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Conflict Map of ISIS

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Sean OReilly

on 3 October 2016

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Transcript of Conflict Map of ISIS

What is the Islamic State?
What can be done to counter the Islamic State?
Immeadiate top down solutions:
Counter Terrorism Operations
Long term bottom up solutions:
Addressing societal trends that lead to individuals to become terrorists
Addressing the cultural rift between Sunis and Shiits
Short Term Top Down Approach
Sociological Analysis of the Islamic State:
The Islamic State
Ethnic and Religious Differences
Fall of Saddam Regime
U.S. declares end of military operations on May 1st, 2003
On Dec 13th, 2003 Saddam Hussein is captured in a small village out side his home town of Tikrit.
Political Differences:
Sunnis vs. Shi'ites
End of the Iraq War
The U.S. withdraws the last soldiers in December 2011 ending the Iraq War
Enraged Sunnis Protest
Sunni protests
Maliki orders protest camps destroyed, and hundreds of protesters are killed in the process
Sunnis feel alienated, angry, and helpless
Birth of the Islamic State
Who is the Islamic State?
What does the Islamic State want?
How do they plan to get it?
Who is the Islamic State a threat to?
Long Term Bottom Up Approach
How an individual becomes a terrorist?
The staircase to extremism
Effective Strategies to Combat Extremism
Effective Counter Insurgency Strategies and Technologies
Drawbacks of Direct Engagement and Lethal Force
ISIS spawned from the few remaining
battle hardened Al-Qeada operatives and Ba’athist solders who had survived the U.S. onslaught.

"Remember, by the time the Americans left Iraq, the insurgency was broken... Al-Qaeda had been decimated...this is a collection of very hardened killers.
These are the guys that the United States didn’t manage to kill during the war
," (Dexter Filkins; Frontline Rise of ISIS).
Power Strategies
US Global War on Terror

Type of Conflict:
Moral, Identity, Status, Security

Destructive Conflict Dynamics
Islamic State, terrorist organization, or something else?
Terrorist Organization vs. Insurgency
Aspects of a State Actor (Nation)
The day after the withdraw of the last U.S. soldier Nouri al-Maliki announces an arrest order for Tareq al Hashemi, his Vice President, and senior most Sunni politician.

Nouri al-Maliki begins to effectively remove all Sunnis from political office and military positions,
and replaces them with Shi'ites.

"When the last American troops leave, Maliki begins a pretty concerted crackdown on the Sunni population." (Stephen Hadley; Frontline: Losing Iraq)

"In 2012, thousands of Sunnis suspected of subversion were held for months or longer without charges ever being filed." (Martin Smith; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)
U.S. creates the "Coalition Provisional Authority" (
CPA) as the temporary governing body of Iraq.

CPA Order Number 1 is enacted; disbanding any members of Saddam's Sunni-dominated Ba’ath Party from political office or military positions.

"It was called CPA Order Number One.
It would end Sunni domination of the government
and bring in rival ethnic and religious groups, namely the Kurds and the Shi’ites." (Jim Gilmore; Frontline: Losing Iraq)

This causes thousands of highly trained and disciplined individuals to me unemployed, with no agency in the future of their country.

"If you do this, you’re going to
drive 30,000 to 50,000 Ba’athists underground by nightfall
. And the number’s closer to 50,000 than it is to 30,000.” (Gen. Jay Garner; Frontline: Losing Iraq)

On May 20th, 2006 with heavy U.S. support and backing Nouri al-Maliki (a Shia) is elected as Prime Minister of Iraq.
Sunnis make up about 15%-20% of Iraq's population

Sunnis provided the bulk of the governing class under Saddam's Ba'athist regime

Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated Ba’ath Party
had brutally controlled the country’s majority population comprised of Shi’ites and the Kurds." (Jim Gilmore; Frontline: Losing Iraq)

With the enactment CPA Order 1 all Sunni officials were disbanded and forced underground
The 30,000-50,000 ousted Ba'athists and Sunnis became the bulk of the insurgency that the U.S. fought after 2003 whilst aligning themselves with Al-Qaeda.
Shi'ites make up about 60% of Iraq's population

Shi'ites suffered massive prejudice under the Saddam regime, predominantly expressed through denial of political rights and religious freedoms

Once Maliki was instated as Prime Minister this caused power to shift into the hands of the Shi'ites
Soon Shia militias begin purging Iraq and other major cites of Sunnis.

"The Shia militia were very, very violent. There were many, many instances in Baghdad, and in many other parts of Iraq, of Sunnis turning up with a bullet in the back of their head and their hands bound behind them. This was common. This was a daily, daily occurrence." (Richard Barrett, Former British Intelligence Officer; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)
Maliki views
Sunnis as a major threat
, one that needs to be removed.

Many of Maliki's "close relatives were secretly arrested and tortured by Saddam’s regime." (Ali Khedery; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)

"When he looks at Iraq’s Sunni minority,
he sees al Qaeda. He sees the Ba’athists
. He sees military coups. He sees plots against him. He sees a population which despises him and wants to come back into power." (Dexter Filkins, Author, The Forever War; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)
Feeling persecuted, alienated, and endangered, Iraq's
population finally gives up on political change and begins to
turn to violence
seeing no remaining options.

"Sunni leaders in the army and Sunni leaders in the police began to be sidelined, and people with a strong Shia sectarian bent replaced them... lot of people felt they were being excluded. And that was true, they were," (David Kilcullen U.S. Military Advisor, 2005-11; Frontline: Rise of ISIS).
With the public support from the Sunni population and weapons flowing in from Syria, the political landscape is ripe for a takeover.
On June 29th, 2014
ISIS declares a Caliphate
, an Islamic nation strictly adhering to Sharia law.

“Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it
calls the Prophetic Methodology,
” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail." (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants)

By establishing a Caliphate, ISIS has created a governing body through which all Salafis (members of strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect) feel an obligation to support and enforce.

"Due to their faith in that particular sect,
they have an obligation to respond to a caliph if he calls them
. Now, I know not all Salafis will do that. But even if 1 percent of the Salafis do that, you’re talking about tens of thousands of people now in Nigeria, in Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, in every Muslim country, Sunni country." (Laith Kubba; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)
The conception of ISIS from Al-Qaeda in Iraq was a traditional terrorist organization (non-state actor.) However once the Caliphate was established ISIS would then be classified as an insurgency or could even be viewed as a full fledged sovereign nation state.

"We have chosen to depict ISIS as a successor, or a partner, to al-Qaeda. It’s actually not. Islamic State is a state-building enterprise. They’re trying to create a real state, not some post-modern virtual, you know, al-Qaeda-style thing that only exists in your head. They’re trying to create something that looks like a real state. It’s a very different model." (David Kilcullen, U.S. Military Advisor, 2005-11; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)

"The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces)." (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants)
All Salafis now have a strict religious obligation to
migrate to maintain the Caliphate

“What’s striking about them is not just the
literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts....There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness
that Muslims don’t normally have,” (Bernard Haykel; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants).

In the eyes of the Salafis, in order for a Caliphate to maintain legitimacy it must adhere to stringent requirements, requirements that make it a major threat to anyone on the outside.

The Caliphate is unable to recognize any political boarders other than its own
, or political leaders as they are seen as illegitimate and competing against the kingdom of god.

"The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide. Negotiation and accommodation have worked, at times, for the Taliban...To the Islamic State these are not options, but acts of apostasy," (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants).
ISIS' Caliphate has locked it self into a culture of extreme violence against anyone who is not with them.

"Waging of war to expand the Caliphate is an essential duty of the Caliph... the state has
an obligation to terrorize its enemies
—a holy order to scare the **** out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because
doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict,
" (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants).

"Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade... The Caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin," (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants).

ISIS has done the impossible and created a self-proclaimed Caliphate, something that has not happened in almost a century (1924).

"Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a Caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime," (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants).

Now that the Caliphate is bonafide, ISIS now needs to maintain the Caliphate under the provisions of Sharia law.

As part of this ISIS believes that the role of the Caliphate is to
bring about a coming apocalypse.

"The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo... It is here, the
Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them
, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam. Now that [ISIS] has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will
initiate the countdown to the apocalypse.
" (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants)

Initial dissatisfaction/frustration
Displacement of aggression
Disentanglement of morals
Categorical thinking (Us vs. Them)
Action to kill
ISIS poses a threat to anyone who is not a contributing member of their Caliphate. Any
Muslims who are not supporting the Caliphate are seen as apostates
, and are beheaded alongside believers of other faiths, who are to be forcibly dominated and captured/sold as slaves.

However unlike Al-Qeada, ISIS is not primarily concerned with "the far enemy" (U.S.A. and other western countries), and is much more concerned with taking territory from its neighbors to maintain the Caliphate.

So far the conflict has been contained within Iraq and Syria, however, if not addressed ISIS will spread.
In order to maintain the Caliphate all "true believers" are required to emigrate and support it.

They have a duty to expand, and to do so violently.

"It has already taken up what Islamic law refers to as “
offensive jihad,” the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims
... The waging of war to expand the Caliphate is an essential duty of the Caliph." (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants)

In part of enforcing Sharia law they also are required to kill all apostates, and enslave any believers of other faiths.

"That means roughly
200 million Shia are marked for death
. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God... Following Takfiri doctrine, the
Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.
" (Graeme Wood; The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants)
There are many types of frames that are at play in this conflict including:
Conflict Management
Loss vs. Gain

Identity Frame
ISIS' identity frame is one of its most aggravating characteristics: their sense of self and purpose is very strong, so is their concept of the "other" (anyone who is not supporting their cause in the exact way that they are).

Due to their unwavering belief, their identity is enslaved to their cause which is not only just, but mandated by god. Deviating from this purpose will be met with death.

Anyone who questions the will of god, or the ISIS agenda is seen a heretic, a traitor, and an infidel who must be punished in the most brutal ways imaginable.

Because the identity of the individual is so linked to the group as a whole, any attack on the group is taken as a personal insult to all of its members.

"The more central the challenge to one's sense of self, the more oppositional one is likely to act. Typical responses to threats to identity include ignoring information and perspectives that threaten the core identity, reinforcing affiliations with like-minded individuals and groups, and negatively characterizing outsiders." (S. Kaufman, M. Elliott, D. Shmueli; Frames, Framing and Reframing)

Because they believe that their cause is mandated by god they are justified and encouraged to use any means necessary. There is no crime too heinous; the ends justify the means.
Characterization Frame
ISIS believes itself to be the army and nation of god
, surrounded by enemies on all sides.

They characterize themselves to be in a situation of total war, on the verge of obliteration by evil, so their causes are just, and the ends more than justify the grotesque means.

The majority of the rest of the world
views ISIS as an extremely dangerous and motivated extremist organization.
They are portrayed as monsters, who will sink to any depth to try and scare, enrage, and terrify its enemies.

"Many Americans characterize Al Queda as "terrorists," yet they most certainly do not see themselves that way. Rather, they see themselves as freedom-fighters, or jihadi warriors fighting for the protection of Islam. Characterization frames are also often linked to identity frames, serving to strengthen one's own identity while justifying your actions toward the other." (S. Kaufman, M. Elliott, D. Shmueli; Frames, Framing and Reframing)
Power Frames
Power frames play an interesting role in the fight against ISIS:

Because ISIS recognizes no authority above or even equal to their hyper religious institution, traditional power frames hold no value to them. Any other form of government or authority is seen as illegitimate or worse; directly challenging to the will and government of god.

ISIS views Sharia law as the one and only authority in all the land, and any deviation from the law must be published severely.

It is because of this that there is little to no hope for negotiation or reasoning with the Islamic State. Sharia law prevents ISIS from being able to even hold talks with other governing bodies because it is seen as placing an earthly entity on par with god.
Conflict Management or Process Frames
For ISIS conflict is their process. Any and all differences are solved with blood and violence, in fact the more, the better.

The Islamic state encourages and maintains a culture of violence. It's leaders are required to annually conduct war, or have the violence turned on themselves, and be replaced by a leader who will.

Due to this, any form of conflict negotiation with ISIS will only fall on deaf ears.
Risk and Information Frames
ISIS' risk and information frame is also problematic in that it is so extreme.

In their best case scenario, they are hoping to usher in the apocalypse. When the end goal is the mass extinction of the human race, anything less than that seems to be rather trivial.

Because of this, traditional deterrence techniques such as the threat of a major land war with any other nation is not only ineffective, but rather a fundamental ISIS objective.

Therefore, given how ISIS frames risk, they no problem taking actions that other state actors would never come close to considering.
Loss vs Gain Frames
ISIS views all its conflicts from zero sum approach; their view is that they have nothing to lose on an individual level coupled with everything to gain on an institutional level.

The individuals feel that their beliefs cannot be taken away, and even death for their cause is a victory. Conventional risk assessment techniques are rendered inert by their culture.

It is their rejection of everything other than Sharia law and their value of something beyond their own lives that they are capable of committing unthinkable atrocities and engaging in agendas that any other group would view as utterly insane. They have nothing to lose, yet everything to gain.
ISIS utilizes two main power strategies: coercive and collaborative.
Coercive Power
In regards to perusing its own agenda and enacting diplomacy ISIS uses the barrel of a gun or the blade of a knife.

There is no room for tolerance or variation. The only choices are to conform and submit or face death.

These goals are to be pursued by any means necessary until achieved, or until the individual dies in the process.
Cooperative Power Strategy
One of the advantages of the Islamic State's polar extremism is that the group consensus and cohesion is absolute.

With a lack of a gray area or additional interpretations of Sharia law, ISIS has very little inner group conflict, as opposed to what is so prevalent in the U.S. political system.

ISIS does not suffer the drawbacks of division or split agendas of its more liberal counterparts. There is only one path, and one way, and because of that they are extremely unified, focused, and effective in their efforts.
Morality is a major driving force in this conflict. In their eyes, ISIS is in a war against evil and all those who have deviated from the holy life.

"They see their opponents,
their enemies, not only as misguided but as fundamentally evil, and therefore beyond redemption
, as victims or targets for whom the only language they understand is violence. Hence it becomes the terrorists duty to use that violence to achieve his aims and to make his point. Thus, terrorists see extremes of black and white, of good and evil, with no gradations or no grey area in between." (Prof. Hoffman, Georgetown University; Recruitment and Radicalization: How Terrorist See Themselves).

Ironically enough, it is because their fight is so heavily based on moral beliefs that ISIS believes it is justified in doing the most immoral things in order to achieve it's ends.
ISIS believes that its very identity is at risk, it believes that the world has fallen in to a state of sin, and that their holy way of life is in jeopardy.

In order to resurrect and preserve this archaic Identity, ISIS feels not only compelled, but obligated to god to fight to the death.

Without the collective, polarized, and uniformly held identity ISIS would cease to exist.

Perhaps this could be part of its undoing....
With their fall from power, the Sunni population supporting ISIS is very concerned with reclaiming lost status. At the end of the Iraq war, they were forced from power, brutalized, and cast aside. They were forcibly removed from all forms of political and military positions, therefore left feeling that they have lost all forms of agency in the future of their country.

With the declaration of the Caliphate, a dominant status is mandated, and until achieved it must be pursued tenaciously.
Interestingly, security seems to be a major issue for ISIS' stated objectives, however its own actions are the major reason why its security may be in such jeopardy.

ISIS intends to make a Caliphate secure enough to weather the apocalypse and will not cease until all are governed under its flag and laws.

However in their attempt to secure their place in history they may be encouraging their removal from it.

Though their efforts, they are uniting a good chunk of the world against them.
The major destructive conflict dynamics lie in ISIS' totalitarianism and dogmatic views. Because of their faith they are unable to accept anything besides total compliance and servitude.

Their culture of violence is also a major aggravating factor. Because Sharia law dictates that a Caliphate be continuously expanding, and that no other government may be officially recognized there is no room for diplomacy.

If the Caliph is not implementing violence on the non-believes around him regularly, then he is seen as an apostate. The violence is then turned on him, and a more violent candidate takes his place.

It is these steadfast beliefs and the strict adherence of them that prevent any peaceful interventions from lasting.
Terrorist Organizations:
Use of violence
Inherently political or are attempting to achieve a political aim
Manipulation of fear to achieve ends
Use residual psychological fear of additional attacks to coerce governmental and/or political change
No uniforms or insignias
Does not hold territory, rather blends in to civilian population
Uses same weapons and tactics as terrorist organization
Holds physical territory
Establish bases and camps
Exercise sovereignty over a population
Can engage in force on force attacks (conventional military capabilities)
• Diplomacy
• Economic and financial pressures
• Effective law enforcement
• Conventional military force
• Targeted killings and drone strikes

Economic and Financial Pressures
Effective Law Enforcement
Conventional Military Force/Targeted Killings and Drone Strikes
Diplomacy can be used as a counter terrorism tool in both bilateral and multilateral conditions.

Multilateral agreements like the U.N. can create powerful coalitions to combat terrorism, or use of international courts to bring non state actors to justices such as the ICC.

Bilateral diplomacy is much more secretive where one nation tries to convince another nation to do something, such as using local security forces to make arrests or stage raids.
Economic and financial pressures can be very effective in limiting a terrorists organizations abilities.

This is often done by freezing bank accounts, and seizing assets.

One of the oldest versions of this is the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which can lead to sanctions from both the U.S. alone or international sanctions to discourage state sponsorship of terrorist activity.

This approach however is highly dependent on diplomacy and the cooperation of foreign governments when the assets are out side of U.S. jurisdiction.
Examples of effective law enforcement would be blocking passports of individuals attempting to join terrorist groups, raiding, and dismantling institutions that may be supporting terrorists, and using effective surveillance techniques to detect and suppress terrorist actions before they can come to pass.
Direct military action has often been taken in response to terrorist attacks such as Israel invading the Gaza strip after falling victim to numerous rocket attacks from Hamas, however the greatest example of this by far was the global war on terror conducted by the US.

This is the most dramatic and immediate response to terrorism and can have a large deterrence effect.

Drones often have limited viable military targets due to the low profile clandestine nature of terrorist groups. This however is becoming less relevant with ISIS as they shift to an insurgency.

The use of drones and direct military action can cause a backlash effect:
"When you're talking about the most fanatical and dedicated groups, they are the ones least apt to back off in response to an armed attack. In fact, in some cases an armed attack may have a rally 'round the flag effect in which support for the leader of a group becomes even greater than it was before. And in some cases, an armed attack may even stimulate counter- retaliation by a terrorist group or a state." (Prof. David Byman, Georgetown University, Disadvantages of Targeted killings and Drones)

"Dave Kilcullen, one of the important scholars of counterinsurgency, has talked about what he calls counterinsurgency math, where if you kill an individual and remove him from a terrorist group, if his brothers and cousins join up, then you're actually worse off than where you started." (Prof. David Byman, Georgetown University, Disadvantages of Targeted killings and Drones)

Drones can vastly improve intelligence and the precision with which lethal force is used.

The warheads used by drones are much smaller, and thus decrease risk of collateral damage.

Zero risk of losing a pilot.

Drones can quickly and efficiently remove skilled, and high level threats that are difficult for the organization to replace, thus greatly reducing it effectiveness.

The threat of drones forces terrorists "underground" in order to stay safe. They avoid using computers, phones, and traveling, all of which are essential to effectively leading and conducting a terrorist cell.
Drones and military intervention often require violation other nations sovereignty, which breeds resentment towards the U.S. For example, the U.S. operation to apprehend Osama Bin Laden was effectively an invasion into Pakistan.

Once a war is started, it can be a very difficult situation to get out of, ex: Afghanistan and Iraq
Dead terrorists cannot provide more intelligence
Makes other governments look weak, and unable to protect their own people, and thus relying on the U.S. and drones to do it for them

Initial Dissatisfaction/ Frustration
The first stage of the staircase to terrorism is a
general frustration and dissatisfaction steaming from a lack of social mobility
and ability to better ones life.

"Virtually every country in the world, you have young, disaffected youth, both men and women, who have little hope in their life, who want to be a part of something special, want to be a part of something successful, and they now see ISIS taking over vast swaths of both Syria and Iraq, succeeding like no one else has succeeded. This is the al Qaeda that Osama bin Laden only dreamed of building." (Ali Khedrey; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)

" So on the first floor, the main psychological theme is social mobility, individuals trying to make progress in their employment, in their schools, in their career opportunities, make progress for their children, and so on. Like us. Some of these individuals become very frustrated because they do not find any routes to making progress, because they find their paths blocked. In some parts of the world, this is because of the corruption of the dictatorships that are in place, of the blockages that are there against mobility. There is not the freedom, the open competition that people seek." (Prof. Moghaddam; Georgetown University: The Psychology of Terrorists: The First Floor of the Staircase)
Displacement of Aggression
Disentanglement of Morals
Categorical Thinking (Us vs. Them)
Action to Kill
Once an individual is frustrated and discouraged, they then become vulnerable to terrorist rhetoric.
It is this rhetoric that tells angry youth that the west to blame for all their troubles

“If one listens to the rhetoric in North Africa, the Middle East, the Near East, and in many mosques around the world, the narrative is that the United States is to blame, that Israel is to blame for all kinds of things. The frustrations being felt are channeled at particular targets. This frustration aggression, this link, has been studied by psychologists for about 70 years now. And there's a lot of evidence that under some conditions, frustration can lead to aggression." (Prof. Moghaddam; Georgetown University: The Psychology of Terrorists: The Second Floor of the Staircase)
Once the disaffected youth start to
internalize that the west is the enemy, they can then create an 'Us vs. Them' idea
. An idea that leads to feelings that maybe terrorism is the only way to strike back.

"The main psychological process [in this stage] is disengagement from morality of the rest of us, the majority. The kind of morality that says killing is wrong, that terrorism is wrong. They become gradually engaged with the morality that says under some conditions at least, terrorism is justified. So some individuals adopt this morality that says, if you can't fight them in any other way, terrorism is justified. That it is something that you can do as a means to an end." (Prof. Moghaddam; Georgetown University: The Psychology of Terrorists: The Third Floor of the Staircase)
Once the individual internalizes that they are fundamentally different from the other, they then begin to dehumanize their enemy. They see them
as so morally wrong and backwards, that it is in fact justified to use violence
to correct the perceived wrongs.

"The "us versus them" thinking. "We are right, they are wrong" thinking. And categorical thinking allows the other, the outgroup to be labeled as non-human, as sinful, as anything that justifies exterminating them. Categorical thinking allows an individual or a group to place the other group in a category that can be treated in inhumane ways." (Prof. Moghaddam; Georgetown University: The Psychology of Terrorists: The Fourth Floor of the Staircase)
This is the final stage of the staircase to terrorism. Only once every other stage has been achieved can one get to this level, and truly become a terrorist.

"The final stage on the fifth floor is the action of the terrorist to kill others, and it involves typically not only labeling the other as non-human but also perceiving the other as sinful, perceiving the other as deserving of being the target of aggression. Throughout this process, the threatened identity is a theme and particularly the threatened collective identity." (Prof. Moghaddam; Georgetown University: The Psychology of Terrorists: The Fifth Floor of the Staircase)
Many individuals may be anywhere along the staircase, and never actually commit to terrorist activity.
The key is to prevent or mitigate the number of individuals progressing all the way to the top
so to speak.

One of the most effective ways to stop this climb is to increase social mobility and pro social group activity for at risk populations.

If the individuals are engaged in school, promising jobs, or pro-social groups they will be far less likely to wonder down the path to extremism.

Also actions that change the image or feelings about the intended target, or re-humanize the target, by highlighting similarities will decrease the chances of an individual actually committing to an action to kill.

This bottom up strategy takes much longer and is very difficult to quantify, but when only using top down approaches to terrorism without addressing the systematic structures that create them, there will always be new enemy replacing the old ones, continuing the cycle of violence.
By: Sean O'Reilly
Global war on terror/Iraq War
Ethnic and religious differences in Iraq
Power Strategies
Types of Conflict
Destructive Conflict Dynamics
How to deal with the immediate threat of extremist groups and address the individuals already committed terrorist activity
How to keep people from joining terrorist organizations, and how to promote other pro-social alternatives
September 11th Terrorist Attacks
On September 11th 2001, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes destined for the west cost.

American Airlines Flights 11 and 175 were used as suicide bombs and flown into both the 110-story north, and south towers.

Within two hours both towers collapsed, and by the end of the day 2,996 people had lost their lives.
In a immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, the
United States declares a "Global War on Terror"

On October 7th 2001 US troops
invade Afghanistan to combat the Taliban;
an extremist Islamic group that was harboring, training, and supplying Al-Qaeda.
Invasion of Iraq
In a highly criticized move, the Bush Administration
expanded the war on terror to Iraq

This was rationalized using claims that Iraq was being oppressed by the Saddam regime, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and supporting/supplying Al-Qaeda. U.S. forces invaded Iraq on March 19th, 2003.
Ethnic vs. Religious Groups
The distinction between Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites is often confusing, and is similar to grouping apples and oranges.

are an e
thnic group
more appropriately compared to Arabs (such as Hispanics or African Americans). This has no bearing on religious beliefs (however, most Kurds consider themselves Sunni Muslims).

Sunnis and Shiites
are different
religious sects
(such as Catholics and Protestants) which has no bearing on ethnic grouping.
Reintegration of Sunni Agency
M. Smith, L. Hirsch; The Rise of ISIS, Frontline PBS; 2014, Documentary, March 2015 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/iraq-war-on-terror/rise-of-isis/transcript-70/>

M. Kirk, J. Gilmore, M. Wiser; Losing Iraq, Frontline PBS; 2014 Documentary, March 2015 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/iraq-war-on-terror/losing-iraq/transcript-66/>

G. Wood; What ISIS Really Wants, The Atlantic, March 2015 <http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/>

Z. Caldwell; 12 Things to Know About What ISIS Really Wants Aleteia, Feb 2015 <http://www.aleteia.org/en/world/article/12-things-to-know-about-what-isis-really-wants-5904800487047168>

S. Almukhtar, J. Ashkenas, J. Burgess, J. Daniel, M. Ericson, F. Fessenden, R. Lai, B. Marsh, H. Park, N. Patel, A. Tse, T. Wallace, D. Watkins, J. White and K. Yourish; Despite Tikrit Loss, ISIS Still Holds Large Swaths of Iraq. (2014, June 11). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/12/world/middleeast/the-iraq-isis-conflict-in-maps-photos-and-video.html?_r=0>

D. Byman. (2014) The Psychology of Terrorists: The Ground Floor of the Staircase Georgetown University, Terrorism and Counter Terrorism class lecture, March 2015

S. Kaufman, M. Elliott, D. Shmueli;
Frames, Framing, Reframing
. Beyond Intractability. Ed. G. Burgess and H. Burgess. Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA. March 2015.
How credible is the Islamic State threat?
ISIS poses a massive threat to its neighboring states through well-structured, aggressive expansion of their new empire.

"Unlike bin Laden’s al Qaeda,
ISIS fighters operate under the command of experienced military officers
. Several of the top leadership positions are now held by Ba’athists from Saddam’s army." (Martin Smith; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)

"They know how to emplace artillery. They know how to use tanks. They know how to set up defensive positions. They know how to go on the offensive." (Ken Katzman; Frontline: Rise of ISIS)

ISIS has not only proven itself effective in terrorist activity, but also in force on force attacks, and capable of taking and holding territory.
Maliki's animosity towards and distrust of Sunnis in Iraq
Nouri al-Maliki's Take Over
The Islamic State is driving much of its support from a disenfranchised Sunni population. After having been brutally removed from power Sunni populations feel that they no longer have any legitimate way to participate in the future of their country and culture.

It is because of this many Sunni populations are reluctantly supporting ISIS' extremism because ISIS is the only group with any power willing to incorporate Sunni agendas.

However if Sunni's could be reintegrated in to legitimate social roles, its support of ISIS would begin to wane, and thus reintegration of Sunnis into legitimate power positions is imperative to ultimately defeating ISIS.
Concluding Thoughts
ISIS is clearly a very large and complex problem to effectively address. There is no one right answer or silver bullet capable of adequately resolving all the political, social, and cultural problems that lead to the rise of ISIS.

Realistically it will take years to overcome this challenge, with thousands of incremental shifts to a more positive direction by millions of people.

However there are actions that can be taken now to undermine the Islamic States success that will need to include:

Direct coordinated military action against the already entrenched die hard ISIS supporters who cannot be dissuaded
Creation of more pro-social institutions and increased social mobility to encourage youth away from terrorist groups.
Reintegrating Sunni populations in to positions of agency and authority.
Full transcript