The last few months have seen considerable change in the struggle against Islamic-extremist terrorism. On the battlefields in Syria, forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad recaptured the historic city of Palmyra from Islamic State (IS) fighters. In Iraq, IS was pushed from the city of Ramadi in late January, and the key northern city of Mosul is the next target for the U.S.-backed coalition. The area that IS terrorists physically govern in Iraq and “Sham,” or greater Syria, is shrinking. And it’s the prevailing wisdom that militarily, IS is weakening.
But while the territory controlled by IS bears many of the hallmarks of an actual state, the “caliphate” that IS wishes to establish is not just physical.