The Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris reflect a significant evolution in the ability of the Islamic State (IS) to strike anywhere with a high degree of precision and lethality despite it being the target of an offensive by the world’s powers operating in Syria and Iraq. At least eight well-armed men with automatic machine guns and explosive belts struck six locations in Paris, minutes apart, in a clearly well-coordinated attack, exhibiting detailed planning and flawless execution. The attack appears to have been in planning for some time and those behind it to possess the necessary knowledge and connections with organized crime in Europe to acquire the weapons and explosives used. In short, IS has been hugely underestimated.
The war on terrorism did not start yesterday. It has been ongoing for years. Its intensity, however, has increased over the past few years, especially with the rise of IS, which seems to be getting stronger as a result of two factors: first, the growing power vacuum in the Middle East due to the collapse or weakening of regimes by the so-called Arab Spring that has been sweeping the region since late 2010, and second, the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites that has been exasperated by the ongoing cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.