Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Cigdem Cidam




state, Iraq, Syria


This essay examines the challenges that the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, pose to the contemporary state system. The rise of ISIS in the territories of Iraq and Syria raises two fundamental questions, one conceptual the other directly political: First, ISIS’s claim to be a state and world powers’ resistance to this claim raises the question of what constitutes a state in today’s international system. Second, as a unique form of political organization that has become successful in the Middle East in a relatively short time, ISIS raises a number of practical political questions such as, what it takes to defeat ISIS or, at least, to prevent it from spreading further around the region and world. The essay outlines the specific inner workings of ISIS and attempts to offer possible long-term solutions to the problems that ISIS has given rise to. I argue that a political organization can be considered a state only if it has territorial sovereignty, legitimacy, and international recognition. With this template, ISIS is much closer to being a state than any other terror network before it, but falls short of meeting all the necessary requirements for statehood. Because of this, the international community must deal with ISIS in a new and different manner compared to past strategies with groups such as al-Qaeda.