How much of a state is the Islamic State?

February 5, 2015 8:25 PM

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The group now commonly known as the “Islamic State,” which controls vast amounts of territory in Eastern Iraq and Western Syria, is unlike most Islamist militant groups in its demonstrated ability to control territory and establish a regularized system of governance. The growing aspiration for the creation of “Islamic” state institutions is reflected in the evolution of the group’s name, from al-Qaeda in Iraq, to the Islamic State of Iraq, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and then simply to the Islamic State, with the June 2014 announcement of the formation of a caliphate.

The Islamic State group has many of the attributes of a new “start-up” organization that is entering the wider market of Islamist thinking around statehood. The group has attracted a great deal of attention because it has brought disruptive innovation into Islamic political thought, both in terms of...

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