An effective anti-IS strategy has to engage with the root causes of its continued survival and growth. To grow, IS is exploiting expanding Sunni disenfranchisement.

The bulk of IS commanders and supporters [in Iraq] are either former Baath army officers, ostracised by the 2003 de-Baathification programme and dissolution of the Iraqi army, or members of Sunni tribes tormented by the governments of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. In Syria, the regime's campaign against Sunni areas perpetuated a refugee crisis rather than wholesale support for IS.

Maha Yahya
Yahya is director of the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, where her research focuses on citizenship, pluralism, and social justice in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings.
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IS is also tapping into a general crisis of citizenship and malaise with dysfunctional Arab governments. Indeed, it is experiences of injustice and abuse by authorities, and not poverty, that are driving disenfranchised individuals toward radical extremist ideology.

Meanwhile in Europe, IS is building on a different crisis of identity and citizenship - particularly for second and third generation citizens of Arab descent.

A serious approach to combating IS requires a multi-faceted strategy. It needs political consensus building amongst the international and regional players involved in the Syrian conflict, including Turkey, Russia and the US, and concerted focus more on these underlying causes.

While some military operations may be necessary, the focus should be less on the reactive security-first approach that on its own offers no long-term solution, whatever tactical victories it may achieve.

Challenging the world view of IS begins by openly recognising that this is not a clash of civilizations between Islam and Christianity, but a monstrous projection of the tremendous imbalances of our world today.

In Europe, this means embracing refugees fleeing the very horrors visited by IS on Paris earlier this month and addressing the sense of exclusion and alienation, among other factors, that are driving thousands of its own citizens to join Isis.

In the Arab region, it means engaging with the root causes for IS's emergence by tackling the political and socio-economic exclusion of Iraqi Sunnis, addressing the complex Syrian conflict without maintaining the presidency and working to end the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran that is fuelling much of the current strife.

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