Why is ISIS beheading Americans? Five reasons for the terror group’s horrific provocation towards the U.S.

September 3, 2014 10:23 PM

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As I noted in my last post, it’s a little hard to figure out ISIS’s strategy following its second videotaped execution of an American citizen in less than a month. Over the last two years, the group has shown impressive strategic acumen, growing into the world’s wealthiest terrorist group and something close to a viable theocratic state. It has achieved those aims via a strategy of gaining and consolidating control within Iraq and Syria—two of the world’s most unstable states—while, unlike al-Qaida, avoiding action that would provoke a major U.S. response.

Why is it now carrying out very public killings that seem designed to provoke an escalation of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, and maybe even in Syria? The fate of al-Qaida over the last 13 years doesn’t seem like a wise model to follow. But here are a few possible explanations for what ISIS high...

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