"The only way to achieve results," a Japanese leftwing terrorist explained in 1972, "is to shock the world right down to its socks." More than four decades later, with the beheading of three Americans in a matter of months, there can be little doubt that the Islamic State (IS) has indeed achieved that result.
Once again, the conventional wisdom in Washington about al-Qaeda (AQ) and the broader jihadi terrorist threat has been proven wrong. The wishful thinking passing for analysis since the beginning of the year that the split within the movement resulting in the expulsion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the AQ fold would simultaneously weaken both Core AQ and ISIS—now pretentiously re-named the Islamic State (IS)—has been dramatically disproven by the latter's lightning thrust into Iraq and seizure of the northern and western parts of the war-torn country.
Beyond any doubt, the Syrian civil war has reversed Core al-Qaeda’s waning fortunes and re-energized its one-time Iraqi spear-carrier, the Islamic State—formerly the Islamic State of Iraq al-Sham (ISIS), Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and before that, al-Qaeda in Iraq (aQI).