An extremist militant group has taken over number of major Iraqi cities at breakneck speed, but the threat it poses to Iraq and the world are unlike any terrorist threat we've seen before.
The White House refers to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a terrorist organization. The group's name, however, reveals more about the nature of its aspirations. To reach its goal of establishing a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has built itself to resemble a government, complete with a military, a police force, and public-works projects.
Rather than using targeted attacks to further specific goals, ISIS is waging full-out war on the Iraqi government in a campaign to capture territory, then governing those territories in an organized fashion.
ISIS is already laying down new laws in Iraq. Last week, the group handed out a "Contract of the City" to residents of the northern Niniveh province, where Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, is located. The Washington Post translated the contract's 16 main points, in which ISIS threatens to punish thieves by amputation, promises to sentence nonbelievers to death, and urges women to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.
In The Atlantic, Aaron Zelin looks to the al-Raqqa state of Syria for a hint of how ISIS might govern in Iraq. In al-Raqqa, where ISIS has been in charge since 2013, the group provides policing, many public works, religious education, and health and welfare programs.