An Al Jazeera production, Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL attempts to retrace the stratospheric rise of the bloodthirsty terrorist organization, and speculate on the severe consequences that may still lie in their wake.

A panel of experts from three different continents – including the former Iraq Minister of Defense Ali Allawi and National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie – provide the majority of the film’s informed commentary. According to their consensus, the United States invasion of the Iraq, and the subsequent toppling of Saddam Hussein, planted the foundation from which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could be born. Now rendered chaotic without the presence of its leader or any established government, Iraq’s lack of cohesive identity made them vulnerable to a new and threatening insurgency.

Destabilization in the region reached a turning point with the rise of Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a figure who was previously regarded as an innocuous presence at best. Declaring dogged allegiance to the philosophies of Osama Bin Laden, Al-Zarqawi inspired the ire of the United States with a series of videotaped beheadings of its captured citizens, and managed to detonate a level of civil war in the region through his mass bombings of sacred landmarks. At the height of al-Zarqawi’s rule, the region was suffering up to 5,000 deaths a month. Upon his death in a United States air strike, the snake of terrorism grew a new tail and called itself ISIL.

Throughout this unfortunate string of events, the perception of the United States and their role in the region began to transform on all sides. Were they liberators, as their leaders insisted them to be, or were they facilitators of a new realm of mayhem? The film’s expert panel consists of voices from all sides of these issues. Their debates run throughout the course of the film, and their practical and ideological differences make for fascinating and enlightening viewing.

Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL provides valuable insights into the origins of one of the most defining conflicts of our time. It is only through an understanding of where we’ve been that we may be able to determine where we go from here. Not available in the United States.

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