few people had heard of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — the brutal jihadist group that President Obama calls a “network of death.”

How did ISIS become a major force so quickly? And what does it mean for the U.S. to be back in Iraq, fighting a new war on terror, less than three years after American troops pulled out of the country?

On October 28, FRONTLINE presents The Rise of ISIS — a major, in-depth investigation of the brutal terrorist group’s ascent, from veteran producer and journalist Martin Smith.

In The Rise of ISIS, Smith draws on in-depth interviews with Iraqi politicians, and American policymakers and military leaders (including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta) to explore and explain how ISIS developed into what one interviewee calls “the Al Qaeda that Osama bin Laden only dreamed of building.”

Along the way, Smith delivers a revelatory look at how ISIS grew out of the disaffection of Iraqi Sunnis who were sidelined and targeted by Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after the American withdrawal.

The Rise of ISIS traces how they gained strength in Syria, how they’re funded, how they operate, and how, city by city, from Ramadi to Fallujah to Mosul, ISIS swept across Iraq — seizing territory, recording and broadcasting mass executions, and drawing recruits from an estimated 80 countries.

With ISIS continuing to take and hold territory in Iraq and Syria despite U.S. and coalition airstrikes, and President Obama’s foreign policy legacy hanging in the balance, The Rise of ISIS is the definitive account of how we reached this point.