ISIS is setting a trap for Europe
by Harleen Gambhir
Last week, President Obama said the Islamic State is "contained " in Iraq and Syria, but the group's attacks in Paris soon afterward showed that it poses a greater threat to the West than ever.
The Islamic State is executing a global strategy to defend its territory in Iraq and Syria, foster affiliates in other Muslim-majority areas, and encourage and direct terrorist attacks in the wider world.
It has exported its brutality and military methods to groups in Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Now it is using tactical skills acquired on Middle Eastern battlefields to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash that will generate even more recruits within Western societies. The United States and its allies must respond quickly to this threat.
The Islamic State's strategy is to polarize Western society — to "destroy the grayzone," as it says in its publications. The group hopes frequent, devastating attacks in its name will provoke overreactions by European governments against innocent Muslims, thereby alienating and radicalizing Muslim communities throughout the continent.
The atrocities in Paris are only the most recent instances of this accelerating campaign. Since January, European citizens fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have provided online and material support to lethal operations in Paris, Copenhagen and near Lyon, France, as well as attempted attacks in London, Barcelona and near Brussels.
Islamic State fighters are likely responsible for destroying the Russian airliner over the Sinai. These attacks are not random, nor are they aimed primarily at affecting Western policy in the Middle East. They are, rather, part of a militarily capable organization's campaign to mobilize extremist actors already in Europe and to recruit new ones.
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