Aris Roussinos writes: At this stage in the war, with the combination of overwhelming US air power and effective local ground forces beginning to show significant results, it actually seems easier for IS to carry out a mass terrorist attack in the center of a major Western capital than it is for them to win a military victory on the ground in either Syria or Iraq.
The Paris attack, like the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula that IS has also claimed, is a remarkable inversion of roles in IS’ feud with its progenitor, al Qaeda. IS has sold itself on its ability to take and hold ground in the Middle East, scorning old-school al Qaeda for its reliance on occasional but meaningless spectacular attacks in the West.
But now IS is beginning to crumble on all fronts in both Syria and Iraq, while al Qaeda’s Syrian arm Jabhat al-Nusra has devoted its energies to quiet state-building efforts in the regions it controls
The meticulous coordination and sophistication of the attacks in Paris indicate the plot was hatched well in advance, but perhaps initiated as a sudden response to the group’s military setbacks. The purpose of the attacks is likely twofold: Partly to strike fear into Westerners, and also partly to reassure its core constituency of supporters — including those in the West — that the group’s setbacks are merely a blip. [Continue reading…]