By Nancy Gibbs
February 26, 2015

Analyzing a threat as complex and diffuse as ISIS requires a global effort, and so our special report reflects the work of dozens of journalists on three continents with decades of experience reporting on the Middle East. The project was overseen from London by Europe editor Matt McAllester, who coordinated the work of journalists in Tehran, Baghdad, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Paris, London, Cape Town and Washington. They examined the regional impact of ISIS; the growing, improvised, unofficial anti-ISIS coalition; and the challenge of confronting the threat without playing into ISIS’s hands. Our reporters also reached out by phone and Skype to explore life inside ISIS-controlled territory, and much of that reporting, which David Von Drehle drew on for his cover story, can be read online at time.com/isis.

We invited Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations and Karl Vick, our former Jerusalem bureau chief, who is now based in New York City, to argue the case for and against the U.S.’s sending ground troops into the fight. “The hardest thing about confronting a group like ISIS,” Karl observes, “is seeing past the fear they delight in projecting to discern the threat it actually presents. But they make dispassion really difficult.” The opening photo was taken by Moises Saman, whose helicopter crashed last August while he was on assignment for Time covering the Yezidis who were besieged by ISIS on Mount Sinjar. That experience has in no way deterred him from returning to the region. “As a photographer from the 9/11 generation,” Moises says, “the pull to Iraq is clear, since I see what is happening there now as the latest chapter of a story that started almost 14 years ago.”

Nancy Gibbs, EDITOR

LIGHTBOX The image above may look like an abstract painting, but it’s actually an aerial view of Western Australia’s blue salt fields–captured from 5,000 ft. by Simon Butterworth at the Useless Loop solar salt operation in Shark Bay. The veteran photographer, whose image was nominated for a Sony World Photography Award (winners will be announced on April 23), intentionally takes photos in ways that change how viewers perceive their subjects. To see more stunning shots from SWP Award nominees, visit lightbox.time.com.

BONUS TIME

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NOW ON TIME.COM

When it’s freezing outside, as it has been across much of the U.S. for weeks, it’s hard to find a reason to crawl–let alone jump–out of bed. But as science editor Jeffrey Kluger explains at time.com/coldperks, the polar vortex has its positive points. Among them:

1 FEWER WARS

A 2011 study showed a historical link between high temperatures and armed conflict

2 EASIER TO LOSE WEIGHT

It’s not a complete solution, but shivering does burn calories

3 LESS CRIME

Snow-drenched Boston, for example, saw a 70% drop in homicides from Jan. 1 to Feb. 8

Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the March 09, 2015 issue of TIME.

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