Our opinion: Ancient grudges inflamed

Sunni Muslim extremists who have proclaimed creation of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria have been ridiculed by many of their enemies, including other Islamic rebels in Syria.

But the action was more than mere bluster. And it was not an example of a terrorist group deluding itself about its power.

In effect, a caliphate amounts to a government based entirely on Islamic principles. Devout Muslims hope that one day, the entire world will be a single caliphate.

Terrorists – and they are just that – who made the declaration do not represent all Muslims, however. Adherents to the faith’s Shiite sect have battled Sunnis, often militarily, for centuries.

Officials of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were well aware of that when they declared a caliphate, changing their name to Islamic State. But their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, showed no uncertainty in making the formal declaration.

He urged Muslims throughout the world to join his organization in enlarging the caliphate. He may well have been speaking to the many foreign fighters, including many from Europe and perhaps some from the U.S., who helped his group conquer large sections of Syria and Iraq.

And al-Baghdadi may be looking for voluteers for a major new attack on the Amerian homeland.

One worrisome aspect of what happened is that in the past, Islamic terrorists have wreaked havoc throughout the world – but have operated not as governments but as organizations. Now, the terrorists have, at least by their own proclamation, a nation.

That change, combined with upsurges in Islamic terrorist activity in several countries, should prompt U.S. officials to reevaluate strategy and tactics in the war against terrorism. Obviously, much of what we have been doing hasn’t worked very well.

Far from being defeated, Muslim extremists have gained enough power that they now are, in effect, flexing their muscles.