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The Islamic (Failed) State of Iraq and Syria?

A man sits under an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) flag in Mosul, Iraq.

The al-Qaeda off-shoot terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has acquired significant territory in Iraq in recent days, and may even have its sights set on Baghdad.

And yes, that’s bad.

It’s bad for the people who now find themselves living under the brutally repressive thumb of terrorists, it’s bad for the Shi’a-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki, and it’s bad for the United States, especially since we spent the last decade trying to help build a competent, professional Iraqi military—only to watch them throw down their weapons and run for the hills as the enemy approached.

But what does this all mean for ISIS? Are a bunch of terrorists really going to be able to establish a functioning state in the territory they’ve captured?  And what would such a state actually look like?

In a new op-ed for Slate, Daniel L. Byman, senior fellow and research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, tries to imagine what a future state governed by terrorists might look like. Spoiler alert: It isn’t pretty.  

Read Daniel L. Byman’s op-ed piece for Slate here.