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Large-Scale Attacks Generate Fear, Policy Changes, Expert Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

An analyst sees Friday's attacks in Paris as part of a larger move by ISIS. The analyst is Will McCants, author of a book called "The ISIS Apocalypse." ISIS was seen as a regional force, capturing territory in Iraq and Syria. Then came the downing of a Russian jetliner, an event in which ISIS is suspected. ISIS claimed responsibility for bombings in Lebanon and now in Paris.

WILL MCCANTS: This may represent a big shift in its strategy. At the very least, we can see the people affiliated with ISIS are able to carry out high-profile, highly-sophisticated attacks that grab media attention and generate fear. And there are probably more people waiting to do the same in the wings.

INSKEEP: Now, our counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston says intelligence officials are bracing for the possibility of follow-up attacks. Analyst Will McCants says continued attacks would increase the pressure to respond.

MCCANTS: They'll certainly make Western countries more scared and more prone to overreact. Large-scale attacks like this are designed to generate fear, and that fear can lead to huge shifts in policy. We saw after 9/11 that there was a massive military response that ultimately led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And in response to the current attacks, France and its allies need to be very careful not to play into the hands of its enemies.

INSKEEP: Careful because ISIS may be trying to lure Western nations into a deeper involvement in Syria's war.

MCCANTS: Nothing generates recruits for these Islamist terror organizations like large-scale conflict in that region. And until those conflicts end, we're going to continue to see recruitment of young people who are willing to carry out horrific attacks like these.

INSKEEP: That's the view of Will McCants at the Center for Middle East Policy. Now, in a news conference today, President Obama was, in fact, asked about expanding the war against ISIS. He rejected the notion of a large-scale invasion of Syria and argued the current U.S. strategy will work. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.