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Professor of Practice; Director of Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism

Jason Blazakis
McGowan Building MG200F
(831) 647-4634

Jason Blazakis is a terrorism expert who devises strategies to prevent terrorists from gaining access to money and publicity. From 2008-2018, he served as the Director of the Counterterrorism Finance and Designations Office, Bureau of Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State. In his former role, Jason was responsible for directing efforts to designate countries, organizations, and individuals as terrorists, also known as State Sponsors of Terrorism, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Jason previously held positions in the Department of State’s Political-Military Affairs, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Intelligence and Research Bureaus, and at U.S. Embassy Kabul.

Prior to working at the Department of State, Jason served as a domestic intelligence analyst at the Congressional Research Service. In addition, he was the national security adviser to a United States Congressional Representative.

Jason is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. He is also the President of Riptide Threat Mitigation Group, Inc., a geopolitical risk consultancy.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

This course will provide an in-depth overview into the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as the Islamic State, the Arabic acronym Daesh, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in addition to other aliases). The rapid rise of the Islamic State has taken counterterrorism policymakers and foreign policy practitioners by surprise.

In an effort for students to come to a common understanding of key terms that will be discussed throughout the course, a session will be devoted to understanding key concepts and terms related to Islamic history. In this regard, students should take away from the course a baseline understanding of Islamic jurisprudence, meaning of the caliphate, the five pillars of Islam, and Shar’ia law.

The course will trace the history of the Islamic State’s rise and will examine the leadership figures/personalities behind the group. The course will also examine the Islamic State’s connection and ultimate divorce from al-Qa’ida. The course will all examine how the group finances its operations as well as the rise of its affiliates.

Finally, the course will also explore the group’s use of foreign fighters and social media to further its agenda. Global responses in an effort to counter the Islamic State will also be discussed.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

• Demonstrate knowledge of the history of the Islamic State from its creation to its current status as a significant power broker primarily operating in Syria and Iraq.

• Understand the key personalities and motivations of leadership figures within the Islamic State as well as methods the group utilizes to accrue wealth, territory, and general support.

• Understand the reasons for the split between the Islamic State and al-Qa’ida as well as the implications of the split to include the development of the Islamic State’s affiliates.

• Comprehend the role of women and foreign fighters within the Islamic State.

• Understand the U.S. and global response focused on countering the Islamic State through the application of soft and hard power.

Spring 2019 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Jason’s areas of interests include sanctions, terrorism financing, terrorist motivation and behavior, counterterrorism methods, violent extremism, terrorist use of the internet, terrorism and the media, and the role of intelligence in informing national security decision-making.


Academic Degrees

MA in International Relations and National Security Studies, Columbia University, 2003

MA in Government, Johns Hopkins University, 2001

BA in Political Science, University of Mississippi, 1997


“Border Security and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” Congressional Research Service. January 2, 2004.

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