An extraordinary map has been released which graphically illustrates the ambition of Islamic State, aka ISIS, to take over a large swathe of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It's been created by BBC reporter Andrew Hosken, who has written a book, Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State, depicting exactly what the terrorist group is aiming to ultimately achieve.
A Sharia-governed 'caliphate' would have the African nations of Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Central African Republic, Sudan and Cambodia at its southernmost point, with all more northern African countries under their control. They would take the whole of the Middle East and stretch out eastwards over Asia, taking in the likes of Kazakhstan, China and India - thereby taking a majority of the world's population with it. In Europe, they would look to reign in Spain - a nation with substantial Islamic-ruling heritage, given the Moors' rule over parts of it between the 8th and 15th centuries - as well as many of the Eastern and Southern bloc of countries, including Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. All of these nations would be renamed with Arabic titles.
The map is the end-point of a plan that was laid out by the founder of the terrorist group that would become IS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 1996, consisting of seven steps that would culminate in domination by 2020. Al-Zarqawi was killed by a US airstrike in 2006.
Several targets have already been missed: they aimed to provoke the US into declaring war on the Islamic world by 2003 (although you could argue that that nearly happened courtesy of Mr Bin Laden's attack, which led to the invasion of Iraq), together with an uprising against Arab rulers by 2013 (the democractic 'Arab spring' was probably not quite what they had in mind, although its ultimate gains have been extremely limited).
Nonetheless, with 50,000 members, assets of £2bn and control of large parts of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria and 10 million people under its control, it has made substantial progress.
And it doesn't stop there. Hosken explained to The Daily Record: “They want to take over all of what they see as the Islamic world. Once they have their caliphate, they plan to turn against the rest of the world. They envisage the whole world being under their rule. They have 60 nations against them, including the United States and Russia, so one would think that is pretty unlikely. But one would have thought the first steps were unlikely as well."
He continued, “People should realise Islamic State don’t want to create their caliphate and be left in peace. They see us being under their rule too and having to abide by their ideology. They have already destabilised Iraq and Syria, they have tried to destabilise Saudi Arabia and Libya and recently they almost destroyed Tunisia’s main industry, tourism. And the worry is the longer they are there, the more likely it is they will develop biological or chemical weapons. If they had weapons of mass destruction, they would use them. There is no question about that.”
So that's comforting.