The New York Times reports: ISIS propaganda … has strikingly few calls for attacks on the West, even though its most notorious video, among Americans, released 12 days ago, showed the beheading of the American journalist James Foley, threatened another American hostage, and said that American attacks on ISIS “would result in the bloodshed” of Americans. This diverged from nearly all of ISIS’s varied output, which promotes its paramount goal: to secure and expand the Islamic state. Experts say that could change overnight, but for now it sharply distinguishes ISIS from Al Qaeda, which has long made attacks on the West its top priority.
And while ISIS may be built on bloodshed, it seems intent on demonstrating the bureaucratic acumen of the state that it claims to be building. Its two annual reports so far are replete with a sort of jihadist-style bookkeeping, tracking statistics on everything from “cities taken over” and “knife murders” committed by ISIS forces to “checkpoints set up” and even “apostates repented.”
ISIS media frames its campaign in epochal terms, mounting a frontal assault on the national divisions and boundaries in the Middle East drawn by Western powers after World War I. These “Crusader partitions” and their modern Arab leaders, ISIS argues in its English-language magazine, were a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to prevent Muslims from unifying “under one imam carrying the banner of truth.”
That sense of historical grievance is an old theme for Al Qaeda and more moderate Islamist groups. The difference is that by capturing expansive territory and heavy weaponry, and flush with wealth from kidnappings, oil piracy, bank robbery and extortion, ISIS claims to have taken a major first step toward righting what it sees as this ancient wrong, creating a unified Muslim state that will subsume existing nations. [Continue reading…]