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This paper seeks to explain the rapid growth of the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) and approach the question of “what is” the Islamic State? The paper offers several contributions. First is the proposal of a dynamic hypothesis that ISIS is an emerging-state actor and differs notably from traditional non-state actors and insurgencies. The theory consists of both a causal loop diagram and key propositions. A detailed system dynamics simulation (E-SAM) was constructed to testdoi:10.20944/preprints201803.0073.v1 fatcat:uxtwid7e75f2lmtm3pho7x4x2y