U.S. Considers Threat Posed if Islamists Establish State

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Intelligence Officials Search for Vulnerabilities of Islamic State.

U.S. officials assessing the Islamic State have begun considering the implications posed by a breakaway extremist state in the Middle East, a reflection of the gravity with which intelligence experts now view the group’s advance across Iraq and Syria.

Intelligence officials also are scouring for vulnerabilities in the group, including those that could emerge as the group amasses land, manpower and weaponry in its question to establish a state.

If the militants are able to hold their territorial gains in the long term, officials said the greatest concern is that the de facto extremist state would provide a base for plotting outside the region, including against the U.S.

Securing an extremist state in the Middle East would provide “footholds to attack every apostate government in sight,” a U.S. intelligence official said.

It would also legitimize the struggle of Islamist extremists, in their eyes, since before the September 2001 attacks, U.S. officials said. That would aid in recruitment and give the group further momentum and potency.

The growth of the group also presents the challenge for others of dealing with significant humanitarian consequences. Islamic State militants have said they seek to exterminate any groups that aren’t of like mind, and acted on that by laying siege to thousands of people of the Yazidi religious sect in northern Iraq this month and killing some of them.

Establishing a state would provide a foundation for launching more potentially genocidal operations, something that could bring pressure on the U.S. for more interventions to prevent humanitarian disaster.

“This is a really very different phenomenon,” said Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University specializing in terrorism issues. “It has the kinetic power, the recruiting power, and the finances that, unchecked, are just going to continue to grow.”

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