The world may be looking at the attacks in Paris through the wrong lens. The actions of ISIS may constitute measures of desperation rather than any evidence of its expanding power. The recent successful ISIS assaults on the Russian plane, its killings in Lebanon, and its successive plots in France all within a few weeks of each other would seem at first blush to be proof that ISIS, pumped up by its achievements in Iraq and Syria, has broadened its strategy to strike beyond the Middle East into Europe, Russia and possibly the United States. But, on closer look, these egregious crimes, in fact, may be attempts to deflect global attention from the severe setbacks which ISIS has lately experienced in the Middle East that have decimated its force structure and reduced the amount of territory it holds in the region. The turning point, it appears, came in the battle over Kobani last year when ISIS dispatched hundreds of its fighters to try to seize the city but ultimately had to withdraw at a great loss of life due to the dozens of US supported air strikes and the counter-assaults by Kurdish troops. And earlier this month, Kurdish forces, helped again by US bombing raids, forced ISIS out of Sinjar, thereby cutting its critical supply route between Raqqa and Mosul. Finally, the US scored a major propaganda victory when one of its drones killed the infamous Jihadi John, the man responsible for beheading a slew of Western hostages. In short, ISIS has publicly begun to be seen to lose its primacy and thus it has a need to strike out. But this represents weakness, not strength. This does not mean that ISIS is on the verge of collapse, but it does mean that ISIS's survival may soon be in question.
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