The caliph in the Islamic State and the Supreme Leader in Iran hold absolute authority in both political and religious realms with few, if any, real checks on their power.
Despite their similar names, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria represent two distinct visions of an ideal state based on the faith. They have more differences than similarities in politics, economic life, culture and, most of all, how they blend politics and religion.
The contrast between the Islamic State and the Islamic Republic is especially visible in their treatment of women and minorities, evident in ISIS documents and Iranian laws.
The Islamic world is rife with political diversity, from ultraconservative monarchies to new democracies. But two places reflect the escalating rivalry over an ideal Islamic state in the 21st century: The Islamic Republic of Iran, predominantly Shiite, was born of a revolution against centuries of monarchical rule. The Islamic State, purely Sunni, was born out of war in the modern nations of Iraq and Syria.
On Feb. 4, 2015, ISIS militants executed captured Jordanian pilot Moaz Kasasbeh by burning him alive. The pilot’s execution drew condemnation across the Islamist spectrum.
On Feb. 4, 2015, President Obama met with 15 Muslim American leaders at the White House. Discussions focused on countering violent extremism, protecting civil liberties, and other issues.
Tunisia held peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections at the end of 2014, but its attempts to form a new government in January reveal tensions among its political factions.
The International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) at King's College London has released results of a report estimating that more than 20,000 foreign fighters have joined Sunni militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
Iran is playing a crucial role in buttressing President Bashar Assad, through military advice, provision of weapons, and funding of the cash-strapped Syrian government. The Assad regime might not survive without support of Iran and its allies such as Hezbollah.
The Iranian government, particularly the Revolutionary Guards, is playing a huge role in helping the Iraqi security forces fight the Islamic State, especially in Diyala.