Middle East Security Project

Jennifer Cafarella

Jennifer Cafarella is the Evans Hanson Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, where she focuses on Syria, the Syrian civil war and opposition groups, as well as the activities of ISIS.  At ISW, she has written on ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, tracking their efforts to consolidate power in eastern Syria, while at the same time connecting their Syrian-Iraqi northern fronts. Ms. Cafarella served as a coauthor on ISW’s recent Planning Exercise for a U.S.

Dabiq: The Strategic Messaging of the Islamic State

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) assault on the city of Mosul on June 10, 2014 demonstrated its formidable military strength. ISIS’s activities across Iraq and Syria also reveal that the organization is engaged in governance programs, ranging from Shari’a courts to aid distribution and law enforcement. These efforts underscore ISIS’s desire to erect a functional Caliphate within the boundaries of its controlled territory. That effort requires political and religious control in addition to military victory, and ISIS has a vision for how the Caliphate will form. ISIS has begun to explain its grand strategy to achieve this end through extensive public outreach, including a digital magazine series entitled Dabiq. This backgrounder will examine the contents of the first issue of Dabiq in detail, explaining the significance of this strategic messaging approach by ISIS in conjunction with the announcement of a Caliphate.

John D. Lawrence


John D. Lawrence is the Director of External Relations at ISW.

He has more than 25 years of experience in Washington, DC working on government relations and public affairs.  Most recently he directed Congressional affairs at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and prior to that was the acting head of outreach at National Defense University's Near East South Asia Center. 

Hezbollah in Syria

Hezbollah’s deepening involvement in Syria is one of the most important factors of the conflict in 2013 and 2014. The impact of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria has been felt not just on the battlefield, where the regime now has momentum in many areas, but also in Lebanon where growing sectarian tensions have undermined security and stability.