Martin Smith (Gangs of Iraq; Beyond Baghdad) draws on in-depth interviews with Iraqi politicians, and American policymakers and military leaders to explore and explain how the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) became a major force so quickly. What does it mean for the U.S. to be back in Iraq, fighting a new war on terror, less than three years after American troops pulled out of the country? Smith delivers a revelatory look at how ISIS grew out of the disaffection of Iraqi Sunnis who were sidelined and targeted by Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after the American withdrawal. The film traces how they gained strength in Syria, how they're funded, how they operate, and how, city by city, from Ramadi to Fallujah to Mosul, ISIS swept across Iraq-seizing territory, recording and broadcasting mass executions, and drawing recruits from an estimated 80 countries. With ISIS continuing to take and hold territory in Iraq and Syria despite U.S. and coalition airstrikes, and President Obama's foreign policy legacy hanging in the balance, The Rise of ISIS is the definitive account of how the U.S. has reached this point.