In a feature-article about the Islamic State, NYT top-correspondent Rukmini Callimachi explain how Daesh managed to keep a state based in Syria and Iraq going for three years and expand into several other countries. This is thorough investigation into what made the Daesh tick and is focusing on Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the most important for Daesh.
In explaining that a key-factor in its sustainability was keeping normal functions working using the same staff as before the take-over, the article shows the thoroughness of Daesh thinking about state-building, from printing money to making sure the sewers were maintained. It also shows that IS ruled by bureaucracy as much as by the sword, even though the violence was what the outside world most came to know.
The trove of documents left behind when the Caliphate crumbled has been examined before by researchers, but this report is one of the first that present – to a larger audience – this picture of the Islamic State as a something much more than only a violent terrorist group. Of particular interest, especially for the Iraqi government now in charge, is perhaps the fact that the material also shows that at times IS offered better service and proved more capable than the government it replaced, but also building their state on the back of the one before. This is backed up by documents and interviews with people living under the rule of Daesh.
The feature-article also shows the extent and scope of the revenue stream Daesh controlled, making it self-financed and not dependent on external donors, also showing that contrary to what many believed, revenues from oil (often through smuggling) was far less than taxes on every-day transactions, the ratio being 6:1.
It highlights the detailed measures, planned in advance, that confiscated homes and lands belonging to non-Sunnis (Shia, Christians and Yazidis for example) to rent them out (or sell) to Sunnis. Every non-Sunni former employee lost his or her job (and females of all sects where sacked).
This timely piece is a reminder that the Islamic State really did create a state and that the intention from the start was to do just that. The fact that it managed to exist for so long also point to the fact that the ideology and ideas behind the Caliphate are still around.