The Islamist terrorist group ISIL has taken over large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq. Just to place things in perspective, it now controls of an area roughly 10 times the

Masked ISIL gunmen take Jordanian pilot Mu'ath Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh whose plane was shot down in Raqqa, Syira prisoner. Photo credit: presstv.ir

Masked ISIL gunmen take Jordanian pilot Mu’ath Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh whose plane was shot down in Raqqa, Syira prisoner. Photo credit: presstv.ir

size of Israel. This is just to mention territory firmly in its grasp. The group has the entire Middle East in its cross-hairs and a number of “frontier areas” such as the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobani, villages in Northern Syria and even Iraq’s capital Baghdad, home to Iraq’s airport, the U.S. embassy and key military bases, not to mention Iraq’s seat of power that would allow ISIL to extend its reign to all of Iraq have been designated as immediate goals. The bombing campaign of the U.S.-led coalition had done little to slow the group’s offensive. Yesterday, in the first development of its kind, a Jordanian fighter plane was downed by the group in Syria and the pilot taken prisoner. This is likely to lead to a prisoner exchange in which many ISIL militants will see freedom.

While ISIL serves Israel’s immediate military and political aims such as the weakening of long-time foes Iran and Syria as well as the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon, both the Jewish state and Western powers would do well to consider ISIL’s long-term threats to regional stability.

No one expected the Taliban and Al Qaeda to gain the power and notoriety they currently hold and no one expected Hamas to take Fatah’s place as enemy #1. In the early 1980’s, both looked like far-away threats that would take time to materialize. Both have developed into credible foes ready to strike when given a chance. Both have claimed significant battlefield victories and both have proven ready to pay the price for their actions. They won’t back down till the last of their men is standing. Both have earned notoriety for embracing the most extreme interpretation of Islam and for their sheer cruelty.

While opening up another front with a superior Israeli military may not factor into ISIL’s immediate plans, it will eventually become a necessity as the Arab world has already aimed sharp criticism at the militants for murdering fellow Muslims while leaving the Jews alone. Like Saddam Hussein, who turned his guns on the Jewish state once it became clear defeat was unavoidable, ISIL may strike but for a slightly different set of reasons. Its leaders may feel that an attack on Israel would earn them prestige in the eyes of fellow Islamists but even more so, prove a low-risk scenario since Israel would be hard-pressed by the Americans to avoid retaliation–at least for relatively small-scale damage. Israel has said it won’t shy away from hitting back when provoked and has even carried out preemptive strikes against Syrian and Lebanese targets, but if the U.S. presses hard enough for it to allow coalition forces due time to take care of the enemy and not cause a backlash in the Arab world, it may have no choice but to hold back.

An ISIL supporter recently carried out a deadly attack on an Australian cafe in the heart of downtown Melbourne. The group has successfully recruited from the ranks of the Muslim populations in Western Europe, Canada, the U.S., Chechnya, the Arab states and Australia and there’s no reason to believe they haven’t set their sights on Israel and the West once the immediate goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq is complete. There’s also no reason to believe this goal will not be accomplished in the near future. ISIL terrorists have proven more battle-tested and better equipped to take the fight to Iraqi and Syrian government forces than anyone else. I don’t see any one regional power other than Israel as capable of significantly delaying their offensive and because coalition forces have not mobilized ground troops, ISIL is on the brink of achieving goal #1.

I believe Israel is correct in doing everything possible to stay out of the Syrian civil war and regional conflicts that don’t directly involve it, but it looks as if ISIL will one day force Israel’s hand. America under the Democrats is far too weak to impose its will as it had under the Bush administration. Israel might have to once again go it alone against an entirely different type of animal.