ISIS | Wilson Center


The Ashley Madison Way of War

On December 11, 2015, Islamic State supporters published the home addresses of dozens of national security officials. It isn’t clear that the details are authentic, or that they were gathered via anything more sophisticated than Google, but the move marked a growing interest in low-grade digital conflict — the spread of an Ashley Madison way of war.

Fallout From Saudi Cleric’s Execution Underscores Mideast Challenges

It would be irrational to conclude that U.S. actions and inactions hadn’t contributed to the messes in the Middle East. But the region’s challenges are rooted in internal, religious, and sectarian problems that are not amenable or conducive to U.S. military power or political persuasion; and they are spread among allies who have their own needs and agendas. Three recent events underscore this.

The Longest War

The Sinai Peninsula. Paris. Mali. San Bernardino.

We keep trying to find our way out of this recurring nightmare of terrorist attacks. The United Nations unanimously adopted a resolution to use “all necessary measures” to combat Islamic State. Security services remain on the highest alert worldwide. For New Year's, Brussels canceled its festivities, Moscow shut down Red Square, and thousands of soldiers and police officers patrolled New York, Paris and London. But protecting every “soft target” in the world around the clock is impossible. We know more attacks will come.

Facing Reality in the Long War Against Jihadis

The jihadi terror we face is an insoluble problem. We can no more conclusively “win” the war against jihadi terror than we can “win” the wars against crime or drugs; or eliminate all racial prejudice; or eliminate all disease, poverty, and inequality. I say this as neither a declinist nor a defeatist. I served in Republican and Democratic administrations for more than 20 years working on Middle East issues, and I believe deeply in American exceptionalism and power.

Will ISIS Infect Bangladesh?

In a National Interest piece last August, we argued that ISIS’s prospects in Bangladesh are relatively limited. Pro-ISIS sentiment is weak, we concluded, and the group will have great difficulty establishing a strong foothold there.

The Mali Terror Attacks: Regional and International Implications

The recent terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali, has been claimed by Al Mourabitoun, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, although the Malian government now claims that it suspects that another group, the Macina Liberation Front, was responsible for the attack. The November 20 attack, which came on the heels of terrorist attacks in Lebanon, France and Nigeria, serves as a reminder to African and international policymakers on several fronts.

Why is the Idea of Female Western Jihadists a Mystery?

“It remains a mystery what motivated the young French woman to stray from her suburban upbringing into the murderous realm of terrorists. No one interviewed so far has said there were hints of extremism in the Aitboulahcen they knew,” the Washington Post wrote on November 20, 2015. Hasna Aitboulahcen, a 26-year-old ISIS recruit, was among the terrorists associated with the November 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people—the deadliest round of violence in France since World War II. “’She loved life,’ Aitboulahcen’s former classmate and childhood friend told the BBC.

How to Counter Jihadist Appeal among Western European Muslims

Worldwide terrorism connected with the jihadist insurgencies in Syria and Iraq emerges disproportionately among second- and third-generation Muslim youth from Western Europe. Many of them identify neither with European society nor with their countries of origin, but find in jihadist propaganda an identity in a transcendent “nation of Islam.” Governments should prepare community leaders to identify and intervene with at-risk youth and should enhance and coordinate efforts to counter jihadist propaganda both online and in local communities.


The Syrian Crisis and Israeli Security Challenges


Three experts on Israel discussed the challenges to Israel’s security threat posed by the Syrian civil war, the effect of regional and international influences, and the future of Israeli security policy.

Can Hollande Lead the Fight Against ISIS?

Can French President Francois Hollande turn a coalition of the risk-averse, self-interested, and unwilling, into a functional coalition finally willing and ready to defeat the Islamic State? The Nov. 24 shoot-down of a Russian fighter jet will make the already challenging task only that much more daunting. To succeed, Hollande will have to overcome four key obstacles.