ISIL has been truly devastating to those it comes in contact with and bloody to those under its control. Its sudden rise and expansion in 2014 has perplexed many. It has humiliated its enemies, including those in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran and Washington. Armed with extensive weaponry, boasting an international fighting force and adept in the art of digital media propaganda, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has become the de facto authority across an area the size of the United Kingdom. This two-part series peels back the rhetoric to examine how a volunteer organization managed to rise up from the ashes of post-invasion Iraq and defeat standing armies many times its size and capacity. How did it begin? How did it grow so astonishingly quickly? And how is it being used by global and regional powers to change the geopolitical map of the Middle East? With critical testimony from informed insiders and experts from across three continents, as well as original footage from Syria and Iraq, this series mixes documentary and discussion to unravel the interweaving nexus of events and alliances, at once aligned and conflicting, that have given rise to the world’s most notorious, and powerful, insurgent group.