Islamic State’s Three Prong Strategy
We are all disgusted by the savagery displayed in ISIS propaganda videos so easily disseminated via social media. However, the revulsion we feel is meaningless if it does not motivate us to learn what ISIS seeks to accomplish and, perhaps more importantly, how they think they will establish their Islamic global caliphate. Remember that “knowledge is power.” With the right knowledge we can defeat ISIS:
(WSJ- Opinion 2/23/15) [In a report from the] Institute for the Study of War “ISIS Global Intelligence Summary,” open-source reporting indicates that ISIS is executing a complex global strategy across three geographic rings.
The “Interior Ring” is at the center of the fighting and includes terrain the group is named for, specifically Iraq and al Sham—i.e., the Levantine states of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel-Palestine.
The “Near Abroad Ring” includes the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, extending east to Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS has claimed auxiliary operations or established what it calls “governorates” across this region.
The “Far Abroad Ring” includes the rest of the world, specifically Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Here ISIS is most focused on nearby Europe, which it terms “Rome” as a reference to the Byzantine empire, the great power adversary in decline during the rise of the early Islamic caliphs. ISIS distinguishes between established Muslim lands and those that host Muslim diaspora communities, and it uses different but interlocking strategies in each ring to expand its influence.
Once focused on recruiting radical Islamists in Europe and elsewhere to join the fight in Iraq and Syria, ISIS now also encourages them to remain at home to recruit others and launch local attacks, such as those in France and Denmark. These attacks are intended to polarize Western societies and deter strikes on the ISIS core ruling stronghold in Iraq and Syria. ISIS believes this polarization will lay the groundwork for an all-out war with the West when the time comes.
In short, ISIS has adapted to the U.S.-led coalition campaign in Iraq and Syria by rapidly building a regional and global network that it can use to recruit and attack. In this way, it may well be able to sustain its global terrorist campaign if it loses terrain in Iraq and Syria—perhaps even if it is driven out of that region.