In the aftermath of the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, French authorities have conducted raids on suspected militants across France and launched airstrikes targeting the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Syrian city of Raqqa. Below, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Foreign Affairs offer resources on the Paris attacks.
The Islamic State: A CFR Backgrounder
The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a militant movement that has conquered territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. This updated CFR Backgrounder examines U.S. strategy against the Islamic State.
After Paris: Military and Diplomatic Responses Required
“The challenge posed by the Islamic State calls for several responses, as there is no single policy that promises to be sufficient,” writes CFR President Richard N. Haass in his latest op-ed in Project Syndicate. “Increased military effort is needed to bring about larger and more secure enclaves that could better protect civilians and take the fight to the Islamic State,” Haass argues, and “any successor government [to Assad] must be able to maintain order.”
The Islamic State: Who’s Calling the Shots?
The morning after the Paris attacks, the Islamic State’s channels pushed out official statements praising the attacks but gave no indication of having planned or funded the attack. CFR’s Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow Graeme Wood writes in POLITICO Magazine that this may indicate that the Islamic State’s “ability to inspire got ahead of their ability to control the results of that inspiration.”
What Should the United States Do About the Islamic State?
“The struggle against ISIS is a political and theological fight that is largely beyond the United States,” writes Steven A. Cook, CFR’s Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies, and U.S. policymakers should resist the temptation to take on a larger role. “Washington has a responsibility to help its allies,” Cook writes, “but the stakes are so high for the local actors that U.S. efforts to influence the trajectory of politics in the region are unlikely to be successful.”
U.S. Should Employ Digital Army in Fight Against the Islamic State
CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Farah Pandith contends that in the fight against the Islamic State, “the most critical component is the idea space” and ideological influence. “There are almost a billion young Muslims under the age of thirty across the world, and that’s the pool from which the extremists are recruiting,” said Pandith on CBS’s Face the Nation. In a CFR.org interview, Pandith expands on the point: the West “cannot win the war against extremists without a soft power strategy” and must “[approach] this ideological fight with the same vigor we do the military one.”
Iran’s Islamic State Trap: How Tehran Uses the Terrorist Group to Get Ahead
“Iran is using ISIS’s ascendance in the Middle East to consolidate its power,” write Ray Takeyh, CFR senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in ForeignAffairs.com. “The country is now the key ally keeping Iraq’s Shiites and the Alawite Bashar al-Assad regime standing against well-armed and tenacious Sunni jihadists,” they write.
How to Fight a Real War Against the Islamic State
“The only way to diminish the threat is to get on offensive, and engage in a real war against ISIS,” writes Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at CFR, in Commentary. Boot advises the United States to pursue a dual-track strategy of increasing the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq and pushing diplomatically to create a Sunni regional government backed by U.S. security guarantees.
Après Paris: Reverberations of the Terrorist Attacks
“An effective response [to the Islamic State] will require the Obama administration to be out in front: there must be no leading from behind in this effort,” writes Stewart M. Patrick, CFR senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program. Patrick advises the United States and its Western allies to focus on invoking the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Article 5 commitments and securing Europe’s borders while remaining humane.
France’s Bloody Friday: Violence in Paris
“The attacks of November 13 are not the mark of a growing Islamist threat on French soil,” writes Camille Pecastaing, senior associate professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in ForeignAffairs.com. “They reveal a systemic failure of counterterrorism institutions to protect Paris.”
Digital Counterinsurgency: Marginalizing the Islamic State Online
“Although the military battle against ISIS is undeniably a top priority, the importance of the digital front should not be underestimated,” writes Jared Cohen, CFR adjunct senior fellow, in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs. Cohen says that the Islamic State has distinct digital weaknesses and that its opponents should exploit these weaknesses to push the group into obscurity.
Syria: What Will Change Now?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, CFR senior fellow for women and foreign policy, questions whether the Paris attacks have changed the calculus for U.S. intervention in Syria, but concludes that is unlikely. “The commander-in-chief’s desire to avoid being dragged into another ground war in the Middle East remains strong, and the tragedy in Paris is unlikely to shift that sentiment,” Lemmon writes in Defense One.
Islamic State Must Be Kept on Defense
“You’ve got to play offense here, which is attack them [the Islamic State] locally, keep them busy, if you will, defending themselves, continue to roll back the geographic outlines of the ‘caliphate,’” said CFR President Richard N. Haass in an interview on Bloomberg Surveillance.
CFR Town Hall: The Paris Attacks
On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, CFR’s Richard N. Haass, Steven A. Cook, Philip Gordon, and Graeme Wood discussed the attacks in Paris, violent extremism in Europe, and connections to the self-proclaimed Islamic State and terrorist movements around the world. Watch the discussion here.