Militant Islamist fighters in Raqqa
Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014.REUTERS

On 13 November, terrorism struck my city, Paris. 130 of my fellow citizens were killed in war-like scenes that as a war reporter for more than ten years I am familiar with, but never imagined to see happening below my window.

Since then, we have offered victory to terrorists. The interesting thing about terrorism is that the real success of an attack depends not on terrorists, but their victims. Bush's government gave us an example with its reaction to 9/11 – invading Afghanistan and Iraq (which would later become the birthplace of Islamic State (Isis), opening Guantanamo, introducing Extraordinary Rendition and the Patriot Act.

We'd be mad to imagine that we punished bin Laden and al-Qaeda by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. On the contrary, the real success of 9/11 was not the collapse of the twin towers in New York, but the invasion of these two countries. It is the surviving victims of terrorists who hand their attackers victory with retaliation.

What does our enemy want us to do?

We must keep in mind the lessons learned from the unethical actions committed by the Bush government at a time when we are asked to react to these latest attacks and the growing terrorism threat. Let's start by asking ourselves, what does our enemy want us to do? What reaction would make them happy?

The answer is that the Paris attacks were committed because IS (Daesh) wants to see us kill Muslims. They want to provoke military escalation in Syria. They want to provoke unrest. They want to provoke confrontations with Muslims from the Western world.

Daesh believe that Muslims have no place in a Western society, and that the two worlds can't coexist. All of their propaganda – based on a corrupted restoration of the 'Muslim pride' – is actually a scam: Daesh wants the West to kill Muslims to justify their war.

Daesh is a terrorist group and we can't reproach them and expect them to shift ideals and act as we do. They can only act by their very definition - to terrorise. They do this to become a part of our political agenda. To make us forget what is fair or moral. To make us have eyes only for them.

Enthralled by their terror campaign, we ultimately act against our own interests, against all logic.

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Violence is the only way they will remain in power

I have been a victim of Daesh, and would not try to downplay their terror. They deprived me of my freedom for 10 terrible months. They made my family suffer. They murdered my best friends. But what they have done to my group of two dozen Western hostages is nothing compared to what they inflict on the people of Syria and Iraq. Even so, I wouldn't say that they are the evil, but only the symptom of a greater evil.

Imagine that a friend has come to see you and is complaining that his kitchen is infested with cockroaches. That friend is now asking for your help to get rid off them. You go to his place and you realise that the kitchen is revolting - walls covered in grease, floor strewn with rotting food. Is it any wonder these cockroaches are thriving here?

You can clean the kitchen thoroughly and the cockroaches will quickly go away by themselves, deprived of their vile sustenance. Or you can chase the cockroaches, spreading poison and crushing them; but while the kitchen remains dirty, you will always have to chase cockroaches.

Daesh are cockroaches feeding on the the Middle East's filth. The totalitarianism of their regime means violence is the only way they will remain in power. It is communitarianism that pushes people to define themselves by their religion rather than by their nationality. And it is only if we tackle the causes of terrorism – much more than if we kill terrorists – that we will eventually eradicate the threat.

War against terrorism is based on propaganda

Since the Paris attacks, the West has intensified the military offensive against the Daesh threat. I am not making a plea to abandon all military forces - they must be a part of the arsenal available to nations. But in the case of anti-terrorist strategy, they should only represent a tiny part of the means deployed.

If a 'war against terrorism' exists (and I am very cautious with this term), then we must bear in mind that it is mainly an asymmetrical conflict – based on propaganda. As it happens, the winner of this war unfolding today in the Middle East won't be the one with the bravest fighters or the most expensive and sophisticated weapons.

The winner will be the one that has the Syrian people on their side. If we alienate Syrians with our bombs, we will lose. If we show our solidarity for their cause and that we work for their safety, aiming to try to find a political solution to the conflict and the savagery – then we will collapse the so-called Islamic State.

A political solution seems to be unreachable right now as the conflicting positions appear impossible to reconcile. In the short term, our priority must be civilians' security.

Should we cease using Islamic State, Isis or Isil and begin using 'Daesh'?

IS fighters and leaders hate the word - it's an Arabic acronym of "al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa ash-Sham" – meaning the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams – but when spoken Daesh sounds similar to the Arabic words translating to "the sowers of discord" (Dahes) or "one who crushes underfoot" (Daes). IS threatened "to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh, instead of referring to the group by its full name".

What a deep shame it would be if after the Paris attacks and the solidarity expressed by the world toward the French people, we would now close our eyes to the 200 daily victims of the Syrian conflict that has been raging over four years.

Shameful too are the political calls to restore the Syrian regime responsible for 90% of the civilian victims since the beginning of the conflict.

Syrian civilians can only find protection if they can reach safety zones held by the opposition to both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Daesh. But they cannot be expected to reach these safety zones if there are jets flying overhead with the threat of dropping bombs.

Establishing no-fly zones above all the regions held by the opposition would be devastating for Daesh. It would finally bring some comfort to the Syrian democrats who have been fighting two symmetrical tyrannies for four years. The inhabitants of the areas occupied by the terrorist group would take advantage of this no-fly zone and resist the jihadists.

It's the violence of the repression of the revolution that provoked radicalisation. The return to safety (as well as the humanitarian victory of refugee resettlement) would finally allow Syrians to contemplate their future, and the possibility to welcome a political project. Let's allow Syrians to stop fearing for their lives each and every day, and Daesh will come tumbling down like a house of cards.

Nicolas Hénin is a journalist and expert in the Middle East. He was held Hostage by the Islamic State between June 2013 and May 2014. He is the author of 'Jihad Academy, the Rise of the Islamic State' (Bloomsbury).