Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS

by Joby Warrick


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“A Best Book of 2015”—The New York Times, The Washington PostPeople Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Kansas City Star, and Kirkus Reviews

In a thrilling dramatic narrative, awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, Joby Warrick traces how the strain of militant Islam behind ISIS first arose in a remote Jordanian prison and spread with the unwitting aid of two American presidents.
   When the government of Jordan granted amnesty to a group of political prisoners in 1999, it little realized that among them was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist mastermind and soon the architect of an Islamist movement bent on dominating the Middle East. In Black Flags, an unprecedented character-driven account of the rise of ISIS, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Joby Warrick shows how the zeal of this one man and the strategic mistakes of Presidents Bush and Obama led to the banner of ISIS being raised over huge swaths of Syria and Iraq.
   Zarqawi began by directing terror attacks from a base in northern Iraq, but it was the American invasion in 2003 that catapulted him to the head of a vast insurgency. By falsely identifying him as the link between Saddam and bin Laden, U.S. officials inadvertently spurred like-minded radicals to rally to his cause. Their wave of brutal beheadings and suicide bombings persisted until American and Jordanian intelligence discovered clues that led to a lethal airstrike on Zarqawi’s hideout in 2006.
   His movement, however, endured. First calling themselves al-Qaeda in Iraq, then Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, his followers sought refuge in unstable, ungoverned pockets on the Iraq-Syria border. When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, and as the U.S. largely stood by, ISIS seized its chance to pursue Zarqawi’s dream of an ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate.
   Drawing on unique high-level access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Warrick weaves gripping, moment-by-moment operational details with the perspectives of diplomats and spies, generals and heads of state, many of whom foresaw a menace worse than al Qaeda and tried desperately to stop it. Black Flags is a brilliant and definitive history that reveals the long arc of today’s most dangerous extremist threat.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804168939
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 159,593
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

JOBY WARRICK has been a reporter for The Washington Post since 1996. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for journalism and for his book Black Flags: The Rise of Isis. He is also the author of The Triple Agent.

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Excerpted from "Black Flags"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Joby Warrick.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

List of Principal Characters xv

Map of Key Locations xviii

Prologue 1

Book I The Rise of Zarqawi

1 "What kind of person can command with only his eyes?" 15

2 "Here was a real leader" 30

3 "A problem like that always comes back" 46

4 "The time for training is over" 62

5 "I did it for al-Qaeda and for Zarqawi" 72

6 "This war is going to happen" 86

7 "Now his fame would extend throughout the Arab world" 95


8 "No longer a victory" 101

9 "So you guys think this is an insurgency?" 115

10 "Revolting is exactly what we want" 126

11 "It would surpass anything al-Qaeda did" 138

12 "The sheikh of the slaughterers" 151

13 "It's hopeless there" 161

14 "Are you going to get him?" 176

15 "This is our 9/11" 193

16 "Your end is close" 206


17 "The people want to topple the regime!" 223

18 "Where is this Islamic State of Iraq that you're talking about?" 239

19 "This is the state for which Zarqawi paved the way" 251

20 "The mood music started to change" 267

21 "There was no more hope after that" 281

22 "This is a tribal revolution" 296

Epilogue 308

Afterword 317

Acknowledgments 324

Notes 328

Index 345

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Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating, easily understood and very informative. Answered many questions I had regarding terrorism and it's beginnings.
PhilipHenika More than 1 year ago
Helping ISIS - A book review of Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick - From the reading of Joby Warrick's Pulitzer Prizing winning Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, one can glean at least five factors which contributed to the rise of Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq and Baghdadi's ISIS. The least discussed was climate change e.g. drought and the disenfranchisement of small farmers in Syria i.e. Assad granted carte' blanche water rights to big farming. The second factor least discussed was the ability of ISIS to evade America's cyberwarfare measures to counter ISIS propaganda and recruiting via social media. The widespread Arab Spring was discussed as the basis for anti-government protests that were countered in some nations like Egypt but were left unchecked in Syria with the result that ISIS was able to recruit. The fourth factor was the Bush Administration's disenfranchisement of the Baathist professionals who then shifted their loyalties, support and resources to ISIS. This was bad but, IMO, the most disturbing factor was the lack of authority and action sharing between the CIA and The White House. Briefly, the CIA was prepared to take out Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq when it was vulnerable and the Bush Administration refused to take action. Perhaps it is "groupthink" or the yielding to arrogance that fosters the repeat of history. I highly recommend Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS as food for thought and I have no hesitation in giving it five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Ejordan More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. Gives you access to intelligence sources that explains the origins of ISIS, and the mistakes that were made to allow it to grow. Couldn't put it down. Reads like a novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS as it is more commonly referred to, first became widely known to the American public when major cities and large swaths of Iraqi land were conquered in 2014. At a time when it appeared that the war on terror, already over a decade long, was finally winding down and former president George Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech was actually coming to fruition, allowing American soldiers to start coming home to stay, a new threat rising out of the sands of the Middle East drew significant attention. It is only natural that the American people would want to know where this group came from–what lead up to a relatively unknown organization suddenly reversing the progress that had been made through years of war and nation building. Joby Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, manages to leave readers pretty much right where they started with his book Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS as he offers significant insight into the Jordanian Monarchy, important background on the war in Iraq, and biographical information on ISIS leaders but very little on how this organization actually rose to the threat it became at its peak. While Warrick is quick to provide details on events and hard facts about various terror organizations he has a distinct tendency to contradict himself while demonstrating a flair for redundancy and embracing a notable lack of continuity. For a reader interested in learning about the rise of ISIS, Warrick’s book offers little more than a generic overview of how terrorist groups tend to form. Someone already familiar with this topic will find relatively little value in Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS and may even dismiss what new information Warrick does offer thanks to his apparent ignorance of events he writes about as well as his frequently changing opinions throughout the book. This, coupled with a writing style that makes it clear Warrick would have much rather written a spy-thriller, leaves the reader wondering if an early draft was mistakenly published. Warrick shows off his fallacies relatively early in the book when he writes of the 2003 car bombing at the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, “… a new type of terrorism had emerged, one that targeted civilians with powerful explosives hidden in cars.” Maybe Warrick was unaware of the over 3,000 car bombs detonated during the Lebanese Civil War which officially ended thirteen years prior or had not realized that car bombings became synonymous with the Irish Republican Army during their thirty years of war against the British which ended in 1998. That being said, one needs only to flip back a couple of chapters and re-read where Warrick discusses the Millennium Plot, which featured a foiled would-be car bombing of Los Angeles International Airport, to wonder how exactly this 2003 attack constitutes a “new type of terrorism.” This is, of course, not the only logical inconsistency that leaves the reader wondering if they missed something. Later when discussing the Syrian Civil War Warrick uses two continuous paragraphs to say that the jihadist organization Al-Nusra Front is simultaneously “increasingly dangerous” and a greater threat than al-Qaeda, “jihadist lite”—not as menacing as al-Qaeda—and also “al-Qaeda in all but name.” The inconsistency in criticisms is also noteworthy. Warrick criticizes the concept of nation building in the Middle East. Citing that most people there hold no national id
Stevec50 More than 1 year ago
To be honest there seems to be plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the policies and errors that helped create the terrorist group we now know as ISIS. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Joby Warrick (The Triple Agent) brings us the story of how a Jordanian street brawler and thug, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, became the poster-boy for international terrorism and the founder of the Islamic State. We learn of Zarqawi's early years as petty tough and the events (both international and within Jordan)that turned him into a jihadist whose goal was to create an caliphate encompassing all of what we now think of as the Middle East. From his early attempts to gain the trust of Ossama Bin Laden to his ascendance to the leadership of a small army, we see how both the Bush and Obama administrations mistakes aided in the growth of the radicalism of a generation. Brilliantly written, well-researched and with an objective view of how things got to where they are now. While this book was written a couple of years ago, it remains timely as we can see in evening news reports from Syria and other places touched by violence in the name of religion.