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Crisis in Iraq

State Dept.: ISIS is 'worse than al Qaeda'

The terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has reportedly surpassed al Qaeda's recruiting ability in Iraq and the broader Middle East. Younger militants seem to increasingly view al Qaeda as outdated and ineffective, expressing their dissatisfaction in online message boards. ISIS, by contrast, is increasingly seen by young extremists as the more vibrant terror network, thanks to its rapid sweep through Iraq and Syria; its targeting of Shi'ites, women, and Christians; and its pattern of brutal tactics like crucifixion.

The U.S. State Department has now labeled ISIS "worse than al Qaeda." Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday that ISIS has matched and exceeded "al Qaeda in its doctrine, ambition and, increasingly, in its threat to U.S. interests." He also cautioned that ISIS is "no longer a terrorist organization. It is a full-blown army."

ISIS is an al Qaeda offshoot in Iraq that was disavowed by its parent organization for being too extreme. ISIS's goal is to establish a Sunni caliphate in the Sunni-majority regions of Iraq and Syria, a goal they announced was completed on June 29. Before the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, there was no al Qaeda presence in Iraq.