In an exclusive and special episode of Al Jazeera English's flagship current-affairs show UpFront, four of the world's leading authorities on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) discuss what the armed group aims to achieve by carrying out attacks around the world.

"If we believe what they say, and I do ... They're baiting us," said Lydia Wilson, a research fellow at Oxford University's Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict.

Wilson, who recently interviewed ISIL fighters in northern Iraq, believes the group [also known as ISIS], which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, wants Western countries to attack them at home.

"They're inspiring terror and drawing the Western powers, or the unbelieving powers ... into wars that they cannot afford or draw them directly into the region not just by proxies," she said.

"[Terror attacks] produce the response that we are giving them."

'Clear strategy'

Jurgen Todenhofer, the first Western journalist to be granted access to ISIL-controlled territory, weighed in, saying: "I think the brutality of these terrorists is their strategy. They want the Western governments to overreact, to send bombers, to kill civilians, and this is a terror breeding programme.

"This is a clear strategy, to be brutal to change the behavior of the enemy."

Also joining the UpFront special roundtable was Will McCants, a former US state department senior adviser on countering violent extremism, and author of the new book The ISIS Apocalypse.

He explained how ISIL's attacks intend to polarise and act as a recruitment tool.

"The Islamic State is seeking, particularly in the West, to make Muslims face a choice," he said.

"They want Muslims to choose between being part of societies that don't want them or joining the Islamic State.

"And the more that they can cultivate anger among non-Muslims in the West against Muslims, cultivate paranoia against them, the more they hope to be able to recruit from the resulting alienation amongst Muslims in the West."

Rounding out the panel was Hassan Hassan, co-author of the book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, but who believes ISIL would prefer the West not attack them.

"If ISIS had a choice, I think it would have wanted the West to stay away from it," he said.

"However, I think ISIS has always had this mindset of the West would go after them even if they don't do anything in the West."

Source: Al Jazeera