Zack Beauchamp | Vox | MSN News | November 19, 2015

To understand the Middlw]e— why it exists, what it wants, and why it commits terrible violence of which the Paris attacks are only the latest — you need to understand the tangled story of how it came to be.

The group began, in a very different form, in 1999. In the 16 years since, it has been shaped by — and has at moments helped to shape — the conflicts, physical and ideological, of the Middle East.

Here, then, is a concise history of the rise of ISIS from its earliest origins to the present-day. It is the story of one of the richest and most powerful terrorist organizations ever to exist — but it’s also a story that reveals the ways in which ISIS has proven much weaker than you might think.

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