Understanding Syria Through the Islamic State’s Eyes: Implications for America

  • Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin R. Jonsson

This strategy research project examines the relationship between the rhetoric of the Islamic State and their actions on the ground. This research effort aims to examine how the Islamic State's framing of its own role in the struggle for Syria explains the group's actions, provides insights on what to expect in the future, and analyzes areas of strategic vulnerability. The paper focuses on provincial Twitter posts from January 2016, drawing out the following key themes of the Islamic State’s narrative: battling God’s enemies, military strength, piety, and the caliphate as a prosperous place. Finally, the paper discusses implications for U.S. policy: Namely, that the United States urgently needs a robust information campaign, that it must address the increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict that will impact regional dynamics for decades, and that any strategy must be informed by the deeply religious appeal and claims of the Islamic State.