Belgian soldiers patrol in central Brussels as police searched the area during a continued high level of security following the recent deadly Paris attacks, Belgium, November 23, 2015. 
Benoit Tessier / Reuters

To judge from the commentary about the Metrojet plane crash in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has significantly changed its strategy in the last few weeks. Until the most recent wave of attacks, conventional wisdom went, ISIS focused almost exclusively on establishing a caliphate and expanding the boundaries of its state in Syria, Iraq, and the surrounding region. Unlike al Qaeda, which had long focused on striking the far enemy (the United States and Europe, including Russia), ISIS confined its operations outside of its immediate region to inspiring attacks by ISIS sympathizers and adherents living in the West. The Sinai and Paris terrorist attacks thus signified a new direction.

The only problem is that the strikes do not mark a strategic shift for ISIS. Rather, they represent the culmination of the group’s long-standing ambitions to

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